I can officially add "attend a genealogy conference" to my milestone list. Its something I've wanted to do for years, but just never felt I could justify the cost. Fortunately, this years Federation of Genealogical Societies Annual Conference was held in Springfield Illinois the past few days. Even though, I would only be able to attend Saturday, I could definitely justify the 3 hour drive to soak up the genealogy goodness, networking and learning opportunities.
I woke up at 5:00 am to be able to attend a seminar at 9:30 am. Getting up at 5am on a Saturday when you work full time, have a side business and a one year old is pretty much blasphemy, but it was all in the name of pursuing family history!
I rolled into Springfield just in time to see the exhibit hall open. I was overwhelmed by all the big time names (Ancestry, FamilySearch, FamilyTree DNA), the new independent companies I had never heard of (AncestorStuff, Family Chart Masters, Family Tree Tours) and the different networking organizations (CAGGNI, Fox Valley Genealogical Society, Association of Personal Historians) before my eyes all in one space. This was everything I loved in a relatively small area, surrounded by people who loved genealogy, history and the search just as much as I did. Their eyes didn't glaze over as I explained my brick wall Ferguson research or the presentation ideas I was developing for future speaking engagements.
I didn't have much time to spend in the exhibit hall before I had to attend my first seminar. It was an advanced photo detecting workshop run by photo identification guru Maureen Taylor. I own two of Maureen's books, read her weekly column in Family Tree Magazine and seen her appear on several genealogy programs, so to work with her in a small group of 30 people to discuss her most difficult photo identification cases was magical! I'm hoping to grow that area of expertise. It seems like I've had collections of photographs fall into my lap over the years, many of them identified. I can't 'wait to begin more carefully looking at the ones that were a real mystery.
After the seminar, I headed back up to start connecting with people in the exhibit hall. I made some great connections and talked about my focus of turning genealogy research into creative, engaging products for people to share with family and friends. I talked to larger companies like Ancestry and Find My Past who shared new initiatives and programs they were starting off. The two hours flew by and before I knew it I needed to head down to the afternoon session I was planning on attending. The topic was Clues in the Midwest and there were some great resources shared that I never thought. Many of them free and available online (the best kind). After the session ended, many people were heading back to their respective regions. All in all, I only had the opportunity to spend about 7 hours there (plus 6 hours in the car) immersed in this small niche, but it was such an invaluable event to network, learn and reflect on where I want to go with this passion I have.
FGS 2017 will be in Pittsburg and while I don't think I"ll be able to attend that conference, I am keeping my eye on other conferences and conventions coming up in the next year. Can't wait to start unveiling some of my new ideas and projects. You'll be able to learn about those soon by going to the Projects section of my website. Stay tuned!