Saturday, April 29, 2017
A Season for Learning
As "last day for early bird registration" notices sprung up across the social media landscape last week, I hustled to resolve the one roadblock standing between me and a completed application for my genealogy conference of choice: the Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree.
While others may shop around for best prices for their hotel venue, after recovering from the sticker shock of paying for both conference registration and travel expenses, I prefer to stay at the host hotel. For one thing, a good conference organizer will secure tempting rates for a premium destination, so while it may be expensive to stay at the host hotel, it will certainly be a great value.
However, that is not my main purpose in opting for the host location. What I seek is the immersion experience of being where all the other event attendees are also congregating.
So it was a real deal breaker when, early in March, the alarm went out that the block of rooms reserved at the conference rate for Jamboree was already sold out. No more chances to have a place where I could run up to my room during breaks, or hang out in the cool breezes outdoors after the day's sessions were over. To think I'd go to a conference, eight-to-five style, then punch out and retreat to my hideaway overnight in solitude was unthinkable.
There was obviously only one route to take, in staring down this obstacle: become a nag and call the hotel. Then call again the next day. And again—until someone cancelled a reservation and I could slip into that vacated place.
The deed was accomplished, sporadically, throughout the month, until finally, one day just before the deadline, a room opened up. I'm in!
Then, the rush to get registered. I didn't want to register for the conference before securing the right place to stay, but I was running out of chances to get that discounted rate. Now, thankfully, I'm all set for both the prequel DNA Day and the full complement of Jamboree sessions, Friday through Sunday.
Every year, it seems the Jamboree planners strive to incorporate feedback from prior years' attendees. This time, the new added feature seems to be a great array of several-hour workshops focusing, institute-style, on one topic. I selected DNA as my focus for a Friday morning workshop, and am currently on the waiting list to join Blaine Bettinger's class. Having to wait so long before being able to proceed with registration did have its down side, but if I can't get into that workshop, there are plenty of other great selections still available. I'll still be doing well with Tim Janzen's program, my alternate choice.
The Southern California event may be out of reach for those living on the opposite side of the country, but that doesn't mean there aren't other learning opportunities. In just a few days, a good friend of mine will be hopping a plane to head to North Carolina for the National Genealogical Society's annual conference. Soon, many state conferences will be dotting the learning landscape. And for researchers of all levels of expertise, as well as for genealogical society organizers, the Federation of Genealogical Societies will wrap up the summer learning season with its own conference in Pittsburgh.
With the tendency among researchers to switch from in-person attendance to isolation at home, it might seem that the act of learning has shifted from publicly-held events to private showings. True, we've never had so many resources for webinars, podcasts, books, mailing lists, and other forms of online learning—many of which provide excellent content. But I still prefer the real-time dialog that takes place, face to face, among those gathering together for that purpose in public venues. It won't be long, and I'll be headed to southern California for my own annual learning experience among like-minded enthusiasts of genealogical research.