Genealogical Conferences – Best Bet for Learning and Fun

We apologize for the late posting of this week’s article, but still unexplained glitch prevented its posting until just now.

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 later 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, you 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! 

This year’s NGS Conference in the States is scheduled for May 13-16 at the Raleigh Convention Center in Raleigh, North Carolina. NGS is presenting the conference with its co-sponsor, the North Carolina Genealogical Society. While the conference itself begins on Wednesday, May 13, librarians may want to register (check for last minute availability) for the ProQuest-sponsored librarians’ preconference scheduled for Tuesday, May 12. More information on conference activities can be found on the conference blog.

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 believing that I had to go to a lecture in every time slot. Inevitably I would come to the point when I could not cram one more thought into my head! To prevent that glossy-eyed look and mentally-exhuasted 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 almost all the session will be included in your syllabus.

Have breakfast. Leave plenty of time in your schedule to visit the vendors. Socialize with other attendees. Have a leisurely dinner in a nice restaurant. See the city. Breathe some non-convention center air and soak up some sunshine. All of these elements combine for good learning, new friendships, and lots of things to carry or ship home.

You’re invited to stop by the Genealogical Publishing Company/Clearfield Bompany booths in the exhibit hall and check out Drew Smith’s new book, Social Networking for Genealogists, as well as a wide range of other titles to assist in your research.



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