Friday, May 31, 2019

The Trouble With Genealogy Conferences

I just spent an entire day—and a good portion of the evening, too—focused on genetic genealogy yesterday at the Southern California Genealogical Society's DNA Day at Jamboree. While that sounds like paradise for many of us deeply involved in family history pursuits, a ride up the elevator to my room for a brief break before the dinner presentation made me wake up to the fact that sitting and listening can be hard work.

I had just spent the entire day paying rapt attention to the likes of Blaine Bettinger, Tim Janzen, Kitty Cooper, and Diahan Southard talk about the latest developments in genetic genealogy, and I had yet to hear Blaine's after-dinner talk on "The Promise and Peril of DNA Testing for Genealogy." Conversation with fellow conference attendees in that elevator ride was comparatively puny. We were all tired.

On the flip side, nothing can inspire a person to roll up her figurative sleeves and dig into the work more than listening to talks like these—which leaves me with a problem. I'd much rather just sit at my keyboard and do the grunt work of figuring out these multiple thousands of DNA matches linked to the various kits I administer than to just be a passive chair-warmer. Even a chair warmer listening to such luminaries in the field. But if we don't stop to listen to the voice of inspiration—let alone the cataloging of latest developments and their useful application—we run out of steam to keep that inspiration engine running.

We need the inspiration. But we can't spare the time.

It's a delicate balancing act, this attempt to stoke those fires of inspiration just enough to keep up the forward momentum without consuming every last available minute for research. I sure don't have an answer, though I sorely wanted to chuck the dinner plans and just look for clues about my latest tantalizing close matches. Just think: because of MyHeritage's latest developments, I may have actually isolated a match leading to my "orphaned" paternal grandfather's mystery family, and over at AncestryDNA, my husband just landed a match to his Ireland-to-Canada Tully family. You know where my mind is wandering when I say I'd just rather sit at my computer and do the work.

But I can't. I'm in Burbank, attending a genetic genealogy conference. You know, where I've paid good money to get inspired to get back to work.

It would be so nice to be able to spout the kind of platitudes that glow with work-life balance, etc., etc., but I can't. I wish I could invent the 25-hour day—forget that, why stop at 25?—but that wouldn't be possible.

And yet, I know if I don't get out there and rub shoulders with others enthused about this same subject, eventually, my motor—my motivation—will run down. We all need to refuel from time to time, and conferences can be one of the best ways to achieve that inspiration. While we go through the process of sitting and listening, though, it might be helpful to create an action plan to jump on that inspiration, once back home and ready to get to work. I know I'll have a sizable list to conquer in the aftermath of Jamboree. Now, all I'll need to do is convert some more hours out of thin air.


  1. I missed you, so I guess you didn't stay for the rest of Jamboree. I didn't make attend the DNA day. But I know what you mean. An idea forms right in the middle of class and you just want to jump right in!

    1. Lisa, I've found all of Jamboree to be so energizing! I think, in many ways, we bounce ideas off each other, whether listening to speakers, or just comparing notes with other attendees. There is such a wealth of information, but then, yes, it makes us want to get back to work. And isn't that what it's all about?!


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