Saturday, August 25, 2018
The Party's Not Over,
But I Had to go Home
It sure was hard, yesterday, pulling out of the driveway at the FGS conference hotel after three wonderful days learning from and meeting some stellar genealogists and industry leaders. Thanks to a fluke in scheduling—if it weren't for this discovery, I wouldn't have been able to find a hotel room so close to the convention center at all—I was able to secure lodging nearby, but only for all the days of the conference except Saturday's sessions. Thus, I had no recourse but to leave Friday. Hey, I'll take what I can get.
Still, I was able to take in the morning keynote session aptly delivered by Steve Rockwood of FamilySearch. Echoing the "Connect. Belong" theme he introduced at this year's RootsTech, he inspired yet another audience yesterday morning in Fort Wayne. Encouraging us to remember the feeling when we first discovering anything personal about an ancestor, Rockwood urged us to transfer that experience to others, finding a way to allow others—as individuals—to feel that same sense of wonder, themselves.
I certainly was open to that experience, myself. I couldn't bring myself to simply drive away from Fort Wayne without another look at the tokens of family history our Stevens family shared with the downtown streets where we spent the past few days. My husband's great-grandfather, John Kelly Stevens, had walked those streets on a daily basis on his beat as a career-long member of the Fort Wayne Police Department.
This week, while I attended the FGS conference, my husband re-visited the local historical society, housed in the old city hall where the basement once served as the jail. Now, converted to a museum, the halls included photographs of the police force of that era, including a picture of our John Kelly Stevens. Yes, there he was, his picture hanging on the wall with those of his coworkers.
We spent time, before leaving Fort Wayne yesterday, driving past all the family's old homes—buildings which, by now, have stood for over one hundred years. We drove out to the Catholic Cemetery to spend time at the graves of our Stevens and Kelly ancestors, gently brushing the dust and growth from the old headstones to barely make out the outline of names of those documented in our family history.
Today will undoubtedly hold productive sessions for those who have remained to attend the final day of the Fort Wayne conference of the Federation of Genealogical Societies. I, however, am now in Chicago, another city playing a role in our family's history. In a few days, I'll be back home in California, ready to apply all the wealth of information and productive conversations that took place during those few days in Fort Wayne. It's been a wonderful opportunity—for connection, for research, for learning—but now, it's time to get back to work.
Photograph above: John Kelly Stevens, from a portrait of the members of the Fort Wayne Police Department circa 1911.