Friday, June 6, 2014

The Best of Times For Genealogy -- With or Without Conference Attendance (June 6, 2014)

Harold Henderson of Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog is a source for thoughtful and sometimes controversial opinions about genealogy, genealogy blogging, and genealogy education and certification among other subjects.  His post of several thought "Items" this past Thursday gave me some pause and reason to ruminate.  

Item three of "Wandering through the wilderness"  in particular was thought provoking.  I am a member of NEHGS, the "largest US genealogy society" to which Harold referred.  I pay my dues.  I read The Weekly Genealogist and often mention it in my Saturday Serendipity round-ups.  I respond to more of the weekly NEHGS polls than not -- and I have had a small piece published in American Ancestors.  But I am also among those who responded to the survey about genealogy conferences and admitted I was not planning on attending one in 2014.  

By the end of Harold's post, I got the distinct impression that perhaps I and my ilk were not learning because we were not planning to attend a genealogy conference this year.  I wondered briefly if I was indeed a genealogy slacker who should be ashamed.  But then I said to myself, "Wait a darned minute John. Perhaps Harold is missing another alphabetized series of possibilities and he is leaping to conclusions about the dedication to genealogy education (or lack thereof) that you and your ilk have simply because you do not plan to attend a genealogy conference during this particular trip around the sun."  To wit . . . 

(a)  Attendance at genealogy conferences can be expensive and run hundreds of dollars and more when the cost of transportation, lodging, meals, and conference fees are taken into account.  Not everyone with a deep interest in genealogy can devote limited resources to travel to a genealogy conference or conferences even once in a while, let alone each year.

(b)  Those who are not retired and still have to answer to that pesky activity called "one's day job," often (if not usually) have limited time off each year to divide among responsibilities such as family, home upkeep, vacations, etc.  Attending conferences takes time from these other responsibilities and is especially difficult if the conference is during the normal work week and at a distant location requiring travel, lodging, meals, and so on.  Unless one's occupation is as a professional genealogist, genealogy pursuits have to be done around the demands of making a living and functioning as a member of an existing family.  And many non-professional genealogists already struggle with spouses and children who tend to believe too much discretionary time and family resources are spent on genealogy and not enough on living breathing family. 

(c)  Regularly reading the available genealogy resources of society journals, organization magazines, and even the content of genealogy blogs surely has educational value for those who cannot attend conferences.  And what about the increasingly available and marketed genealogy webinars and livestreaming of conference sessions?  Do these count as conference "attendance?" 

(d)  The payment of annual dues to the likes of NEHGS, NGS and state and local genealogical societies is more than just the price of a membership card.  It brings with it the resources of access to extensive research databases, journals/periodicals, magazines, webinars, and opportunities to self-educate outside occasional conferences.  Imagine the percentage of those who make use of all these resources but cannot take the time or expend the funds to attend a conference at least once a year!

After engaging in my own  wanderings through the conference Item raised by Harold I felt much better.  In fact, I came to the belief that for genealogy this is not the best of times and the worst of times -- it is the best of times.  Indeed, it is a Golden Age with more resources available to more people at less expense than ever before -- and a conference is just one of myriad resources for genealogical education.  

It is hard to avoid the conclusion that, "You can lead a genealogist to conferences, but a pencil must be lead!"  

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Copyright 2014, John D. Tew
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  1. May I also add listening to genealogy and history podcasts? See some of my choices at From Maine to Kentucky.

  2. Hi Elizabeth! You caught me on that one. I am especially embarrassed to have left that out since I have loaded in today's Saturday Serendipity a mention of your May 9th post on podcasts. I only just read that post this week as I continue to catch up on blog reading that I missed during my May hiatus. It is set to upload at 10:00 this morning. Thank you for commenting and mentioning podcasts here!!!