I had the opportunity this year to attend the National Genealogical Society conference. The NGS conference is held each May and this year it was held in beautiful St. Charles, Missouri. I spent a good deal of time prior to the conference reviewing session abstracts and carefully choosing the sessions I wanted to attend. There were so many interesting sessions it was very difficult to choose which to attend!
Day One (rarin’ to go!)
Day one started early with a visit to registration to pick up my registration packet. The process was very quick and the volunteers and NGS staff were very helpful with directions on where things were located and assistance with a small registration hiccup. The opening session was crowded but very good. We were paid a visit from “Charlie Floyd” (portrayed by J. Mark Lowe), a descendant of Charles Floyd from the Lewis & Clark Expedition, who shared with the audience stories of his family and some of his own memories. He illustrated his reminiscences by using pictures of some of the hand-painted murals in the St. Charles Convention Center, managed to get the audience to join in singing “This Land Is Your Land” and finished majestically by hosting a visit from Lewis the Bald Eagle. Lewis was an injured bald eagle who was acting as an ambassador to the local bird sanctuary.
After the opening session I had some time to spare before my next session so I went to the exhibit hall to peruse the exhibit booths. It was packed! It was somewhat difficult to talk to any of the vendors due to the sheer number of people in the exhibit hall and I was confident I’d have time later in the week to speak with vendors so I made one pass through the hall and moved on to my first session. Wednesday’s sessions included “But I’ve Looked Everywhere” by Barbara Little, “Professional Genealogy: Conduct, Courtesy, Common Sense, or Ethics?” by Jeanne Larzalere Bloom, “Valuable Illinois Pre-Statehood Finding Aids” by Diane Renner Walsh and “Confronting Conflicting Evidence” by Pam Stone Eagleson. All the sessions were very interesting but my favorite was probably Pam Stone Eagleson’s session on conflicting evidence. I felt like I learned a lot from the case studies she presented on.
Day Two (let’s go!)
Thursday started with “Proving Native American Ancestors” presented by Billie Stone Fogarty and “Certification: Measuring Yourself Against Standards” by Elissa Scalise Powell, Michael S. Ramage, and Judy G. Russell. Then I spent time braving the exhibit hall again, with less of a crowd and better results trying to speak with vendors. After spending a couple of hours checking out booths and talking to people I headed off to “Genealogical Research & Writing: Are You A Saint, Sinner, or Bumfuzzled Soul?” by Elizabeth Shown Mills and “A Methodolgy for Irish Emigration to North America” by David E. Rencher. I learned a lot from all the sessions I attended but Thursday’s favorite was probably David Rencher’s session on Irish emigration.
Day Three (forging ahead!)
By Friday I was starting to feel a little bit of information overload but I forged ahead with “Navigating the Best Online Sources for Irish Research” by Donna Moughty, “The Problem-Solver’s Great Trifecta: GPS+FAN+DNA” by Elizabeth Shown Mills, “Scots-Irish Research” by Robert McLaren, “Illinois: Research in the Prairie State” by Diane Renner Walsh, and “Using DNA as a Genealogical Record” by Angie Bush. I also spent some additional time browsing the exhibit hall and networking with other attendees. I made it a point to stop by the MoSGA booth so I could place a pin on my Missouri ancestor’s location. The map was looking really good by that point.
By far the most enlightening session of the day was Angie Bush’s session on DNA. I’d set aside my DNA results for a bit because I’d been feeling a little overwhelmed trying to learn about the results but Angie’s session re-invigorated me and I left with a new determination to figure out what my results were trying to tell me.
Day Four (the end is near!)
By the last day the crowd of attendees had noticiably declined. Sessions were still full but not over-full. I spent the day in sessions, attending “What Grandma Did & Did Not Tell You” by Jan Alpert, “Smiths and Joneses: How to Cope with Families of Common Names” by Elizabeth Shown Mills, “Military Bounty Land-As Good As a Pension” by Rick Sayre, “Have You Tested Your DNA? Is There a Non-Paternity Event in Your Family?” by Jan Alpert, “Beating the Odds: Using Indirect Evidence in Problem Solving” by Vic Dunn and “Five Proven Techniques for Finding Your Ancestor’s European Origin” by Thomas Jones. Elizabeth Shown Mills’ session on common names was the most enlightening and her case studies were excellent to learn from but Thomas Jones’ case studies were equally as good and very interesting. I left the last day feeling excited to return to my research and disappointed knowing the conference was over.
Overall I enjoyed the conference. I met some great people, learned a lot and thoroughly enjoyed myself. The NGS staff and local volunteers were wonderful and happy to help with any questions or concerns. The crowds were somewhat frustrating at times but it was nice to hear the conference was so successful with over 2,100 registered attendees. I certainly hope I have the opportunity to attend next year’s conference.