Tag Archives: NGS

2015 NGS Family History Conference

Last week was spent at the National Genealogical Society’s 2015 Family History Conference in St. Charles, Missouri. This was my third NGS conference in as many years, and as always, it was a fantastic time of education, inspiration, and connecting with colleagues and friends.

IMG_0792Despite missing the first morning and final afternoon of the conference, I managed to pack in fourteen sessions in addition to the NGS luncheon and a lovely breakfast hosted by Findmypast. (No, I didn’t get much sleep.) From legal lingo with Judy Russell to tracing kinships through indirect evidence with Elizabeth Shown Mills, I came away with plenty of new ideas for tracking down some of my more elusive ancestors. Other sessions ranged from Federal Military Pensions to Scandinavians in the Midwest, and I also enjoyed learning about Illinois resources, pre-statehood and beyond, as a number of my ancestors entered Illinois Territory more than two hundred years ago.

One standout session was Baerbel Johnson’s “So You Think You Want to Get Married: German Marriage Records, Laws, and Customs.” Let’s just say that all of the obstacles in the way of marriage during different points in German history – including age restrictions (brides had to be twenty-two and grooms had to be twenty-five!), parental permission, proof of means of support, and taxes galore – go a long way in explaining just why so many German children may have been born out of wedlock.

My favorite discovery from a session? That would have to be HistoryGeo.com, a resource that maps “First Landowners” and can pinpoint the exact site of your ancestor’s land on Google Maps in just a few clicks. This eliminates the need to painstakingly cross-reference historic plat maps with modern road maps as I did last summer when identifying the location of the homestead of one of my ancestors. If you have any first landowners in your family tree, this is a resource you won’t want to miss.

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At this year’s conference, I especially enjoyed getting to spend time with two fellow members of the Leadership Team of the NextGen Genealogy Network. We hosted an informal meetup event for other young genealogists in their twenties, thirties, and forties – and those who lend their support, including a friend of mine from graduate school. A handful of us stuck around to swap our best family stories into the night, and from black sheep to DNA discoveries, we covered it all. It was the perfect way to pause and unwind halfway into the conference!

All in all, I was impressed with the stellar organization of this year’s conference by the National Genealogical Society, the St. Louis Genealogical Society, and conference center staff, as well as the tireless speakers, volunteers, and exhibit hall vendors. The conference center was a short walk from my hotel, and there was a Cracker Barrel in between – what more could one want? Oh, food trucks, of course. Lots of fun details of the conference were captured on Twitter under #NGS2015GEN.

I didn’t have the chance on this trip to explore what historic St. Charles and St. Louis have to offer, but I will definitely need to return at some point for a research venture – after all, my southern Illinois ancestors settled just a couple of hours away. Now I know how to find their land!

Read about the 2014 NGS Family History Conference (Richmond) here.
Read Ten Tips for NGS Family History Conference Attendees here.

Copyright © 2015 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.

Ten Tips for NGS Family History Conference Attendees

Registration has opened for the NGS 2014 Family History Conference, 7-10 May 2014 in Richmond, Virginia! NGS 2013 in Las Vegas was my first conference, and I can’t wait for round two of four days of genealogical bliss. As a bonus, although I spent nearly three years living in Virginia, I never made it to Richmond. Are you going?

The National Genealogical Society offers a list of very helpful Tips for First Time Conference Attendees. I recommend that any attendee look them over – there are great reminders even for those who have attended a conference before. After NGS 2013, however, I came up with a few practical tips of my own:

Ten Tips for NGS Family History Conference Attendees

1. Be prepared! Before taking off, review the conference schedule and download the NGS app to your smartphone to keep you organized. Make note of which lectures you want most to attend, and think seriously about what you want to learn. Whether you’re a complete novice or an experienced professional, there are lecture topics and tracks geared towards you. A plan of action is important when preparing to tackle several full days of lectures and activities, including luncheons, evening programs, and other special events – but be willing to be flexible, too. Discovering a new favorite speaker may sway you into attending a lecture that you had previously ruled out, or a new friend might invite you along to a networking event that you hadn’t heard about.

2. Broaden your horizons! A lecture might catch your eye if it covers a specific topic in genealogy that you love and have read everything about – but realize that if that’s the case, you might not learn much new in a lecture geared towards beginners in that subject area. If you take a look at the syllabus, you might find that you can get the gist of a lecture from the summary provided there, and decide, in its place, to attend a lecture about something completely new to you. I almost missed what ended up being one of my favorite lectures on a topic that I knew nothing about to attend a lecture on a topic that I already knew well.

3. Check out the Exhibit Hall! Plan on spending some quality time here, even if that means skipping out on a lecture at some point during the course of the conference. Right between lectures, the Exhibit Hall can be packed, so I found it worthwhile to go at an off time, particularly when I wanted to buy mass quantities of books and peruse the binders of application materials at the booth for the Board for the Certification of Genealogists. (If you’ve ever so much as thought about certification, do this!)

IMG_03314. Get colorful! Before attending NGS 2013, I had not been aware that ribbons that attached to one’s name tag even existed. Well, as it turns out, they do, and they’re popular at genealogy conferences. As you explore the Exhibit Hall, you will have the opportunity to collect ribbons from genealogical organizations that you support. Some people are selective with their ribbons, while others make a point to collect as many as possible. However you go about it, be sure to add some color to your name tag!

5. Dress to impress! Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve found that the term “business casual” can be vague, and I like specifics. At NGS 2013, most attendees wore trousers or slacks with a nice shirt or blouse, though by all means, one should wear whatever makes him or her feel the most comfortable and confident. On the final day of the conference, many attendees dressed more casually, particularly if they were leaving directly for a flight home.

6. Layer! I appreciate air-conditioning, but it can be unpredictable in large conference facilities. There were a couple of occasions last year when I would have turned into an icicle if I hadn’t brought along my trusty cardigan. NGS already offers this advice, but I’ll say it again – a sweater or light jacket is a necessity!

7. Stay hydrated! At NGS 2013, there were water stations at the back of every lecture hall. I don’t know if this will be the case every year, but I appreciated being able to fill my own water bottle before lectures. Hydration will be just important at future conferences as it was in the Nevada desert, so pack a water bottle and plan on using it.

8. Bring snacks! For those times when you’re too exhausted (in a good way, of course) to seek out lunch or dinner, or when you don’t have enough of an appetite to warrant purchasing a big meal, bring along some snacks. I made a few meals of peanut butter, crackers, and fruit, which really wasn’t as tragic as it sounds. If your room comes with a refrigerator or microwave, you’ll have even more options for low-key, low-cost meals.

9. Get connected! Although some may prefer to rely on a smartphone for Internet access during the conference, I would recommend bringing your tablet or laptop as well. I didn’t carry my laptop to the lectures with me (although you should have something to take notes), but I found that I was eager to put my new skills to use immediately (!) and liked being able to access my files easily once I was back in my room. Be aware of Internet options at your hotel – in 2013, NGS provided a hotspot for conference attendees as the attached hotel did not provide complimentary Internet access.

10. Talk to your neighbor!  In my experience, the vast majority of conference attendees are as friendly as can be and are very open to chatting with their neighbors in the moments before a lecture begins. The very least anyone should do is to smile and say hello. You all have something in common, and if there’s one thing that genealogists love to talk about, it’s genealogy!

What are your tips for NGS Family History Conference attendees?