1. I learn new things.
Conferences offer topics in areas that I need help with and opportunities to learn from the best in the business. Looking at the upcoming FGS Conference in Fort Wayne, IN August 21-24, I anticipate attending sessions on Ohio Research, Land Records, and Using DNA in Genealogy. All topics I am interested in learning more about. Over the course of 4 days I will be able to choose from over 160 different sessions to attend! So much learning is available at a conference.
2. I'm reminded of old things.
At the IGS Conference one of the best sessions I attended was presented by D. Joshua Taylor. In this final session of the day, he discussed developing management goals. For every one hour spent in a library doing research 2 hours should be set aside for preparing to research, analyzing data and compiling your results. This was just the reminder I needed to avoid those piles of information the come home with me after a research trip. I can never be reminded enough about the importance of citing my resources and using a research log. I always return home from a genealogy conference with a renewed sense of the need to return to the basics with my research.
3. I'm surrounded by like-minded people.
When I posed the question of why a genealogy conference to a friend she didn't hesitate to reply "to be with like-minded people". She's right! I love the interaction with others interested in family history. While I'm usually hesitant to start up conversations with people I don't know I find myself starting conversations with strangers at a genealogy conference! I know that we have something in common before I even approach them which puts me at ease. The opportunity to speak with someone sitting next to you in a session or sharing a table at lunch should not be missed! There is so much we can learn from each other. Young or old, seasoned or just beginning their genealogy adventure I have never walked away from a conversation without learning something new.
4. The vendors.
Everyone who knows me knows I hate to shop. But not at a genealogy conference! I make plenty of time to visit with the vendors. I devour their offerings every free moment I have! At IGS I picked up a book of county maps for Indiana from 1876 that shows the small town my ancestors lived in that is no longer in existence. It shows where the church was and, more importantly, where the cemeteries are located. All for the bargain price of $10.00!
5. The cost.
But wait, you say, everyone knows how expensive a trip to a genealogy conference can be. Not true. Take, for example, my upcoming trip to FGS in August. When I add up the cost of registration, hotel, travel expenses, and meals and divide that by the 21 hours of the wonderful education I will receive at the 21 sessions I will attend I realize I'm getting a bargain. The opportunity to learn from the likes of Crista Cowan (Ancestry), Devin Ashby (Family Tree Maker), Cyndi Ingle Howells (Cyndi's List) and Curt Witcher (Allen County Public Library) as well as D. Joshua Taylor, Elizabeth Shown Mills and Tom Jones is priceless. Most speakers are happy to answer questions you have following the sessions or in the event hall. I will take advantage of that and get even more for my conference investment.
Overall, a genealogy conference leaves me with a renewed excitement for tackling my own research. Whether it's by utilizing a new research technique I learned or learning more about a particular topic from a book I purchased, I'm ready to tackle those brick walls with renewed energy and dive in and flesh out the stories of my ancestors to record and share with my descendants.
And that, after all, is what this hobby of mine is all about!