It’s an incredible feeling to be in the same room with 2,000 other people who share your obsession with genealogy. The first time I attended the National Genealogical Society’s Annual Conference was in 2011 in Charleston, South Carolina, and I remember very clearly the initial thrill of being with so many like-minded people.
The following year, in 2012, I chose to use my vacation time to go to the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh instead. In 2013, I was taking care of my sick brother. In 2014, I attended the NGS Conference in Richmond, Virginia, which was also fabulous. In 2015, my mother had just died and I was putting the house up for sale. In 2016, my son was graduating from college the same weekend as the conference. So I spent this week in Raleigh, North Carolina in 2017, attending my third NGS Annual Conference, and I’ve been extremely happy to be here!
The four day conference was jam-packed with classes from 8 in the morning till 5 at night, with visits to the Exhibit Hall in between. There were lots of options for group luncheons and dinners, but I didn’t sign up for anything extra (frugal me). I would have enjoyed them I’m sure, but they’re pricey and could easily double the cost of attendance. I have my cool little pink lunchbox that I take with me on research trips, so that’s what I did here, too!
J. Mark Lowe presented the Opening Session, which was extremely inspirational and moving. Among other things, he spoke about his work with a high school history class. These kids did genealogy projects which involved creating presentation boards, including QRC codes to access recordings of the students telling their favorite story in their own words and voices. It really inspired me to consider working with young people in the future.
Lately I’ve preferred taking classes which involve technology because I feel that’s where I need to learn the most – DNA, using Google maps, scanning and organizing digital photo files, and that sort of thing. I also like to attend presentations by nationally known speakers, including top genealogists Elizabeth Shown Mills, Thomas Jones, and Judy Russell. And depending on the other choices in a particular time slot, I attend lectures on German research, since I have generally avoided those branches of my family tree!
I have to say that the conference overall was nothing short of incredible. The choices of high quality lectures made it difficult to choose just one to attend. It always amazes me how many extremely intelligent people are involved in genealogy – many of the speakers had PhD’s or were Certified Genealogists.
I think the sessions I enjoyed the most were the DNA lectures with Blaine Bettinger, Judy Russell, and Diahan Southard. They all packed the room – I think DNA was the most popular topic at the conference!
I’ll miss next year’s conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan, because I’ll be over in England for the winter and early spring (more on that later). In 2019, the conference will be held in St. Charles, Missouri, the same place it was held in 2015. They say it was a great location, and that’s why they’re holding the conference again there so soon. I’ll definitely plan to be there, especially because for years, I’ve wanted to go the St. Louis NARA location, where all the military records from World War I and II are kept – at least those which survived the 1973 fire. It’s on my extended calendar!
It was NOT a great week from a camping perspective. The closest campground to the downtown Convention Center was at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds. It was just not a very attractive place.
There was virtually no shade, and I wasn’t able to get my awning to work to create some. Fortunately, I wasn’t “home” very much, the weather cooperated by not being too hot, it was a terrific location for my daily commute to the conference, and the price was right at $210 for the week (versus the cost of a conference hotel at $120 and up per night), so it absolutely served its purpose!
Tomorrow I’ll drive about 200 miles to my cousin Betsy’s house near Richmond, Virginia, where I’ll stay a week in her beautiful home, and have some much-needed “sister time” – can’t wait!!