Why Attend a Genealogy Conference or Class

Things you can learn from attending a conference or class

During the past month or so, I have presented at about ten conferences, webinars or classes. I am struck by the impact these events can have on the individual genealogical researcher. Here are some of the things you can learn.

You are not alone.
You share with others a common interest with similar frustrations and problems. Genealogy is a particularly solitary activity. You can spend hours and hours at the computer, sitting in libraries and scanning documents. It is comforting to know that others share the same activities.

Your questions and challenges are not unique.
It is amazing how many times I am asked the same or very similar questions. I think the most common question starts out, "I have been looking for (fill in the blank) for some time and . . . "

There are programs, products and services that can help you in your pursuit.
My sister-in-law went to her first genealogical conference. She was extremely impressed and even though she attended only the opening event and saw the exhibitors, she is much more likely to come back to another conference. Conferences have that effect on people; their vision of what can be done expands and their interest is piqued.

Genealogy is not a pursuit only for the aged and infirm.
Those of us who are participating constantly in genealogical activities know that interest in one's family knows no bounds; neither is it restricted to any age. Unfortunately, that is not the general perception. In talking to other full-time genealogists, most of us got our start at a much younger age. Although the tone and attendance at conferences is decidedly those who are more mature (let's just say it -- old guys) occasionally a younger participant realizes that talking and mingling with old folks isn't all that bad.

Learning about genealogy is possible at any age.
One of the life-changing incidents in my life has been overcoming the negative association I had with old age and disability. My body certainly functions at a different age than my mind and I find many older people with fantastic mental abilities. I am awed by the amount of experience and knowledge that come out of some of the most unlikely looking bodies. This is entirely counter to a society that does all it can to marginalize and warehouse the old, rather than using their experience and depth of understanding. Genealogy conferences graphically demonstrate that great things can be accomplished in second, third and even fourth or more careers.

Participating in a conference can be hard work.
Even though our minds are willing, some of us are physically challenged and going to a conference can be hard work. Despite the work involved, it is evident that the effort is worth the time and expense. We come away invigorated and ready to start again to find those elusive relatives. We need to do hard things in our lives to keep alive. We all need to feel challenged and motivated. Going to conferences does all that.

We get real answers to real and sometimes difficult questions.
Conference participants are at the stage in their understanding of genealogy that gives them the humility to accept suggestions and advice. Sometimes it is enough simply to have a forum where you can air your concerns. You aren't really looking for answers, you are looking for sympathy. Sympathy abounds in shared experiences and conferences give you that kind of shared experience.

You learn that genealogy isn't all that expensive a pursuit.
Genealogy does take time. But when you compare the cost of a genealogy conference with other activities, it comes out quite inexpensive. I was struck by a sign on the road to St. George, Utah that advertised a round of golf for $45 dollars as a bargain. Our local Mesa golf courses charge $70 to $80 or much more for a round of golf. If you have ever owned a boat for water skiing, you know what the word expensive means. There are dozens of popular activities, including entertainment events, that cost much more than a two-day or even a three-day genealogy conference.

Genealogy can be an incentive and a reason to travel.
We combined one trip with a visit to relatives, who took us on a private tour of the entire area. I am not a great fan of traveling but if I have a goal, like finding a grave site, I will travel to the ends of the earth. Otherwise, I will stay home on my computer and write.

Sign up for an upcoming conference. Make plans today.

Written by James L. Tanner. Used with permission.

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