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From the Ancestry Daily News
  Michael John Neill – 5/28/2003

Summer Learning

Summer offers genealogists a variety of educational opportunities, some located in places that non-genealogists can also enjoy. Onsite clarsses and lectures are a great way to expand one's knowledge of genealogical sources and methods. Face-to-face real time interaction has advantages too. Online sites, chat rooms, and printed materials are great ways to learn, but physically being at a conference or a workshop offers additional benefits. I always leave a conference or workshop excited and ready to get back at my own research—which is the point, after all.

The conferences and seminars discussed this week are great ways not only to learn about offline sources, but also to sometimes pick up online research techniques as well. Most of the larger conferences focus on a variety of records and sources, and attendance can be a great way to meet an expert in your specific area of research who does not have time to monitor mailing lists or other online sites.

Augment Onsite Learning
Going to the courthouse and "working it out for yourself" is the way that many of us get started, but this approach can occasionally leave gaps in knowledge. Diving right in is a great way to get your feet wet with your own research, but there comes a point where suggestions and guidance from others is helpful. As a self-trained genealogist myself, I learned a great deal the first time I heard lectures on court, land, and other records. Different genealogists bring different perspectives and backgrounds to the lectern and may make you aware of record nuances of which you were not aware. In addition to the conferences discussed this week, one can attend local monthly genealogical society meetings and read how-to books and research guides. (And of course—read the Ancestry Daily News.)

National Conferences
Two major national genealogical conferences are on the horizon. Both offer the genealogist a wide variety of lectures and conference experiences from which to choose.

National Genealogical Society Conference
28-31 May, 2003, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Federation of Genealogical Societies' Conference
3-6 September 2003, Orlando, Florida

Having attended several national conferences myself, I can say from experience that they are a wonderful opportunity, and they offer something for virtually every genealogist. They can also be a great place to meet face-to-face family historians you have previously only corresponded with online. If the conference is within a reasonable distance, give a serious look at the lectures being presented and consider attending. As a note, will be a vendor at both of the aforementioned conferences. A visit to the vendor area during the conference will give attendees the opportunity to meet some staffers face-to-face. One can also browse the wares of the dozens of other vendors at the conference.

Additional Reading
Maximize your conference experience by planning as much as possible before the conference. Decide which sessions you want to attend and which speakers you want to hear. Attendees who've never attended a national genealogy conference may wish to read "Conference Considerations," from the Ancestry Daily News in March 2001, or "Preparing for a Genealogical Conference," at: Don't make your reservation and just wait until you are at the conference to decide what lectures to attend.

Regional Conferences
There are smaller conferences, seminars, and workshops on the horizon as well. These workshops are also sponsored by smaller genealogical societies or organizations and are the result of many hours of volunteer work, as are the national conferences. I'll be at several of these conferences during the summer and look to meeting fellow genealogists and readers of the Ancestry Daily News. Following are some examples of regional conferences:

Genealogical Institute of Mid-America, 7-10 July 2003
This year marks the 9th Institute, which is held on the campus of the University of Illinois-Springfield and sponsored by the Illinois State Genealogical Society. The Institute offers four separate four-day lecture tracks. Each four-day track is taught by one instructor, including one by yours truly. Other tracks are taught by Sandra Luebking, Paul Milner and Lloyd Bockstruck. I always have a great time at the Institute and learn quite a bit myself while presenting my Part I course.

Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research, 8-13 June 2003
Affectionately known by many as "Samford" or IGHR, this weeklong schedule of lectures at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, provides researchers and genealogists a number of tracts (and a number of lecturers) from which to choose.

Angelina Texas Genealogy Conference, 24-26 July 2003
This is the seventh year for the three-day genealogy conference sponsored by Angelina Community College in Lufkin, Texas. Ten genealogists will be presenting lectures on a wide variety of topics with a geographic focus on the South. There will be an optional computer lab session on DeedMapper software the first day of the conference.

Ostfriesen Genealogical Conference, 7-9 August 2003
Conferences with an ethnic focus are a unique experience, offering the genealogist exposure to sources and individuals they would be hard-pressed to find elsewhere. The Ostfriesen Genealogical Society of America is organizing their third conference, complete with a speaker from Ostfriesland and a host of other ethnic-based lectures. The conference staff will also have a library of Ostfriesen materials on-site for conference attendees to use, along with vendors selling Ostfriesen imports. Ostfriesens tend to be highly organized and this conference is no different—it is a great genealogical experience.

Learning About Other Events
There are other events besides these on the horizon. Finding out about events is sometimes problematic, especially if you have never attended a conference before. There is a mailing list at Rootsweb (, where individuals can post news of genealogy workshops, seminars, and lectures. This mailing list is archived at:

The Federation of Genealogical Societies' website also has a list of upcoming genealogical events at: One of the more comprehensive list of genealogical events is located at geniespeak: Readers interested in learning about events in their area should also contact their local genealogical society for information about upcoming workshops in their area.

Can't Go?
Some genealogists are not able to attend conferences or workshops for a variety of reasons. Those who cannot attend national conferences can purchase audiotapes of lectures from Repeat Performance (Select "genealogy" under "Shop by Category").

The handouts (I prefer to call them "tomes") from past Federation of Genealogical Societies' Conferences can be purchased via the FGS website: Most lecture materials contain sources and references to additional reading material.

Copyright 2003,

Michael John Neill is the Course I Coordinator at the Genealogical Institute of Mid America (GIMA) held annually in Springfield, Illinois, and is also on the faculty of Carl Sandburg College in Galesburg, Illinois. Michael is the Web columnist for the FGS FORUM and is on the editorial board of the Illinois State Genealogical Society Quarterly. He conducts seminars and lectures on a wide variety of genealogical and computer topics and contributes to several genealogical publications, including
Ancestry Magazine and Genealogical Computing. You can email him at: or visit his website at:, but he regrets that he is unable to assist with personal research.

Used by the author on his website with permission.

Other Michael John Neill Articles from the Ancestry Daily News

Genealogy Section of Ebay

---type in your surname or county and state in the search box that comes up on the left hand side of your screen. I've found and purchased several books this way!