by Carolyn L. Barkley
By the end of the third day of any conference, my brain needs some quiet down time in order to process all of the new information to which I’ve been exposed; my feet hurt; I have finally figured out the layout for the conference meeting spaces. I have found that such feelings are shared by almost every conference attendee with whom I have ever talked. Even though I am tired, however, I am re-energized and filled with enthusiasm to return home and apply new methodologies to a few of my research problems.
I believe that genealogists, almost more than any group I know, are committed to continuing education. New skills and knowledge of new resources help us to continue our search for information with which to discover and share the stories of our ancestors. National genealogical conferences may fall outside of the financial resources of many genealogists, particularly when the cost of travel is factored into the total. Regional conferences such as NERGC, however, are the perfect vehicles to provide geographically-focused education at a reasonable cost. In my experience, the quality of the lectures offered at NERGC is comparable to that of the lectures at NGS or FGS, with several nationally-recognized experts invited to speak in addition to state and local experts.
In addition, regional conferences offer local and regional societies and historic institutions an opportunity to recruit members and gain recognition with regard to their collections. With over 850 in attendance, I would hope that many of the societies represented at NERGC were able to offer their expertise to those visiting their tables and gained new members. Volunteers from such institutions also provide innumerable hours of work resulting in well-run, enjoyable conferences. Couple these experiences with opportunities to network with others attending or speaking, and the cost becomes priceless. Just at this conference in New Hampshire alone, I met an individual from my home state of Virginia who asked me to speak at his local society in 2014; met an individual from my native state of Massachusetts who went to the high school where my father taught; and met several of this blogs readers. My friend and roommate was able to make an Italian research connection that will help continue work she began in Salt Lake City last month, as well as information that will assist her in “Jane Doe” research begun as part of her participation in the Boston University Genealogy Research Program.
Conferences such as NERGC are a bargain at the cost. Be aware of similar opportunities scheduled in your area and support them through your attendance and volunteer efforts. You will be the better genealogist for having done so – and you’ll have lots of fun.