Genealogy Conferences as Group Therapy

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.

Before the Thursday keynote at RootsTech/FGS 2015.

Before the Thursday keynote at RootsTech / FGS 2015. (Photo by Amy Crow; all rights reserved.)

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.

Amy Crow and Amy Coffin, RootsTech, 2015

The Amys, RootsTech / FGS 2015. (Photo by Amy Crow; all rights reserved.)

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.

Crowd leaving the Thursday keynote, RootsTech/FGS 2015. not every genealogy conference is this big, but you'll find friendly groups at whatever genealogy event you attend.

Crowd leaving the Thursday keynote, RootsTech/FGS 2015. Not every genealogy conference is this big, but you’ll find friendly groups at whatever genealogy event you attend. (Photo by Amy Crow; all rights reserved.)


18 thoughts on “Genealogy Conferences as Group Therapy

  1. Alona Tester

    In my view, no genie conference is “just about the talks”, it is as you say “group therapy”. The meeting with others and seeing old friends, and making new ones too, is just as much a part of the whole conference experience.

    1. Amy Johnson Crow Post author

      It really wasn’t as bad as the photos make it out to be. Well, except for immediately after the keynote sessions — heading out of there was pretty insane. And Saturday afternoon when the younguns were lining up to see David Archuletta and Studio C. The fire marshal actually made them shut down the line because the foyer of the Salt Palace was getting too crowded.

  2. Jennifer Alford

    Well said! I loved the times that I was able to just hang out and get to know my Facebook friends better. Plus it did my ego a big boost when folks would come up to the IDG booth and say how much they like the magazine. Awesome stuff!

    1. Amy Johnson Crow Post author

      There really is something about meeting face-to-face. As I said, I’m all for online learning, but we should remember that there are some good things happening offline as well!

  3. Jen

    I loved EVERY MINUTE of it. And I found my great-great-grandmother’s baptism record at the FHL AND another line of the family back to 1700. WOO HOO!

  4. Patti

    Looks like fun! My mom & I used to enjoy going to genealogy conferences before she got sick. Last year, in San Antonio, I took my teen son to the FGS Conference in San Antonio and we both had fun. People kept stopping him and asking him how old he was and then they would ask me how I got him interested in genealogy – the same thing used to happen to my mother & I when I was young and visiting genealogy libraries & going to conferences with her, ha!


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