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Twigs & Trees with Rhonda: Conference Time is Almost Here
by Rhonda R. McClure

May 08, 2003
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

There is something exciting about looking at the calendar in March and realizing that we will soon be into conference season. Around this time, I begin working on lectures and presentations that I'll give to upcoming state and national conferences.

Conferences are an opportunity to get together with others who share my enthusiasm about genealogy. They are as excited as I am to spend a day in a cemetery or get the chance to go to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. They completely understand the disappointment of not finding someone in the courthouse when you were so sure they would be in those records. Best of all, conferences remind me of the real fun of researching my family tree.

Get an enthusiasm boost by attending a conference.

An Infusion of Enthusiasm

Too often we feel as though we are an island unto ourselves as we sit in our homes seeking new records online or planning our next trip to a library or courthouse. We are tolerated by our family members who appreciate but don't necessarily share our obsession. It is easy to become discouraged when your family doesn't understand why you would rather spend the day in a cemetery than out sightseeing. They don't understand that walking the cemetery to us is as exciting as sightseeing is to them.

Even with the current ability to communicate with others online through mailing lists and bulletin boards, there is something lacking when we cannot see the other person's facial expressions or body movements as they share their latest find or frustration. To me, conference is that place where I can get an infusion of enthusiasm. I remember how fun this hobby is and why I am so addicted to it.

Conferences offer many valuable lessons through the speakers that they invite. Some state or local conferences may only be a day or two, but even that is enough to respark our interest. Just learning something new about a record or resource may be all that it takes for us to be on the road again and in hot pursuit of a family or ancestor.

Conference offers us the ability to learn from the mistakes of others. Sitting there in the darkened room as the lecturer shares slides or a PowerPoint presentation, we have the chance to listen as they describe how to avoid falling in a ditch or tripping over a fallen tombstone. They help guide us through records that may not yet feel comfortable in using. They willingly share their knowledge and expertise with us and allow us to progress more quickly in our own research since we can learn from them.

With conference season upon us, I thought I would share a little about the upcoming national conferences — where they are going to be held, and when, along with some of the topics that are going to be discussed.

National Genealogical Society Conference in the States

The National Genealogical Society's annual Conference in the States is going to be held May 28 to 31, 2003. This year's conference is being held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This is a special year for NGS as they are celebrating their 100th anniversary. There are plenty of details about the conference to be found online.

This year's conference offers many useful lectures along with some computer labs. There are two Family Tree Maker hands on labs that are going to be held, in fact. Each hour of each day offers you some eight lectures to choose from, giving you talks in the following fields to choose from

  • Methodology
  • Census Records in Depth
  • New Approaches
  • Immigration
  • Pennsylvania Research
  • Regional Research
  • Laying a Solid Foundation
  • Other Possibilities

Also each day offers two hour hands-on labs working with many of the genealogy software programs. When you are looking at the Web site, be sure to check out information about nearby research facilities and the fun evening activities. Of course, just getting together with other researchers can be fun and there will be plenty of opportunities to do that with the various lunches and dinners.

Federation of Genealogical Societies

The NGS conference is held every year in the spring and the Federation of Genealogical Societies annual conference is held in the fall. This year's conference will be held 3 to 6 September in Orlando, Florida. FGS has also grasped the Internet for sharing information and you can find out more about this conference by visiting their Web site.

One of the special features of the FGS conference is the series of lectures given on Wednesday. These talks are geared towards those who volunteer in their own local societies and cover all different subjects from publishing a newsletter to how to get more members. The remainder of the week you'll be able to choose from nine different talks each hour on all different, but important, genealogical subjects, grouped under the following tracks

  • Skills & Strategies (2 tracks)
  • British Isles & Europe
  • United States & Canada
  • Focus on Florida
  • Ethnic & Religious Research
  • Records Research (2 tracks)
  • Technology & the Internet

And don't forget that the conferences also offer a large vendor hall. Here you have the opportunity to see up close what the various genealogy software programs and Internet sites can do, as well as getting to see what new books are out.

In Conclusion

Conferences offers us all a chance to get together and share. We soon learn we are not alone with either our successes or our frustrations. Through the classes we get the chance to learn how to get past those brick walls and soon we feel rejuvenated and ready to get back into our research. Hope to see you there this year.

See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Rhonda R. McClure is a professional genealogist specializing in celebrity trees and computerized genealogy. She has been involved in online genealogy for fifteen years. She is the author of the award-winning The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy, now in its second edition. She is the author of four how-to guides on Family Tree Maker. In late 2001, she wrote The Genealogist's Computer Companion. She is a contributing editor to Biography Magazine with her "Celebrity Roots" column and a contributing writer to The History Channel Magazine. Her latest book is Finding Your Famous and Infamous Ancestors. She may be contacted at

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