Hello this is Tom Hilberg, one of the volunteers in the research room at the Medina County District Library. I recently attended the National Genealogical Society(NGS) 2016 Conference in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Kathy suggested that I report on it.
The conference was held at the Fort Lauderdale Convention Center, and in an area with several hotels for attendees to stay. I picked the Hilton which was just across the street and a short five-minute walk. I’m not sure how many of the 1,915 participates were at my hotel, but judging from the traffic in the morning and after the end each afternoon, there were many. The hotel also served as the site of the NGS Banquet on Friday evening. Of course the conference was hosted by the NGS, but also by local host society, Florida State Genealogical Society, who hosted a very loud get together around the pool one evening. Many other groups held gatherings during the four-day conference.
Sessions started at 8 a.m. each morning and ended at 5 p.m., so one could keep up a very busy schedule. The first morning started with an opening session of announcements, presentation of awards by the NGS, and a keynote address by Connie Lester. Associate Professor in History, University of Central Florida. Her expertise is the rural south 1870 to 1940, and see gave a very insightful look at the early settlement of southern Florida. The end of her remarks marked the opening of the Exhibit Hall and I think all 1,900 people were there. There were many national and regional vendors present with the hall being dominated by Ancestry, Family Search, Find My Past, My Heritage and Pro Quest. Other vendors, big and small, were busy each day with mini presentations, book signings and helping researchers. I visited the booth for the New York (state) Genealogical and Biographical Society, as this is one of my main interests at present, trying to get more information on my wife’s “Daniels” line going back so far to 1780. I also attended on Thursday, four of the five presentations in the New York Research track put on by the society.
Presentations are the main reason for attending a national conference. I have enjoyed going to the OGS conference since the late 1980’s. There is always something to be learned, old friends and great speakers. A national conference gives one the same experience only larger. One is given the opportunity to hear more speakers from across the country who are knowledgeable and experienced in their fields. One drawback, not all sessions live up to what is written in the conference program.
After the first day, each morning was divided into three sessions, a two and a half hour break for lunch, and two sessions in the afternoon. The lunch break each day had at least two to three organizations holding luncheons. Of course these were by reservation and at a cost. I took advantage of the New York Societies luncheon and was seated next to two friends on my right and a very interesting gentleman from Canada on my left. He had one parent English and one American and was attempting to learn more on researching in the US.
Most days I purchased lunch from a vendor at the conference center and ate and read in the park across from the center. This was nice and except for one day of heavy rain, it was sunny and warm. Which brings we to the worst part of the conference, the rooms were COLD. I know the reason, to keep us from being too warm and falling asleep during the presentations. But when I say cold, I mean COLD!
Each day the time slots were divided into tracks, that changed daily. One could attend sessions on Wednesday for: Land Records, Starting Off, Coast and Caribbean, Cemeteries, Court House Research, Contest, Tips and Techniques, Florida Military, Research and Repositories.
Other days one would find tracks on Land Records, Organizing and Planning, Sharing Your Research Stories, DNA, Jewish Research, Internet and Technology, Women African-American Research, Across the Pond, Methods for Success and British Isles.
For myself, besides the New York sessions, where I learned about “New York Research Repositories, Part 1 and 2,” the “Essential (NY) Home Reference Shelf,” and the “New York State Archives and Library.” Other sessions attended were on “Resolving Conflicts in Genealogical Records,” by Judy Russell, the Legal Genealogist. Judy is one of my favorite speakers, along with Dick Eastman. I attended a session on using “Social History and Historical Fiction to further my research” and another on the use of Probate records. The session on “Your Immigrants’ Germany: Microstates and Microbreweries,” was a disappointment – No Beer, but helpful otherwise as was the session on “Death and Dying: Changes in Medical Care in the 19th Century.” Interesting how as horrible the Civil War was for the country, how beneficial it was to the advancement of medical science.
Session and luncheon photos are by Scott Stewart Photography LLC and are from the NGS website.
Thanks Tom for a glimpse of the National Genealogical Society Conference!