Whenever something new seeks to change our lives, we often ask â€œWhatâ€™s in it for me?â€ If you have never attended a genealogical conference, you may be wondering this yourself.
There are reasons that the majority of first-timers fast become avid returnees. Using the Federation of Genealogical Societiesâ€™ upcoming conference in Philadelphia (which starts September 3) will help me answer the â€œwhatâ€™s in it for me?â€ question.
Itâ€™s fair to assume that you are going to be enlightened at a conference. The top speakers in the country will be delivering knowledge about a myriad of topics. In the case of the Federationâ€™s event, you can expect fifty to sixty sessions per day presented by nationally-known lecturers. What more could you ask—other than more hours in the day?
The activity generated, people bustling from class to class, talking in the halls about the great presentation they just heard, in itself offers a conference-going benefit. The excitement is hard to describe; there is electricity in the air and a feeling you are a part of something wonderful. You canâ€™t help but be caught up in the moment–every moment.
Youâ€™ll make a ton of new friends in the halls, at luncheons, and in lecture rooms. People are eager to share discoveries and pass along tips. And there are countless stories of finding a long-lost cousin over coffee and a doughnut.
Shopping is a big plus because vendors come from around the world. A list of those who will display in Philadelphia is online at the FGS website. Their products and services range from books and CDs to technologyâ€™s newest and best offerings. Thereâ€™s always more to see and do in the exhibit hall than time or energy permit.
Close to the vendors will be Society Hall. FGS member societies have reserved tables to display their publications, membership brochures, and material on services. There may even be a â€œliveâ€ person to answer your questions about the area they represent.
One big draw for conference goers is that each event has its own personality and innovations. The basic structure, tried and true, remains the same. But major differences generate a great deal of anticipation and excitement. For example, Philadelphia brings Valley Forge, Washingtonâ€™s Crossing, the Battleship New Jersey—even the Atlantic City casinos if you are feeling lucky.
Often the conference personality is influenced by its major speakers. These tend to be persons notable in other fields who bring a fresh view of family history. Philadelphia will host historian Robert A. Selig on â€œAmericaâ€™s Official Birthdayâ€; Marion Smith of the National Archives will talk on immigration to Philadelphia; and Chris Haley, the nephew of the Roots author, will emphasize going stronger, bolder, and deeper into your family search.
The latest conference innovation means there is no more toting a four-inch syllabus around. As a registrant, you can download the entire syllabus and bring just the handouts for certain sessions. Or, using your laptop, do a partial download each day. It couldnâ€™t be easier on you–or your shoulder.
If youâ€™re not yet convinced that attending a conference will benefit you, visit the conference websiteÂ for full details. The conference runs from September 3 to 6. Not registered? No problem. Walk in registrations are always welcome, whether you sign up for a single day or the entire event.
Youâ€™ll be glad you did. Just being there–even for one day–will answer that burning question: Whatâ€™s in it for me?
AWJ Editorâ€™s Note: Donâ€™t forget to stop by the Ancestry booth at FGS. There will be conference specials and they have classes being taught by Ancestry.com product experts in searching, self-publishing, Family Tree Maker 2009, and other topics. You can read more about it on the Ancestry blog.
Sandra Hargreaves Luebking is the editor of FORUM, the national magazine published by the Federation of Genealogical Societies. With Loretto Dennis Szucs, Sandra co-edited three award-winning books, including two editions of The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy; and The Archives: A Guide to the National Archives Field Branches. Sandra also wrote two chapters for Professional Genealogy (Elizabeth Shown Mills, editor) titled â€œClassroom Teachingâ€ and â€œSetting Realistic Fees.â€