While researching your ancestry you may get stuck along the way. And so genealogy conferences are a great way for you to get that help and move on with your family history research.
Please read on as I explore how you can get the most from these events so that you can learn more about your ancestors.
Check out my 4 P System!
To help you on your way I have developed a 4 P System that will make sure you get the most from a genealogy conference.
It may be just a one day event or it maybe spread out over several days. It may even be a workshop that you want to attend.
Either way these 4 Ps will help you regardless!
4 P’s to help you get the most from genealogy conferences:
- Prepare – What will you take? Think about what you will eat and drink while you are there, and also what aids you will need to take down notes.
- Plan – What goals do you want to achieve?
- Pace – Take it easy during the conferences.
- Promote – Get yourself known.
What Are Conferences All About?
Before I do go over the 4 P’s I just want to discuss what conferences are and what you can expect from them.
So, if you have never been to a conference before then please read this section first.
There are many conferences happening all over the nation all the time. These range from events that are organized by the many hundreds of genealogy societies to much larger events, such as RootsTech.
You may even be interested in attending one that is in another country. That’s fine but you need to know before you make that trek whether the conference will benefit your research, (or not).
Proper research means that you will get the most from these events.
What you need to consider!
There are a number of considerations to factor in before you attend a conference.
Obviously whichever one you do decide on going to will depend on its location, how you are going to get there and where you will stay when you get there.
Other considerations to note include which companies and services will be attending the conference.
So, check the conference details to see this information to see if it is a conference that you would like to attend.
Price is a big factor!
Another consideration is the price of the conference. You will need to register before you attend and these can range from $50 up to $200.
Some can be even more than that depending on the scale of the conference.
You will also need to factor in how much food will cost you. Obviously taking your own will help bring costs down.
Transportation, accommodation and items that you need to purchase for the trip will be other factors to consider.
So, you can see that it all adds up.
All of this can cost you a few hundred dollars and even up to $1,000.
It’s not cheap to attend a conference so it’s important to get the most from them.
What you can expect!
Obviously no two conferences will be the same. There will be different companies and services attending.
And there will be different people attending these events. So, who knows who you will meet at these events.
You will need to be prepared that you may not get to see and do everything that you intended to do at a conference.
I know what genealogy is like, you get too caught up in the moment with discovering your ancestors.
If you can refrain from doing this then you can experience more at these events. That’s my opinion though, so you do what works best for you.
Speakers will often attend these conferences and give 1 hour presentations. There will be workshops available too, (depending on the conference), which may range from 2 hours up to maybe 5 hours.
Depending on the location there may even be field trips organized that will visit locations around the area, such as cemeteries, archives, or repositories.
There may even be sight-seeing tours as well, which are great as you can see the area in which your ancestors lived in.
As I mentioned before when you register for an event you can see what activities that you are interested in. Depending on what is on the schedule you may want to miss certain activities.
That’s great because that will free up your time with what you want to do.
Please be aware though that maybe some activities may get cancelled, due to illness or unforeseen circumstances.
So, it is best to have another plan up your sleeve just in case.
Help and assistance!
Conferences are a great place to get help from all sorts of people. These could be from the presenters, organizers, vendors or even fellow genealogists.
You can even give them your details so that you can communicate with them in the future.
It’s a great way for you to get help when you hit a brick wall in your research.
Also, depending on the scale of the conference there may be computers provided as well. These can be used for you to check out genealogy search websites, and also for whether you want to do any printing or scanning.
Which is great when you get more information and want to record it.
1. Prepare Yourself!
There is nothing worse than getting to a conference and realizing you have left something at home.
Can you imagine arriving to a presentation and realize that you have forgotten your notepad?
You will therefore need to be prepared and bring everything that will help you get the most from your time at a conference.
But what do you bring?
One great tip that I have seen is that you can print out address labels with your name, email address, and phone number.
You could add a few more details to the labels, but don’t go too overboard.
These labels are a practical way for you to save time as you may register your details with various companies, services or even prize giveaways.
Rather than you getting your pen out yet again and writing your details down, you just simply give them your label.
It’s quick and easy, and you can be on your way to another vendor that interests you.
Credit: Genealogy 101: Attending a Genealogy Conference by Gena Philibert-Ortega
Family Tree Charts
The most important thing that you can bring to a conference is your current family tree research.
Depending on far you have gone with your research it may not be practical to have one big piece of paper with your entire family tree.
Instead you may want to break up your tree and print them on several charts.
Reports are also a good idea to print out, as well as any notes stating where you are currently at with each branch of your tree.
Having several copies of these is also a good tip as you may need to hand out a few of these.
Food and Drink
Obviously you won’t be able to take any food or water into the conference and start chomping away while someone is talking.
But that doesn’t mean that you can’t take anything with you to have between sessions.
These conferences can last all day and if you plan to be all that time then you will need to have something to eat and drink. So why not take your favorite snacks with you as well as a bottle of water?
The promoters though may put on catering so you may not need to bring your own food and drink. It doesn’t hurt to bring your own anyway.
Or if you don’t fancy carrying around any extra baggage then why not check ahead whether catering is provided.
Either way it is a good idea to bring money and your bank card with you.
The younger generation have taken to technology really well and so they will probably want to take their laptop or tablet with them so that they can take down notes.
That’s perfectly acceptable but if you do just remember to bring along any power cords or charging adapters.
The same can also be said for your cellphone/smartphone. Please remember to bring your phone charger with you.
And of course to put them on silent during any presentations and speeches.
A portable cell phone power bank is handy too if you cannot get to a power point.
Notepad and Pencil
Some people prefer to take notes the old fashioned way. And that is by pen and paper.
So, bring along your best notepad and a supply of pens and pencils.
Also, a sharpener and a eraser wouldn’t go amiss as well.
2. Plan What You Want To Achieve!
Experts from the genealogy field will be coming from all over the nation. There may even be international guests as well who will be speaking at the conferences.
So, they are a great opportunity for you to find out more about your ancestry.
4 questions to ask yourself:
What are your goals?
Is there a particular area of research that you need help with.
For example, do you want to learn more about historical newspaper archives, or how about learning more about DNA testing?
You may have even hit a brick wall during your research and so want to get tips or techniques to help you break through.
This is the time and opportunity to move on with your research.
What presentations and sessions do you want to attend?
Now that you know your goals you can pick out what presentations and sessions that you will be attending.
Just take a look at the itinerary and mark off what will be of interest to you.
By doing this you will have more inspiration to learn all that you can about a particular tropic. At least that is my opinion anyway.
But it doesn’t hurt to have a plan does it?
You want to take something from the conference after all, don’t you?
Who do you want to speak to?
There will be experts at these events so why not speak with them and learn more?
Or if you weren’t quite sure about something that they said then why not go up to them and ask.
There is usually a Question and Answer session at the end of talks.
But if you are shy, (like me),then maybe go up to them after their talk. Or maybe at one of the stalls.
The experts are there to help. And it doesn’t matter what your level of knowledge is. You could have been researching your family history for a number of years or you may have just started on your genealogy journey.
The point is that they will have met people from all walks of life and will have different levels of skill.
So, they are used to dealing with all sorts of people.
Genealogy is a hobby where everyone helps each other. We want to learn more about our ancestors and we try to help one another achieve that goal.
And the experts are no different. They are there to help!
What do you want to ask?
I have already mentioned goals and what do you want to achieve from a genealogy conference. You may therefore want to know more about a certain topic. And that is great.
But do you have a specific question that you want to ask?
Now is the time to ask those questions and get some help.
3. Pace Yourself!
For me genealogy conferences are a lot like gathering information about your family tree.
You can found out so many details about your ancestors that you can get so overwhelmed with it all.
And the same can be said about what you can learn from the sessions that you can attend. You don’t want to fill your brain with everything otherwise you will get exhausted.
With that said you maybe of the younger generation and so can take the long day and take it all in.
But for the older generation I suggest that you take it easy.
You will learn an awful a lot even if you just attend a couple of sessions. That is plenty enough to help you further your family tree.
So, take a break whenever you need or feel like it. Have a little snack and some water to recharge your batteries.
Also have a walk around and maybe go outside as well. Get some fresh air in your lungs. It will do you good.
As I have mentioned in the previous P plan what sessions you will be attending and who you will see. Have a plan and try to stick to it.
But if you can’t do that then please do not worry.
4. Promote Yourself to Others!
Genealogy conferences are obviously a great way for you to build on your family tree. What tips, tricks, techniques and strategies that you learn from them can be used well after these events have passed.
And the same can be said with who you meet as well.
Meet new friends!
One thing that is certain is that you will make some new friends. After all these events draw a lot of people.
Not only will you be introducing yourself to experts but also to the amateur family detective.
Who knows you may even find a relative there as well. Everyone these days it seems is interested in their genealogy so it is possible to meet a distant cousins at these events.
With that said why not create and print out some business type cards with your details on.
Your cards don’t have to be fancy. They can just have basic information about yourself so that people don’t forget you. And that they have your contact details handy.
Put your name, email address and maybe website address as well if you have a family history site.
You could also put links to your social media accounts if you want to be connected that way.
Adding information as to what you are researching is also a good idea, such as places and surnames that you are interested in.
If you want to have fun with it then why not add ‘Amatuer Family History Detective‘ so that they can identify who you are.
If you are a professional though but that in instead.
My Final Thoughts!
To finish off I want to ask you a question.
What do you hope to achieve by attending a genealogy conference?
If your answer is to find out more about your ancestors then that’s a start. Or if you were more specific and answered that you want to learn more about DNA testing then that’s great as well.
Just like books, the Internet and genealogy societies, a genealogy conferences is another tool that you can use.
For me I like to use everything at my disposal so that I can learn more about my ancestors.
I have looked at every source imaginable to build my family tree. And I have used every aid as well to help me along my family history journey.
So attend genealogy conferences and workshops but please try to follow these 4 Ps to help you get the most out of them.
Thank You and Please Leave A Comment
I hope you enjoyed this post outlining handy tips to get the most from genealogy conferences. If you have any questions or comments then please leave a comment below.
Please share with family and friends if you think this post will help others by using the social media buttons below.