I’ve been to quite a few conferences in my day, from one coast to the other, primarily for my professional development as a law librarian. This time I was scraping my pennies together for a conference on my passion – family history – because it was coming to my locale of 27 years – Cincinnati, Ohio. And I really didn’t know what to expect.
Once I made arrangements to be away from the office, just two blocks from the Duke Energy Center downtown, I started to get excited. Who knew I would be setting my alarm clock just as early for the next four days (including a Saturday!) as if I were catching the Metro bus?!
Driving downtown from Warren County in rush hour traffic is a pain and a half (I usually sleep on the bus, or at least nod off). If I didn’t bring coffee in the car, I’d better allow myself time to buy some soon after I got there (at Conference Center prices, no less!).
Surprisingly, the enormous herd of amateur family historians (of which I count myself) and professional genealogists awaiting the opening of the Exhibit Hall promised Genealogy Fun Aplenty awaiting us all.
Swinging flimsy bright green totes, and donning lanyards of various and curious lengths, over 2000 attendees began migrating from session to session, occasionally dropping off to cruise the exhibits for genealogy loot, and I was in the mix !!
My adventure had actually begun on Tuesday evening, at the annual Media/Blogger Dinner sponsored by FamilySearch. While the “local cuisine buffet” left a lot to the imagination, the presentation was informative. Far more valuable from my perspective was seeing, in the flesh, such blogger heavy-hitters as Dick Eastman, Lisa Alzo, and Pat Richley-Erickson, putting faces with names from the genealogy Twitter-verse like Tina Lyons, Jennifer Holik, Shelley Bishop, Susan Clark, Linda McCauley, Jennifer Alford, and meeting new friends like Amanda Perrine and Ruth Blair.
After Wednesday’s wonderful Opening Session on the Cincinnati Panorama of 1848, it was off to hear Lisa Louise Cooke (I love her and what she does with Google tools!) for Genealogy-on-the-Go with the iPad, then Using Excel to Create Timelines, and finally Snagit for Genealogists. I came home completely exhausted, but exhilarated, and looking ahead to 3 more (count ‘em 3!) full days.
Thursday began at 8 am with Storing Your Tree in the Cloud, followed closely by Geneablogger Guru Thomas MacEntee’s Utilizing Social Networks for Genealogy Research (I never fail to learn something new from Thomas!).
The next session on Spring Grove Cemetery was a real disappointment. I did not need to see slides of the pyramids and hear about the history of burial and mourning, plus the speaker was not even a local historian! I was headed to the Exhibit Hall and looking forward to an evening at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center followed by dinner and drinks at the Christian Moerlein Lager House at the Banks.
Somehow (I honestly don’t know when) I had met a group of local folks from the Hamilton County Chapter of the OGS, including Kathy Reed, Gail Burkholz, and Liz Stratton. We shared a lot of laughs both inside and outside the Duke Center, and plan to get together again. Even though I don’t have any local family ties, I plan to take advantage of joining up.
Friday included a lecture on Historic Newspapers, my first exposure to the huge draw of a speaker like Tom Jones on Documentation (we were packed in like sardines), Topographic Maps for Genealogy (who knew the US Geological Survey was such a wealth of information?!), and ended with a very funny talk called How to Be a Bad Genealogist. It was a great way to end Day 3.
I woke up with coffee-in-hand to hear Josh Taylor’s remix of his RootsTech talk Do I Trust the Cloud?, took in superstar Elizabeth Shown Mills’ Information Overload? (a worthy diagnosis indeed!), and ended the whole conference with Jean Hibben talking about The Two Sides of Interviewing. I still have my 80 year old mother and my 92 year old great aunt to quiz, so this was very valuable to me.
So, my first genealogy conference had come to a exhausting, illuminating, and fulfilling conclusion. So many of us felt like our brains could not hold any more knowledge, and that is how I felt and continue to feel.
On the other hand, I have a renewed enthusiasm for working on my family tree (seriously, I’ve lost sleep!) and a deep appreciation for the significant contributions of so many toward the passion we all share for genealogy.