Organizers of genealogy conferences will mislead you. Why they do this, I don’t know. They’ll tell you that the best reasons to come to their event are the education and the networking. Don’t let them fool you. The best reason to go is that it is the best group therapy a genealogist can get.
I just got back from the Federation of Genealogical Societies / RootsTech conferences. It was big. It was crowded. It was noisy. At times, it was insane. And I wouldn’t have missed it.
Don’t get me wrong. I learned a lot of good genealogical “stuff” last week. From Judy Russell, I learned about federal court records. (Now to find my ancestor’s bankruptcy case…) Tammy Hepps of Treelines inspired me to think about research from a story perspective. (I have to give a shout out to anyone who loves “footnote surfing” as much as I do!)
And there’s also the 1790 marriage record of my 4th-great-grandparents John Douglass and Susannah Howey that I found at the Family History Library. (Score!)
But a genealogy conference is so much more than the knowledge that you gain.
What stands out to me after every genealogy event I go to are the conversations. I had a great time with several friends over dinner at the Blue Iguana. While there, we basically solved all of the world’s ills and convinced each other that we are not insane. I had some amazing conversations with Amy Coffin of The We Tree Genealogy Blog. (Though that should go without saying. What else would you expect from another librarian, genealogist, and blogger named Amy?!)
There were the random exchanges with those around me as we waiting for sessions to start — or waiting in line for the ladies’ room. (Believe me, we often had plenty of time to talk then!) It was a mix of sharing ideas for research, feeling joy for someone’s latest discovery, and feeling inspired to continue your own journey.
That’s what I think is the greatest benefit of attending a genealogy event in person — it’s the interaction with those who understand us. We can talk about our research and not have the other person’s eyes glaze over. We can do the Genealogy Happy Dance and not have weird looks thrown our way. We can come away feeling inspired… Inspired not only with ideas for furthering our research, but also inspired that what we do is important.
Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy webinars. I love a good blog post. But with every conference I go to — whether it is a HUGE conference like RootsTech, or a smaller event like the Ohio Genealogical Society or the Indiana Genealogical Society annual conference — I walk away renewed. Tired, but renewed.
Attending a genealogy conference is one of the best group therapies out there.