I recently attended two genealogy conferences. Other than the local LDS family history day, I've never attended a conference before. So, what did I think and what are my thoughts about conferences in general?
If you had asked me prior to these conferences, I would have told you, "I'd like to get to some conferences but I just haven't had the time or opportunity." Now that I've gone, which I'm glad I did, my general thoughts about conferences are, "If you really want to meet any of the speakers, or if you have a definite interest in the exact subject of one or more of the sessions, or if you know others in the genealogical community and you'd like to interact with them, then it's worthwhile."
When it came to the Greater Omaha Genealogical Society Spring Workshop, where "Your DNA Guide" Diane Southard was the speaker for four sessions on DNA, I enjoyed the conference. I know that Diane Southard is THE person to speak with about DNA for genealogy so any criticism is not directed at her, or for that matter, GOGS or the conference organizers. In the end, I didn't learn a whole lot from these sessions. Again, it's not because Diane doesn't know her subject. She most definitely does. It's only because my knowledge of the subject was already above what the sessions covered. The sessions were about DNA for genealogy in general, which test to take, who to have take them and what you can discover. These are all very important subjects for someone starting out studying DNA for genealogy. The problem is that my knowledge of the subject matter is more advanced than she covered in these sessions.
That being said, I can't say that I didn't learn anything at all. In a case study, she showed how to use yDNA results to sort out where to place a given branch into a larger family tree. I know I couldn't have done such a thing before seeing this case study and she did a great job explaining her conclusions. I look forward to having the opportunity to attend a session of Diane's where she covers advanced triangulation for atDNA results.
Then, this past weekend, I attended the Nebraska State Genealogy Society Spring Conference. There was a much larger number of people there and I had arranged to meet another genealogy blogger there. Laura Mattingly writes the Old Trunk in the Attic genealogy blog. She has linked to several of my blog posts and has posted comments on some of my posts. I appreciate her interest in my blog and the kind words she has expressed. If you haven't read her blog yet, I encourage you to do so. Laura and I arranged to meet up at the conference. If we hadn't, I wouldn't have known anyone there! I suppose this is a good reason to join and participate in your local genealogy group. I have recently joined but haven't attended a meeting yet. I believe that had I been a member for a while, I may have known a few more people but as it was, I really appreciated Laura's welcoming me into the "In-Real-Life" genealogy community. Also, we don't yet have proof, but it is my belief that Laura and I are related on our Menke lines.
As for the Nebraska State Genealogy Conference in general, I'm glad I went but again, I wish the sessions had more advanced subject matter. D. Joshua Taylor was the featured speaker and, as I had heard, he is a great presenter. Even if these particular sessions didn't have as advanced subject matter as I would have hoped, Josh can make most any presentation interesting. As stated above, I have recently joined the Greater Omaha Genealogy Society but I wasn't sure what they could help me with or what I could help them with. Josh's presentation about local historical and genealogical societies made it clear to me that joining was a very good idea and I may have to join the societies in a couple of locations where my ancestors lived. And his story of being a young child and having his grandmother bring him across the country joining every society they visited was a really entertaining story. In addition, Josh provided some good tips on how to adjust your online searches to figure out exactly where the records are that can provide you with the information you need. Finally, his case study he used as his final presentation was really inspirational. It inspired me that maybe I really can break down some of these brick walls.
So, should you go to that conference or not? If you really want to meet the speaker or network with your peers in the genealogy community, definitely do so. Of course if you have interest in any of the subjects to be covered, and they will be at the appropriate level that you'll be able to learn something, you definitely should go. If none of these is the case, you may be better off reading some blogs and other online resources or arranging a trip to do your own research.