About a week from now—just as everyone is buttoning up their Memorial Day commemorations for another year—I'll be unzipping my suitcase and packing for another of those annual trips south to attend my favorite conference, the Southern California Genealogical Society's Jamboree.
My registration is completed and paid for—thankfully, as advanced registration closed just last night—and I'm wading through the myriad class selections to at least present the vague impression that I'm organized. Once again, I'm not only going there to attend the classes, but I'm hoping to meet with interesting fellow researchers and make some connections. After all, to my mind, that's what conferences are for: being with people.
It wasn't long ago—although quite far away—that another genealogical conference finished its last session and waved happy attendees goodbye. No sooner was the National Genealogical Society's annual event over than out came the observations about this year's attendance. It seems the numbers appeared to be down, and people were speculating as to reasons why.
In one blog post with off-the-charts reverberation—generating ninety comments to the post itself, plus a significant number of shares on social media—genealogist Amy Johnson Crow mused, "Are In-person Genealogy Events Dead?" Thankfully, her take on the matter was that no, they are not—but only if we are wise enough to capitalize on the reasons why people tend to do things in person (versus, say, save all that money and watch proceedings from the comfort of their own easy chair at home).
While I heartily endorse Amy's recommendations—and hope you stop by to see what she has to say in its entirety—her thoughts, juxtaposed with this upcoming venture to our west coast version of a genealogical conference, of course triggered other ideas on my part, ideas which veer far from the beaten path. You know me: rabbit trail thinking style. One thing always leads to another. There's just no guarantee that the path from thought to thought will lead in a straight line of reasoning.
You see, I'm very concerned about the health and well-being of genealogical gatherings, myself. I have a vested interest in those of a more local kind, being on the board of a local society. But I also see the need for us to continue gathering together in these larger genealogical events, as well. The educational value is superb, the range of options unparalleled at state, regional and national events. But the chance—and the need—to keep gathering together is an imperative, in my estimation.
Here's my jagged-line thought process, thanks to another interest in my life. Besides genealogy, I'm consumed with reading about nutrition, organic gardening, and health topics in general. In one particular nutrition site I frequent, I recently read the following, about a topic called apoptosis:
When a cell recognizes that it has become too compromised to continue functioning in a healthy manner with other cells, it stops proceeding through its own life cycle and essentially starts to dismantle itself and recycle its parts. It's critical for a cell to determine whether it should continue on or shut itself down, because cells that continue on without the ability to properly function or communicate effectively with other cells are at risk of becoming cancerous.
Apoptosis, if you haven't heard the term before, refers to programmed cell death. While death may seem like a morbid topic to discuss, at a scale as minute as the cellular level, it is important that cells go through a normal life cycle, then retire and become dismantled in an orderly fashion. Otherwise, drastic results such as cancer may result.
When I read about topics like this—not just regarding apoptosis, but referring more broadly to overarching concepts about cell messaging—in my mind, I get this picture of cells joining together in groups, sending each other messages, like, "Okay, jump!" (I know: not very scientific.)
Some messages—at least, in my highly imaginative but scarcely scientific mind—are probably very supportive, and not only the tiny cells in our bodies, but we, ourselves, need those micro-messages sent and received. After all, we are—even more so than those tiny cells we are made up of—social beings. We need to connect. We need to stay connected. We learn from the messages we send back and forth with other people.
If the very elements that keep us functioning in a beneficial manner follow such a pattern, perhaps we can benefit from heeding the lessons gleaned from that process of intercellular communication. After all, each of us needs to be in touch with each other, too. Not just in a digital, cyberized sort of way, but face to face, where we can take in all the visual and audio cues around us, and be in touch—literally—with each other.
For any organism to grow and thrive, being able to receive and heed the messages exchanged between parts of the whole is critical. I'd say the same is so for organizations—especially our genealogical groups, whether local societies or national establishments. It will be through our ongoing connections—the communication shared between the parts—that we will have the kind of adaptive growth that responds to both our internal needs and the imperatives of the environment in which we operate.
I know, I know: what a long, strange post this has been. Bet you hadn't bargained for a journey through such sidelines as these, just to talk about why we shouldn't forsake gathering ourselves together on a regular basis as genealogists. Of course, the warning is always lingering in the background: if we don't keep in touch to keep up to date with the needs of our constituents, that cell message received may someday become, "Okay, jump!" Hopefully, though, we'll not only remain attuned to the messages sent by those within the body of genealogy, but become pro-active in adapting and re-inventing ourselves to remain relevant to every aspect of our body of knowledge.
As for the event I'm heading south to attend in just over a week now, I'm hoping to give it my all in connecting, talking, listening, learning—even using the social media hashtag #scgs2016 and tweeting about it. I hope to see you there, too—but if not there this year, at a future event, whether in southern California, Fort Lauderdale, Springfield, or with another group at another time and place. Whatever you do in genealogy, find a way to get together with the others who speak your language.
Above: "Young Hare," 1502 watercolor by German artist and printmaker, Albrecht Dürer; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.