On Saturday, James Tanner, author of Genealogy’s Star blog, posted the article “On Attending Genealogy Conferences.” Reading his post got me thinking about why it’s important to me to attend conferences and why I’m excited about attending my first national genealogy conference in September. While I’m gearing up for a big, multi-day conference, my reasons are the same for smaller conferences, in addition to workshops, seminars, and the like.
Learning Opportunity – Conferences provide many opportunities to learn about available records, methodology, technology, and other topics of interest to genealogists. Sometimes these things are new to us and sometimes they are a refresher. Either way, conferences allow us the opportunity to enhance our current skills, learn how to conduct effective and efficient research, and stay current on new developments or trends.
Networking – While I am a big proponent of using Facebook for networking, especially in the genealogy world, I still feel that face-to-face contact is still a wonderful thing. It’s amazing what you learn just by having a casual conversation with the person sitting next to you before a lecture or during a meal. There is something special about the face-to-face contact we have at conferences as opposed to our virtual world behind Facebook walls.
Motivation – Attending conferences and learning something new is a great way to get motivated. For some of us, there is always something that hinders our research, be it time, other obligations, money, record access, or simply being overwhelmed by a vast database with brick walls all over the place. When you learn about a new record type or problem-solving method, you feel invigorated and will usually find a way to fit research back into your life. It’s exciting when you learn about something that might just help you break down a barrier and answer questions you’ve had for years.
Sharing – Everyone has a story to tell, and your story may be just the thing to kick-start someone else’s challenging research. My ears particularly perk up when I hear people discussing adoption and War of 1812. And of course I have my own knowledge to share on the topic of certain locations and records. Learn from others and share what you know!
Having Fun – Let’s face it, genealogists are a fun group of people when we get together and kick back outside of a library, courthouse, or archive. Although I welcome any sort of learning opportunity, this is the part I look forward to the most; hanging out with fellow genealogists and having a good time!