Thursday, May 11, 2017

What Is The Greatest Thing About A Genealogy Conference?

The MassMutual Center -- site of NERGC 2017 in Springfield, Massachusetts

Two weeks ago I attended my very first genealogy conference. It was the biennial New England Regional Genealogical Consortium's (NERGC's) 2017 Conference that took place this year in Springfield, Massachusetts from April 26 - 29.

To be sure, there were many opportunities at NERGC 2017 for learning from some genealogy experts and plenty of time to explore various tools and resources available at the Exhibit Hall. I was also able to meet several fellow bloggers who I have read, corresponded with, and recommended to others, but had never personally met .  .  . Heather and her husband Vincent, Diane, Barbara and her husband Bill, Elizabeth, and Wendy. I met new-to-me bloggers Marian, Barbara, Dan, and Sara. I sat and listened to the wisdom, encouragement, and humor of such genealogy luminaries and celebrities as Mary Tedesco, Blaine Betting, Thomas MacEntee, Kenyatta Berry, Diahan Southard, David Allen Lambert, Cherry Fletcher Bamberg, and others.  I also met and made some new friends such as Nancy from Vermont, and Carol from Springfield (about whom you will read more in a future post), Beth, and Dale.

So what was my biggest takeaway from finally attending a genealogy conference after having been a genealogy researcher and enthusiast for a few decades?

Well, it was a surprise to me.  It was not all the varied and valuable information from experts I was exposed to, or the ideas for new approaches to my research, or even the new tools and resources I learned about.  Though all these are excellent reasons for deciding to invest the time and funds necessary to attend a genealogy conference, it is now possible in this age of computer technology to seek out and obtain many of these aspects of a genealogy conference from the comfort and convenience of one's home.

The takeaway that I have come to realize is the unique aspect -- and the greatest thing -- about a genealogy conference, the ingredient that cannot be obtained other than through actual attendance, is at once subtle and yet profound. At the risk of sounding too "New Agey," the takeaway for me was the presence of so many people gathered for a single purpose and the energy and enthusiasm they generated and maintained for 3 - 4 solid days! One cannot get this online.  You have to be immersed in it and swim in it. You have to walk among the participants and listen to the patois floating up from the numerous conversations .  .  .

"my 3rd cousin twice removed"
"atDNA" (autosomal DNA)
"my 6 times great grandparents"
"the GPS"
"mtDNA" (mitochondrial DNA)
"daughtered out"
"non-parental event"
"brick walls"

It is then you realize that you are truly among "your people" absorbed in the same shared interest. You realize you can talk and listen to all things genealogy and no eyes glaze over (like the eyes of many family members do at holiday gatherings). 😀  It is the same experience that die-hard sports fans have when attending a contest in a stadium rather than watching alone on TV.

And after a few days of being with your people at a genealogy conference you realize that your genealogy juices are flowing again, you are energized and motivated to get back to your research and your trees.  You want to tackle that brick wall yet again -- and probably with some new approach you learned about from others at the conference.  In short, you realize the conference and the energy generated by the presenters and the participants has rejuvenated and invigorated your enthusiasm for genealogy and you cannot wait to get back to the detective work of discovering and documenting your family history.

You have experienced the greatest thing about genealogy conferences!

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Photograph of the MassMutual Center in Springfield, Massachusetts (site of NERGC 2017) by the author.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Copyright 2017, John D. Tew
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _           


  1. It was great to finally meet you John - hopefully we'll meet again at a future genealogy get-together!

    1. Likewise Elizabeth! I am already hoping to attend NERGC 2019. See you in Manchester if not before.

  2. I completely agree John. It's great to be among people that "get it." It has been great to meet you and next time let's sit at one of those lunches together!

    1. Absolutely Diane! It is a luncheon date for Manchester in 2019 if not at another conference before then. ;-) It was a pleasure meeting and talking with you again.

  3. I agree John! I've attended RootsTech and the BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy. It was so fun to meet fellow genealogy bloggers at both conferences.

    I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today's Genealogy Fab Finds post at

    Have a great weekend!

  4. Hi John, you are so right about the energy and excitement of being in the midst of a thousand people who care as much about family history as you! Good to meet you and keep on blogging!

    1. Marian, It is so nice to see you're meeting new people and it seems you had a good time. I really regret not meeting you, as I said before, the trip happened so quickly. I hope your lecture went well!

  5. Well, you got me there! If it wasn't for you, I wouldn't have gone, because I've met Diane several times, and met Elizabeth years ago. So, thank you. It was such a treat to finally meet. Enjoyed your post, and am glad you drove the distance to meet some NE friends.