Sunday, August 18, 2019

The Risk of Diminishing Returns?

It's no secret that I am a big advocate for gathering together with others in the genealogy world. Virtual searches may be handy and online access to friends around the world fantastic, but there is nothing like being able to get together and speak with fellow enthusiasts, face to face. Perhaps that's why I'm so disappointed in turns of events such as the unreachable FGS Conference in Washington, D.C., and the cancellation of next year's Southern California Genealogical Society's Jamboree.

Don't think yesterday's post means I won't be going to any genealogy conferences in the near future. On the contrary, though I just wasn't up for a cross-country flight to attend this year's FGS Conference in Washington, D.C., I am planning on attending another conference. It's just that this one is a tad smaller than that event at the nation's capital. Much smaller, in fact. And I like that: intimate and focused.

The next conference I'll be attending will be the Association of Professional Genealogists' conference this September, held—handily for me—in Salt Lake City, where I also hope to snag a few quiet moments at the Family History Library to peruse some otherwise impossible-to-locate books on my southern ancestors.

The Family History Library, though, is just a bonus. The goal for that September conference is to hear several of genealogy's most respected researchers, people such as Elizabeth Shown Mills, Judy Russell, and the coordinator for the southern research course I took at SLIG last year, J. Mark Lowe. Besides, I'll get to hear fellow genea-blogger Elizabeth O'Neal wrap up the three-day event with her presentation on what she knows best: building websites.

It will all be happening this September 19 through 21, barely a month after FGS wraps up their national event. While I wish I could attend the FGS event, I also know that the speakers, fellow attendees, and subject matter at the Association of Professional Genealogists' Professional Management Conference will provide the business management orientation I need at this point.

Next year, I'd love to get back on track with the FGS conference—especially considering the venue location will move to Kansas City, much closer to home for me. I'll be doubly blessed in 2020, as the APG conference will also head farther west—this time, to Portland from October 15 through 17, according to APG's Twitter feed—so I'll be able to revel in genealogical gatherings to my heart's content, despite the already-sorely-missed Jamboree for June of that same year.

Still, no matter how many genealogy conferences I'm able to attend, the sobering thought is that convening in person—whether for genealogy or any other topic—may be a luxury of the past, if we heed the warning signs of past conference counts. While I howl at the distance involved in attending the FGS conference, others enjoy the proximity of a conference near their east coast home turf—and my delight at a Portland event correspondingly depresses Atlantic seaboard attendance. This, and many other trajectories, negatively impact our ability to target successful large events. Thomas MacEntee made some pertinent comments on that, following on the heels of SCGS' Jamboree "leap forward" announcement last June.

No matter what I think about the necessity of meeting together as we partner on genealogical projects, the numbers at conferences, in retrospect, predict whether our future in genealogy will include such an outlet for us.


  1. Maybe there are too many conferences......? maybe groups could conference every other year?

    1. That is a great suggestion, Susie Q. Whatever these groups decide, I hope their innovative resolution includes some form of face-to-face interaction. We all need to get out of our genealogy caves every once in a while!

  2. Replies
    1. Yes, that is true, Far Side. I do appreciate the ability to get out and attend meetings. Maybe the answer, at least on a personal level, is to shop these conferences a little more widely.


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