Thursday, August 11, 2011

Genealogy Conferences

Lide’s story is complete, although the final materials have not yet been posted. I am interrupting the flow of that series to discuss my recent experiences with attending genealogy conferences.

On July 29 and 30 we were in Overland Park, Kansas (part of the greater Kansas City area) to attend the MidWest Family History Expo, a seven-track two-day conference with three all-conference meetings.

The following weekend, on August 5 and 6 we stayed home and attended the MoSGA conference, a two-track two-day event with four all-conference meetings.

We had never attended a genealogy conference before, so this was a very intense first exposure. I do not recommend scheduling conferences this closely together. We should have allowed ourselves time to unwind, to allow our learning to become assimilated, and to resume our “regular” existence for a bit before we attended a second conference. Our impressions are somewhat jumbled and our minds and bodies are a bit overtired.

Both conferences were exhilarating. Being together with fellow genealogists, catching their enthusiasms, learning from experts has sent me home planning to try harder to follow my ancestors’ trails and to follow those trails using careful scholarship techniques.

Holly Hanson of Family History Expos put together an outstanding event with presentations to stimulate the experienced researcher and with information to help the beginner. and NARA were there to introduce their new online faces. We were taught how to take advantage of the “new look” at both these sites.

Other presentations were “how-tos” for specific programs such as, RootsMagic, and Ages Online. Still other classes involved techniques such as creating and using captions, using photographs, and preserving the same. The “star” of this conference was Lisa Louise Cooke, who led several classes exploring her knowledge of Google and GoogleEarth. She was so popular that it was necessary to move all her presentations to the largest meeting room.

There were vendors there: book sellers, software vendors, people offering products not specific to genealogy. I learned from talking to the vendors as well as from attending classes. I was befriended by the lady who organized the “ask the pros” booth. She gave me some good advice as to “where-to-go next” after I finish my line-by-line study of the military records for William T. Dorrance. Unfortunately, I cannot thank her by name because I lost that note (her name, not the advice). I only hope she finds this blog and learns how grateful I am.

The conference held the next weekend by the Missouri State Genealogical Association was much smaller in scale; the presentations were just as knowledgeable and the vendors just as exciting. And the interchange with fellow genealogists was as refreshing and renewing. A complete stranger gave me a suggestion which will simplify how I frame a request for baptismal records. A lecturer from Jefferson County took home a brief family outline about my elusive William T. Dorrance. The following Tuesday and Wednesday brought me information from her co-worker that has opened up new records for my use!

The “star” of this conference was Hank Jones, who gave four talks at all-conference meetings. When the fun of these presentations focusing on his “poor Palatine” studies “wears away,” you find that Hank has given you advice on sound research principles.

So I am overtired, “over-educated,” and probably over-stimulated; but I am also very excited and very happy. When and WHERE is the next conference?

Back home, I was so tired from the Kansas City trip that I slept through a Webinar that I had wished to attend. I did attend a meeting in Second Life where we marked out several weeks worth of community discussion and learning plans. After the local conference I attended a Webinar on NARA’s online presence and then hurried off to attend a meeting in Second Life where newbies are learning to handle our avatars.

As we left Kansas City, I asked my husband if the conference was worth the physical expense and budget expense as compared to what I experience in Webinars, Scanfest, BlogTalk radio, Second Life, and the entire internet genealogical experience. Now that I have completed my two weekends of conferences, I have come up with the answer that fits me.

YES, I need to attend conferences. There is a connection at conferences that I do not find at other genealogical meetings. I find that I enjoyed the smaller meeting slightly better. I believe that I will go to one or two smaller meetings each year. But the larger meeting was so very exciting that I look forward to attending more. Probably not as often as the smaller meetings, but often enough.

And YES, in many ways the online meetings teach me more. In the online environment, I learn about a specific topic, then take time to assimilate this knowledge before I tackle another subject. The various activities in Second Life combine some of the give-and-take of a conference with the slower pace I appreciate with online studies.

So my personal learning plan will be based upon online studies enriched by at least 1 regional conference each year and further spiced by the occasional larger conference.

Here’s to facing our frustrations while embracing our opportunities to learn.
Frustrated Sue

1 comment:

  1. I agree that conferences are worth it! I went to the Family History Expo in Atlanta last year and the NGS Conference in Charleston in May. I wish I had the money and time to attend more, but with 5 little kids, I know that isn't going to happen. :)