Why Genealogy Conferences?

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You may have noticed this emblem on the sidebar of this blog.  It is there to direct your attention to one of the most exciting genealogy events to be held in 2013,  Journey Through Generations, the Federation of Genealogical Societies  annual conference.  It will be held this year in Fort Wayne, Indiana August 21-24.  Those of you who have never been to a major conference might be asking yourselves the question, “Why Genealogy Conferences?”  Those who have attended in the past know why, but that reason might be different for each individual.

My first national conference was last year’s FGS conference in Birmingham, Alabama and my answer to “Why Genealogy Conferences?” was “Elizabeth Shown Mills“.  She is my genealogy hero, and not only for her work on citing sources.  She is the foremost authority on Natchitoches, LA region genealogy where my husband has multiple ancestors. Future blogs will deal with this more. Ms. Mills does not appear at a lot of conferences, at least not out west at my local society,  but I had promised myself that if I saw a conference where she was speaking I would be there if I could.  Last year FGS was my chance and I was not disappointed.  Her talks were informative, but more than that they were fun!  She will once again be a presenter at FGS and I will be there in each of her sessions.   This year’s conference is full of presentations by other amazing genealogists who speak to so many different subjects.  The location of the FGS conference each year lends to the emphasis of one or two of the different tracks and this year’s has many lectures focusing on the Midwest and the groups that tended to settle there.  Most of our ancestors spent some time at least passing through the Midwest and this is the ideal time to focus our learning there.  Many times some of the sessions are recorded and you could possibly listen later to the presentations, but the dynamics of being there in person are not to be missed.  The ability to speak one-on-one to the presenter, to ask questions, to get that little tidbit of advice or direction from an expert in the field that has you stumped….PRICELESS as the commercial would say.

The ability to interact with superstar genealogists is only one facet that comes from attendance at a conference like FGS.  Imagine spending 3 or 4 days with hundreds of people that are just as passionate about genealogy as you are!  The energy that comes from just being able to sit and talk with others that will listen and give suggestions is sometimes enough to blast down those brick walls.  Maybe you will have the key to blast through for someone else?  Maybe you will find the long lost cousin that has the family Bible?  Genealogists are some of the most generous people that I have ever met and this give and take and sharing of strategies is all the answer that is needed for some to answer, “Why Genealogy Conferences?”

The Exhibition Hall is the answer for others.  Are you an “early adapter”?  One of those that always has the newest program, the latest device?  This is where you will find them.  New tools are coming out all the time and the vendors are more than happy to take the time to explain to you how to use them to your advantage.  Even if you aren’t interested in learning new methods or programs, the largest booths are occupied by those tried and true favorites like Ancestry.com, FamilySearch, Fold3, NEHGS.  They all have a supply of computers there with staff just waiting to help you perfect your search strategies on their sites.  Who knows the breakthroughs that could be waiting there for you?

One of my reasons for being particularly excited about this year’s FGS is the location.   Fort Wayne, Indiana is the home of the The Genealogy Center of Allen County Library, the second largest genealogy library in the US.    This will be my first visit there and I am really looking forward to exploring the unique resources there.  The Allen County Library is the home to the largest collection of English language genealogy and local history magazines and newsletters.  The PERSI (Periodical Source Index) was developed by the staff there to allow you to find articles of interest to your research.  PERSI can be accessed through HeritageQuest at many libraries, but only in Fort Wayne can you have instant access to the articles of interest once you find one in the index.  Many people journey to Fort Wayne even when there is not a conference going on right there, but travelling there Aug 21-24 for FGS is like getting 2 trips for the price of 1.  How could you pass up a deal like that!

One final group that does not need me to give them a reason for attending FGS 2013 is those that have responsibility for the growth of their local genealogy societies.  FGS does after all stand for “Federation of Genealogical Societies” and the schedule on Wednesday the 21st is dedicated to programs geared to helping societies develop new programs and expand and serve the growing number of genealogists.

See you there!