Whitney Ransom McGowan of WorldVitalRecords wrote the following post for the WorldVitalRecords Blog. It's significant as we look at the Washington State Genealogical Society's state conference to be held here in Spokane on September 11 - 13, 2009:
This article is written specifically for genealogists and family historians who have never attended a genealogy conference, but who may be persuaded to attend one in the near future. Genealogy conferences are a great place to learn, share ideas, meet new people, gain new enthusiasm for your research, and have your questions answered by experts. There are hundreds of genealogy conferences, seminars, and meetings held every year across the United States and abroad. Many of these conferences are offered in the spring and fall. Here are ten reasons to attend a genealogy conference.
Ten Reasons For Attending a Genealogy Conference
1. Knowledge: Stay up-to-date on the latest information in the field. Most conferences offer a keynote address, as well as a variety of classes. Some classes are for beginners, and others are for the seasoned genealogist. In these classes you will also have the opportunity to learn new research methodologies and techniques. Whatever, your level of experience may be, there is a conference out there just for you.
2. New People: Genealogists are social people. Once you’re at the conference, you will have the opportunity to meet a lot of new people, some of whom may even be researching your same line. Even if you don’t find a cousin, you will meet folks that may have some ideas to help you with your research.
3. Audio Recordings and Syllabi: Many of the conferences you attend will offer a syllabus, which contains the notes, handouts, additional Websites and overviews of the presentations. Often the syllabus will also contain the biographies of the speakers. These syllabi are thick books filled with a goldmine of genealogical information.
4. Products and Services: At most of the larger genealogy conferences, and many of the smaller conferences, you will find a vendor hall full of genealogy products and services. Take some time to see some of the latest innovations in genealogy. Many of the vendors also offer something free (whether that be a trial subscription, candy, pens, magazines, stickers, etc.) simply for visiting their booth. WorldVitalRecords.com usually offers free newsletter signups, drawings to win a free subscription, stress balls, candy, luggage tags, and more.
5. Luncheons and Banquets: What would a conference be without a luncheon or banquet? These gatherings offer delicious food, networking opportunities, and even an opportunity to hear from a well-known genealogist or family historian. Individuals and companies who sponsor the conferences want to make your life as easy as possible, and often provide a luncheon or banquet that takes place at the conference venue.
6. Libraries, Research, and More Libraries: Often conferences are held near a library. This will give you an opportunity to research to your heart’s desire… but make sure you come back to the conference. Many times the libraries will also be open for extended periods during the conference to allow everyone interested a chance to visit and use the library resources.
7. Genealogical and Family History Societies: Many society members take the time to attend the conference and put up a display. Their booths are usually located in the vendor hall and are often full of friendly people, books, pamphlets, and information about the society. You can join one or more of these societies and contribute to their success.
8. Computer Labs: Perhaps you are the kind of person who likes to try electronic or Internet services out before you purchase. Conferences are a great place to get hands-on experience with a variety of websites and software products. Some vendors also offer demonstrations of their products or free one-on-one training. (There is usually a sign up list for this service, so get there fast.)
9. Networking Opportunities: People from all over the world attend some of the larger genealogy conferences. Even if you attend a smaller conference, chances are you will meet many people from all walks of life. Genealogy conferences are great places to network with others.
10. Meet Professional Genealogists and Family Historians: It’s true. Conferences are the place where you can meet many professional and well-known genealogists, as well as individuals who have shaped the field. These individuals are usually at the conferences to lecture, but also attend because these events are where new information, breakthroughs, and innovations in genealogy are shared.
© Whitney Ransom McGowan, 2008. Used with permission.