Monday, April 27, 2015

Genealogy social networking

I recently attended a large genealogy conference.  The New England Regional Genealogical Conference (NERGC) was held in Providence, Rhode Island over 4 days, April 15-18.  Genealogy conferences can be very beneficial to anyone interested in genealogy, whether they do it professionally or as a hobby.  There is always something for everyone.
One of the great benefits of attending a genealogy conference, big or small, is the chance to mingle with other people who are as enthralled by genealogy as you are.  Family historians in general lead a pretty solitary existence, and we are all used to the blank stares and vague acknowledgement we get from family and friends when we try to talk to them about our research.  Being at a genealogy conference where everyone “gets” what you mean when you talk about census records, is excited a new collection is being digitized, or knows what a GEDCOM file is can be quite refreshing.  It helps us realize that other genealogists are real people, not just message board posters or bloggers who exist only in cyber space. 
Sure, the genealogy community is connected now in 2015 in more ways than they ever have been before through DNA matches, online family trees, or even transcription projects, but once in a while we like to have that human contact.  Seeing the eager faces all around you at a genealogy conference can kick-start your research and get you motivated to move forward.  Hearing someone else’s story of success is always inspiring, especially if you can see that person in front of you and have the opportunity to interact live with them.
Then there are the genealogy celebrities- who are also real people and can be sighted and chatted with at a genealogy conference.  I personally encountered Josh Taylor of PBS’s “Genealogy Roadshow”, founder Michael LeClerc and the Legal Genealogist Judy Russell.  All are nationally-known professionals who travel the conference circuit world-wide to offer their expertise to those of us who are lucky enough to attend.  They are also very gracious individuals who share a common interest with us, and started out just where we did. 
Conferences need not be big, or national in scope, to be beneficial.  There are plenty of smaller conferences offered annually in our local area that can serve the purpose of allowing us to connect with fellow genealogists, network, and learn new skills at the same time.  One that comes to mind is the annual Saratoga County Heritage Hunters conference, which is held every October.  Check out their website for more information:  Hope to see you there!

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