If you’ve ever wondered whether it’s worth attending a genealogical conference, you’re not alone. Genealogical research can be a deeply fulfilling but lonely endeavor. Attending events can help you mingle with individuals that share your passion, expand your knowledge of research techniques and resources, and spend time learning about the things you love. It can also be an investment that helps you crack tough research problems and meet one-on-one with professional genealogists that you might consider hiring. If you’re thinking about attending a national or regional genealogy conference, here are some tips to help make your trip a success.
Define your goals
As with every endeavor, the clearer your goals are the more likely you are to be successful with the outcome of attending a conference. There are numerous reasons to go to a genealogy event, from mere curiosity to networking to trying to identify experts or researchers to help you solve a specific problem. Decide in advance why you’re going. Do you want to make friends or expand your circle of acquaintances that share your interests? Are you hoping to gather specific research knowledge on an area to deepen your expertise on a subject, such as Scottish genealogy or examining criminal records? If you have multiple objectives, prioritize them. A clear list of goals will be helpful when you’re confronted with multiple options in the same time slot that seem enticing.
Review the program
Conferences typically publish the speaking schedule well ahead of time. Not only does this allow you to get a feel for who will be attending and speaking, but it will help you identify which sessions are of interest. A well-planned schedule can help you prioritize how you’re spending your time at the conference and making sure that you’re not missing valuable information. Themes and topics vary from conference to conference, but you can typically expect sessions on: strategies for planning your research, documenting your work, specific ethnic resources and approaches, new research pathways, and specialized topics such as maritime history and slave genealogical research.
Take advantage of other opportunities
It’s easy to get tied up during a conference running from session to session. Soaking up as much genealogical research knowledge as possible is a great investment of your time. But you can miss the chance to connect with other participants and take advantage of some of the specialized opportunities that conferences offer. One popular feature is the ability to consult with an established, professional genealogist on a research question. Often, they can recommend resources; help reframe your question; or otherwise give you tips to move forward with your work. Another is visiting the exhibition floor. A wide variety of tools and services are being promoted, which may be interesting to you in your work. Finally, find out which societies and groups are in planned attendance. Often specialized groups – such as the Irish Ancestral Research Association or Daughters of the American Revolution – may be represented at the conference. Taking the time to mingle and learn more may open up avenues of inquiry. Meeting the representatives is also a great, low-stress way to see if membership might be right for you.
There are numerous reasons to attend a conference – from expanding your knowledge base to making new friends. If you’re struggling with a research problem that you can’t solve on your own, consider hiring a professional genealogist. Attending a conference they’ll be speaking at can be a great way to get the conversation started. Contact us today at Price & Associates to arrange for a personalized consultation.