May 14, 2013

Why Attend a Genealogy Conference?

What is it about a genealogy conference that generates such excitement? Why do people invest the time and money to attend one? What benefits might a genealogy conference hold for you? These are all great questions. If you haven’t been to a large national conference before, you naturally might wonder what the experience is like.

There are many reasons why I like genealogy conferences, and why I’m particularly excited about the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) 2013 Conference, which is coming up August 21-24 in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. I truly expect it to be one of the highlights of the year. Here are some of the reasons people go to family history conferences, and how you might benefit from attending FGS 2013:

The chance to learn more about records, resources, and skills that can help with your family history research: Many of the presentations at a conference show where and how to find the information you seek on your family. Others focus on developing the skills needed to interpret, analyze, and use information successfully. This can help you make new breakthroughs, reach conclusions, and become a better researcher. You can also learn how to share and publish your family history.

The chance to hear some of the biggest and brightest genealogical speakers: Conferences like FGS 2013 feature nationally-recognized authors and speakers, which means you’ll hear dynamic lectures that will educate and entertain you at the same time—often with a good dose of humor.

The chance to see the latest products, books, and technological innovations: The Exhibit Hall at FGS will be packed with exhibitors showcasing their items, including software, maps, reference guides, books on localities and ethnic research, publishing companies, and online database leaders like,, and You can see demonstrations, talk to representatives, and ask all the questions you like.

The chance to meet and socialize with others who share your interest in family history: A conference is the perfect place to make new friends. It’s as easy as talking to the person sitting next to you, sharing a table at lunch, or striking up a conversation in the hallway. Luncheons and casual evening social events make it even easier to get to know people who share your passion.

The chance to gather ideas to strengthen your local society: A unique feature of FGS is that it offers a full day of programming (on Wednesday, August 21) geared toward genealogical and historical societies. You can get ideas on websites, projects, social media, publishing, funding, and more to take home to your society. Even if you don't belong to a society (and you certainly don't have to to attend FGS), you can pick up tips for some of your own projects.

The chance to research in a world-class library: Ft. Wayne, Indiana is the home of the Genealogy Center at the Allen County Public Library, one of the nation’s top genealogical libraries. Extended hours (until midnight on three nights!) and close proximity to the conference hall means you can hop over and research to your heart’s content. It’s sure to be a happening place.

Genealogy Center Allen County Public Library
The Genealogy Center at the Allen County Public Library is a magnet for researchers

The bottom line is that a genealogy conference is fun. Yes, you learn a lot from the presentations, and that’s good. But it’s just the beginning of what you get out of the conference experience. My first FGS Conference was the 2011 event in Springfield, Illinois. I was hesitant to sign up, because I didn't really know anyone. Yet I came home energized and ready to dive into my research, armed with new tools and techniques. And I had made a bunch of new friends, just from saying hi and introducing myself—because it turns out that people who like genealogy, by and large, are really friendly! Even though we live in different states, we’ve kept in touch, and several of us are looking forward to meeting again at the 2013 FGS Conference. All that came from taking a little leap of faith and registering for that first conference.

So will I see you in Ft. Wayne in August?

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  1. Sounds like something to look forward to, Shelley. I may not make it to a conference this year, but it's definitely on my list of to-dos!

    1. My hunch is that you'll really enjoy it, Linda, when the time is right for you! I'd love to meet you in person someday.

  2. I definitely enjoyed meeting you last year!

    1. Absolutely, Ginger, the feeling is mutual! So glad we got a chance to know each other. I've enjoyed following your blog ever since, and hope to see you again soon!

  3. Shelley, I agree with all your points! I'd love to be at FGS and I've registered for it. My daughter's due date is August 20, and she lives in Fort Wayne. Her first child, our first grandchild. What can I say? We'll just have to see how it all turns out. If not this conference, then the next one! You make a really good case for attending conferences.

    1. I hope the stars align for us to meet at FGS, Mariann. Although if your daughter has her baby right before the conference starts, I think you'll have the best excuse in the world to skip out! At least you'll be in the right place at the right time. Hope all goes well in these next few months, and I look forward to seeing pictures of your new grandchild sometime in the near future!


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