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One of the things I like most about genealogists is their thirst for continuing education.
Year-round, conferences and workshops are offered on a wide range of topics by local, state, regional and national organizations. It’s possible that someone with unlimited time and financial resources could attend two or three a month. Maybe more.
I encourage anyone interested in family history research – whether for your own enjoyment or as a paid professional – to seek out these opportunities.
In the past year, I’ve been fortunate to attend two conferences and an institute. The conferences were each held in April by the Ohio Genealogical Society – last year’s was in Cleveland and this year’s was in Cincinnati.
In January, I attended the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy – a weeklong smorgasbord of research courses taught by top professionals in the field.
I’ll admit that these events can be overwhelming to newcomers. They are chock full of lectures and workshops, starting early each morning and stretching well into the evening. They usually are grouped into tracks according to topic or specialty – examples would be African American research, European research and a plethora of tracks relating to researching American records.
At conferences, you may sign up for lectures that stay within a certain track, or pick and choose those that sound most interesting or useful. When attending an institute, you choose one track only. But, usually there are evening lectures on a wide variety of topics that are open to everyone.
While these always present a huge amount of information in a fairly short period of time, I still come away with renewed energy and enthusiasm. I can’t wait to get home and use what I’ve learned to hone my skills and maybe bust through a brick wall or two.
Some people may consider genealogists geeks. That’s OK, really, as it’s not far from the truth: We love to find new ways to use technology to gather and store our research; we love libraries and archives; we get giddy when we visit cemeteries; and solving mysteries gives us a high that could match any drug out there.
But as a group, I find genealogists tend to be very friendly and interesting to talk to. We love to share information, give advice and tell of our elusive ancestors or our latest research breakthroughs. So don’t think you have to be an expert to attend a conference.
If you are unsure about devoting the kind of money and time required for a conference, try getting your feet wet at local workshops and seminars. For instance, the Kentucky Historical Society in Frankfort offers free Family History Workshops on the second Saturday of each month.
The May workshop is this Saturday, May 11, at 10:30 a.m. at the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History. The presenter, Pamela Lyons Brinegar, will give a morning and an afternoon session, both focusing on finding elusive female ancestors. The morning session is “Where O Where Can They Be?” and the afternoon session is “Casting a Wider Net.”
Registration is required by noon Friday, May 10, and a light lunch is offered for $6. For more information, visit the KHS website at History.Ky.gov.
Later in the summer, the Kentucky Genealogical Society is offering its annual seminar on Saturday, Aug. 3, called “How Deep are Your Bluegrass Roots?” Early registration, which must be postmarked by July 5, is $45 for members; nonmembers can pay $55 for the seminar only, or pay $65 for the seminar and a one-year membership. Visit Kentucky-GenealogicalSociety.org for more information.
The event starts at 8:15 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m., featuring J. Mark Lowe, who specializes in Kentucky and Tennessee research. I attended one of his lectures – on how the whiskey and bourbon industry influenced migration in Kentucky and Tennessee – when I was in Salt Lake City. His talk was very interesting and a lot of fun (even if he didn’t bring samples for us to taste).
Also in August is a great chance to go to the second-largest genealogical research facility in the United States – the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Ind. The Federation of Genealogical Societies is hosting its annual conference at the Grand Wayne Center in that city Aug. 21-24, and includes after-hours research time in the library on Friday night. The early bird price (paid by July 1) is $190 for all four days or $80 per day for one to three days. Obviously, the full registration is the way to go, even if you can’t stay for the whole thing.
For more information, visit FGSConference.org. There are far too many great lectures being offered than I can mention in this column.
Also, if you want to see more of what’s offered in the region and elsewhere in the country, go to CyndisList.com type “conferences” or “events” in the search field.
Phyllis McLaughlin is a member of the Association for Professional Genealogists and author of “Images of America: Carroll County.” Have a question or a brick wall? Call her at (502) 514-3715 or send an e-mail to email@example.com.