NGS Family History Conference 2012 – A Look Back

by Carolyn L. Barkley

It’s hard to believe that another NGS Family History Conference is over, but a look at my pile of receipts and new books, tells me that it is. Perhaps now would be a good time to look back at the conference and summarize some of my experiences.

I happily spent the majority of my conference time working in the genealogical.com booth in the exhibit hall. After years of library customers complaining about their ten cent fines, I enjoy selling books to individuals who happily exchange their hard-earned dollars for an interesting book. Although the booth featured a wide array of many bestselling titles published by Genealogical Publishing Company and Clearfield Company, clearly the favorites this year were the several Genealogy at a Glance and Quick Sheet titles. These laminated four-page sheets are attractive because they provide concise, useful information, are reasonably priced, and best of all, weigh almost nothing, thus making them the perfect resource to include when preparing for a research trip. (Please refer to Randy Seaver’s recent GeneaMusings article which reviewed the series.)

The most popular of the Quick Sheet topics proved to be The Historical Biographer’s Guide to Cluster Research (the FAN Principle) (Genealogical Publishing Co., 2012), which quickly sold out thanks to its being mentioned in various speakers’ lectures. In this title, Elizabeth Shown Mills shares her view that “to prove identity, origin, and parentage, [a researcher should] study individuals in the context of their ‘FAN Club’ Family, Associates, and Neighbors.”1 If you don’t have a copy of this title, you are missing out on an interesting concept and methodology that will certainly prove helpful in your brick wall research.

Although I returned home with several books from the booth, I also did quite well by other book vendors in the exhibit hall, arriving home on Sunday with twenty-four new titles for my home research library. Warning: Multiple book purchases may occur when you drive to a conference. Next year in Las Vegas, will not be a repeat of such abandon with regard to number, weight, and size of purchases! Some of my new titles are updated editions of books I already own; others represent new topics which will force me to shift my shelves yet again (and I thought I left that action behind when I retired from the library). I am looking forward to exploring these titles during my daily lunch/reading hour.

While at the conference, I was able to attend several lectures, with a concentration on those about the War of 1812. Lectures by Craig Scott and Paul Milner added much to my understanding of this rather forgotten war. (I also purchased CDs of these lectures from JAMB Tapes, Inc. If I play them enough while driving to research locations, I may actually be able to abs the information provided in the lecture!) Similarly, one of my new book purchases, John Grant and Ray Jones’ The War of 1812: a Guide to Battlefields and Historic Sites (Western New York Public Broadcasting Association, 2011), is a companion book to the PBS Television special on the war. Following a very informative introduction, Grant and Jones explore battlefields and sites in several theaters of the combat. I particularly like the fact that a concise synopsis of each battle is followed by a description of “What You’ll See Today.” Complementing the text are maps and illustrations.

One great exhibit hall feature is the opportunity to attend twenty-minute presentations on genealogically-related products. My favorite demonstration was Michael LeClerc’s presentation on Mocavo. I’m going to save my comments on this genealogy search engine for an upcoming blog article, but suffice it to say that I will now search Mocavo before, not after, Google.

My conference experience is always enriched by networking and social interactions. These opportunities are frequent for those of us who work in a vendor booth as we don’t have to go looking for you; instead you come to us! I cannot overstate my appreciation to all of you who came by the booth, realized that I am the blogger for genealogical.com, and shared with me your appreciation for my weekly efforts. It’s rewarding to know that you are on the other side of my computer screen, reading the blog every – well, maybe almost every – Friday. Also enjoyable were those moments when I could talk with an individual interested in writing a book for publication, or who had a research question that one of us in the booth could answer. These interactions sometimes extend beyond exhibit hours with conversations over dinner or a glass of wine. Cincinnati has great restaurants, and I spent the week enjoying sticky toffee pudding (three times!), mussels, cashew crusted tilapia, and Graeter’s ice cream. In fact, one of my favorite things was the exhibit hall vendor who baked chocolate chip cookies throughout the day. The aroma, wafting over the booths, proved irresistible!

The annual NGS Family History Conference provides a wonderful opportunity to learn new skills, be exposed to new resources, reconnect with friends, meet new people, make new professional connections, add to your home library, update your software – and eat well. I’m already looking forward to the 2013 conference in Las Vegas.

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1 Elizabeth Shown Mills, QuickSheet* The Historical Biographer’s Guide to Cluster Research (the FAN Principle) (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2012), 1.

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