A family history or genealogy conference can be a life-changing experience. Have you considered attending one?
Everyone at the event will be interested in and passionate about family history and in finding more information about his or her ancestors. Each event provides an educational and networking opportunity to connect with researchers and experts, learn new information or skills and ask questions.
Some beginning researchers feel they don't know enough to attend such an event, but I think everyone will benefit. Researchers of all skill levels will become inspired, meet interesting people, learn new skills and methods, receive expert help, and hear breaking news about technologies and new resources.
Beginner sessions are always scheduled; experienced researchers make efforts to help newcomers. Most importantly, remember that even professional genealogists were once absolute beginners - learning never stops and there are no silly questions!
Through the years, I've attended conferences in several countries. I've always learned something new, met others researching my geographic area, and seen new resources and innovation. Many people I met years ago are good friends today.
Family historians and genealogists are friendly; people often ask me why. We never know if the next person we meet might just hold the key to our personal mystery of history. We share information, help with strategies, offer advice and we hope that, as we help newcomers, they in turn will help others.
You might sit next to someone researching your families, villages or towns. Researchers who focus on specific areas or topics may form special interest groups to share information, collaborate to develop resources to help others. These groups may hold meetings or meals with speakers and are a great way to meet the experts.
- What pieces of your family puzzle do you want to investigate?
- What sessions target your quest?
- When are those sessions scheduled?
- Who are the expert speakers?
- Look at the conference site for all details.
- View and printout the program, marking topics of interest.
Do check for more general topics, such as geography or changing borders, reading different alphabets, organizational skills for a project or how to break through sticky research problems may also be of interest.
Are there books or software you'd like to see before buying? Will a vendor have it so you can buy or order a copy? Will a resource room offer maps, databases and reference books?
Each event attracts experts, including international archivists from countries your ancestors may have lived. There may be opportunities to meet with the experts in one-on-one sessions, and volunteer document translation assistance may be available.
Are you planning a family roots trip this summer? If so, it's time to make plans.
Whether you stay at home or plan an international trip, the basics are the same: Decide where you are going and what information you would like to find. Contact local historic or genealogical societies in the area for more information, and see below for even more suggestions.
Make a list of your names of interest and the towns your ancestors lived in. Try to group the towns regionally, by a particular geographic area. If this is an ambitious trip, you may want to make several groupings of towns.
A good way to put everything into perspective is to get a big map of the region you are planning to explore. Make a trip to your local office supply store and pick up a few packages of colored (but transparent) removable adhesive dots - they come in all sizes. Using the transparent ones mean you won't be covering up important information.
Color code your map. For example, put a red dot for the town, a blue dot for the cemetery, a yellow dot for archives, courthouses or libraries, and a green dot for possible accommodations.
Use other colors for restaurants.
And, if your family is coming with you, mark sites they would like to visit either with you or while you are digging through documents. Pay attention to fun places like water parks, amusement parks, a beach, music festivals or childrens' museums. Remember that cemeteries are not high on other people's must-see lists.
In this small example, the reddish rectangles are towns family lived in. The blue rectangles are places of fun for the family. Pittsfield is near Tanglewood's music festival, while Sturbridge is home to an open-air museum which recreates life as it was, complete with artisans in period dress.
Once you've got the regional map marked, you'll be able to see where the important genealogical target sites are. Connect the lines and figure out distances. Look for accommodations central to several sites or one town from which you can easily reach a few others.
You may also be looking for new-found living relatives or attempting to re-connect with longlost relatives. Contact relatives in the area you will be visiting. They might even invite you to stay with them, or at least invite you for a meal! But do let them know far in advance.