Registration is now open for the Federation of Genealogical Societies Annual Conference, to be held September 7th through 10th in Springfield, Illinois, the former home and resting place of President Abraham Lincoln. I have been looking forward to this national conference since they announced the location a few years ago. The location is not too far of a drive from Tulsa and many of my ancestors lived in Illinois, in Kane, DeKalb, La Salle, Kendall, Union, Ogle, Mercer, Jo Daviess, Rock Island, or Cook Counties. Some of my clients had ancestors in still more Illinois counties. So, not only am I attracted by a national genealogical conference, but local research opportunities are enticing to me as well.
Dick Eastman writes about details of the announcement in his blog post of today. The conference page on the society’s website provides, among other things, links to the conference program (click Conference Activities), online registration, and the conference blog. I just subscribed today to receive emails of the blog posts from the Blog page (down on the navigation bar to the right). The emails I will get will enable me to learn more about things to do in Springfield, conference events, and other insider information.
I am familiar with several of the speakers including Thomas Jones, Pamela Boyer Sayre and J. Mark Lowe – three that we have had in Tulsa to speak and I know to always have professional and informative lectures and lecture materials. And I see the names of many speakers that are not so familiar to me. But, from attending FGS or NGS (National Genealogical Society) conferences in the past, I know that I have been very pleased to attend lectures presented by Paul Milner, Craig Scott, Ann Carter Fleming, Loretto Szucs, Curt Witcher, David Rencher, Rhonda R. McClure, James L. Hansen, Tony Burroughs, and Marie Varrelman Melchiori, and I look forward to hearing any of them again. Typically, the program committee will encourage proposals from speakers who have expertise in the geographic area where the conference is held, so I spotted lectures on Iowa and Missouri in my first quick glance. Again, I have ancestors and clients’ ancestors who lived in both of these states. And there are lectures whose topics are independent of geographic location, offering lessons in techniques and methodology, like the lecture I presented at the 2009 FGS Conference in Little Rock – “How to Be a Power Hitter.”
Programming on Wednesday of the conference will be focused on genealogical society management. Librarians have separate Wednesday programming as well. I would recommend the luncheons, even though they are expensive, not only because of the opportunity you will have to meet other genealogists who sit at your table and because it can be less stressful than trying to find a place to eat, but because the luncheons include a program. They are also often gatherings of the members of an organization, like the New England Historic and Genealogical Society. I noticed that three of the luncheon speakers are Pay Richley (aka Dear MYRTLE), Craig R. Scott (military records guru), and J. Mark Lowe (who has been to several workshops in Tulsa sponsored by the Tulsa Library Trust and is always enjoyable). The conference banquet speaker will be Harold Holzer, noted Lincoln scholar and author, speaking on “The Lincoln Family Album.”
I spotted both a Swedish Genealogy Workshop and a German Genealogy Workshop — both of which interest me, since I have German ancestry (a little over 1/4, with Becker, Ebner, Mayer and Trefflich) and my husband has Swedish ancestry (3/8 – Anderson, Anderson, and Berg). These have an additional fee, too, and take the place of three other lectures, so the cost is not insigificant. Still, I will consider attending one or both of these four-hour workshops offered on Friday.
Sometimes the lecture topic attracts me, and sometimes it is the speaker. With several lectures offered during each time slot, I always have difficulty choosing which to attend and which to miss. Sometimes I attend some and purchase the audio recordings of others. In order to register, you do not need to commit to which lectures you will attend, but the committee asks that you select which you will probably attend so that they can determine room assignments. However, they do want you to commit to the luncheons, workshops and the banquet when you register. In case space is limited, you should register as soon as you are sure that you will attend and reserve your space for the events.
National conferences are a wonderful and fun way to advance your understanding of genealogy. You have an opportunity to see books and other products you might like to purchase, to visit with representatives of societies you might like to join, and to watch demonstrations of genealogy software or have your software questions answered. You can also meet other genealogists who share your interest or who know of a contact or resource that will help you in your search. And, of course, you can attend lectures given from some of the best speakers on genealogical or historical topics that you will find anywhere.
I hope you will consider attending this conference, or the NGS Conference in May in Charleston, South Carolina (see information here), and let me know if you think you will go or if you have any questions.