Genealogical Conferences – Best Bet for Learning and Fun

By Carolyn L. Barkley

I attended my first national genealogical conference in 1985, when I traveled to Baltimore for the National Genealogical Society’s Conference in the States. While I had been to local and state genealogical seminars prior to that time, this trip was my first foray into the national genealogical scene. Wow – were my eyes opened – and occasionally drooping in exhaustion! Imagine waking up and finding yourself in the midst of the brightest and best professional genealogists, lecturers and related resources. Welcome to the world of national conferences!

There is no better return for your money than attending either (or both) the National Genealogical Society’s Conference in the States in the spring or the Federation of Genealogical Societies’ annual conference in late summer. These conferences are for everyone, regardless of skill level and experience. Beginners and experienced researchers all benefit from exposure to new methodologies and resources as well as refreshers in a variety of subjects.

Yes, it does cost money to attend, but for the price of your registration, you can select from over 100 lectures. For a little extra money, you can attend luncheons with interesting speakers, take tours of the conference city, research in local institutions and attend the conference banquet. In addition, your conference badge admits you to an expansive exhibition space full of vendors offering the newest books, CDs and software, as well as demonstrations of new products, online resources, used books, and more. For three or four days, you can fill your mind, further your understanding of your research problem, add to your home library, and take home new skills – not to mention a lengthy wish-list for the next holiday gift-giving season. Best of all, it’s fun! Conference hotel room rates are often one price regardless of how many are in the room, so find a friend to share the room with you, and have more money available to explore the sights of the conference city.

This year’s Conference in the States is scheduled for May 14-17 in Kansas City, Missouri, where NGS is joined by co-sponsors the Missouri State Genealogical Society, the Mid-Continent Public Library, the Northland Genealogical Society, Heartland Chapter of the Association of Professional Genealogists, and the Johnson County, Kansas, Genealogical Society. While the conference itself begins on Wednesday, May 14, librarians may want to attend the ProQuest-sponsored librarians’ preconference scheduled for Tuesday, May 13. The conference hotel is the Hyatt Regency Crown Center with room reservations at the conference price open until April 25. Preregistration for the conference is available until May 4.

First-time conference attendees can feel overwhelmed with the offerings and activities. The most important thing is to pace yourself during the conference. I used to go and believe that I had to go to a lecture in every time slot. Inevitably I would come to the point when I could just not cram one more thought into my head! To prevent that glossy-eyed look and mentally-exhausted feeling, I recommend reviewing the conference program carefully in advance. Pick those programs that are most essential to either your particular research project or skill improvement needs. The outlines from all the sessions will be included in your syllabus. Have breakfast. Leave plenty of time in your schedule to visit the vendors and to socialize with other attendees. Have a leisurely dinner in a nice restaurant. See the city. All of these elements combine for good learning, new friendships, and lots of things to carry or ship home!

I hope you’ll take the time to stop by the Genealogical Publishing Company, Clearfield Company, and Gateway Press booths at the NGS conference and check out the books for sale, blog demonstrations, author signings, and share your thoughts with us.

Winner of DearMyrtle’s Best of the Internet for Genealogists Award for Blog posting, 2 March 1908.

Dear Myrtle

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