FGS From the Eyes of a First Time Attendee 5

At the beginning of the year I made my genealogy New Year’s resolutions.  It was a list of things I wanted to accomplish over the next 12 months. Near the top of the list was “attend a national conference.” When I wrote it down last January I honestly didn’t know if it was going to happen, but I was going to do my best to attain this goal.

FGS came into my focus as a conference I wanted to attend this year for the sole reason of it being held in Indiana.  My home state.  The state of my ancestors.  The place I have talked about incessantly over multiple blogs. How could I not try to get there? To me it made sense that I could visit family, attend a conference, and, oh I don’t know, get some good Indiana research in.

My one wrench was that I had to take my boys with me. My husband could not guarantee that he could come with me or stay with the kids at home.  I spent months trying to find plan B, C, and D. Finally my dad said that he and mom would come too.  They actually said it sound like a great conference and wanted to learn more about what I do. Oh, and they could visit family too.

I will admit that I was not keen on paying full admission for my two school aged children, but I needed to have conference badges for them so they could attend the conference and other activities with me and my parents.  Finally I broke down and wrote to the FGS committee and asked if there were student discounts.  Imagine my surprise when I was told they were working on it, and then several weeks later I received a notice that there were indeed going to be student discounts. Thrilled that not only could my kids, but students in general, could now attend this conference at a discounted rate.

Now, what about the conference? Wow, just wow.  Remember, this was my first big conference for genealogy.  I have only attended one conference before in my life and it was nothing like this. In the genealogy field I have attend a couple of online conference and small seminars but nothing on this level. Where do I start, how do I explain the deer in the headlights look that I had?  Why don’t we take it day by day and experience by experience?

The evening social was great. I meet up with people in the flesh whom I have only ever seen online. Received advice on my work, things I could do in the future, plus had a great time just hanging out with people who understand me.  I am sure you can relate. With the world of genealogy the way it is now many of us become great friends online, but we never actually meet in person. Sometimes, it is just great to sit down and have a personal connection with someone.

I thoroughly enjoyed many of the lectures I attended (you can see a day by day run down on my personal blog) and wished I could have seen more. There was just not enough time to do and see everything I wanted to.  This means I broke down and ordered some of them as MP3s so I can listen and re-listen to them at my leisure.

The exhibition hall was huge, well at least to me it was.  Setup in a nice manner, lots of space, and of course the media hub was a great place for me to escape and blog.  Wish they had the media hub WiFi going, but I limped along with my mobile hot spot when I needed since my iPad wasn’t connecting well to the conference center WiFi.  The vendors were friendly, helpful, and downright amazing to talk to. Particularly since they all gave me the “been there done that look” when my youngest announced he was done.

Speaking of kids, I will admit that I was a bit concerned about the reaction I would receive with two school aged children in tow. I am happy to report that I had only one negative comment in three days. One! I had braced myself for a bit more. Quite a few people came up to me and told me how happy they were to have them there.  Comments like “get them while their young” or “isn’t it great they love this too” were common.  This was very inspiring and uplifting to me since I have been on the receiving end of reverse ageism quite a few times.  You know the look or comments of “aren’t you a bit young to be doing genealogy research?”  I am very thankful no one said that to me in front of my children. It may not have been pretty.

Of course, my parents got a kick when people would congratulate them on a job well done getting their daughter to attend a genealogical conference. With a smile they would look at the person, chuckle, and then say they were only tagging along. With pride they told quite a few people this was my thing and they are supporting me fully in it.  Gets ya doesn’t it?

Of course, I did spend not nearly enough time at the Allen County Public Library.  This of course means I need to schedule another trip “home.”  I say “home” because Fort Wayne is four hours from my family.  It is going to take months for me to go through all the information I gathered at the library.  In addition, I cannot stress enough how wonderful this institution is. They were ready for the onslaught of genealogists, friendly, helpful, and amazing all around.  Tip for those who go in the future: the copy machines will take thumb drives and then scan the image directly to them.  Bring them and save a tree!

If you can’t tell, I could go on and on. I am so thrilled that I attended this conference and cannot express in a short amount of time the amazing amount of knowledge, experience, and amazing things that I picked up while there.  If you can ever, ever, make it to one go for the experience.  My parents are already asking if we will go again next year.


About Shannon Combs Bennett

Shannon Combs-Bennett, owner of T2 Family History, is a speaker and author based out of Virginia. She enjoys teaching about a wide range of topics from DNA to methodology. Currently Shannon is the Creative Director for The In-Depth Genealogist. You can learn more about her at http://about.me/tntfamhist.

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5 thoughts on “FGS From the Eyes of a First Time Attendee

  • Rorey Cathcart

    So glad you had a great first conference Terri! FGS Birmingham last year was my first and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

    The one thing I learned, which you discovered, is that there is never enough time to attend the conference AND research. Note for next time: tack on more days before or after. Once you get involved in the lectures, exhibit hall and meeting new friends and colleagues you’ll not want to tear yourself away from the conference.

    I’m breathing a sigh of relief your family was well received.

    Booking my San Antonio hotel room this morning. I’ve blocked out the entire week before for research. Much work to do in the SanAn-Houston corridor. But first, a trip to see Mamaw in Louisiana!

    • Terri O'Connell

      Rorey, thanks for commenting. This is actually Shannon’s post, we obviously have a few glitches we are still working out since we moved hosting companies.

      As for San Antonio, that sounds great. Good luck!

    • Shannon Combs Bennett Post author


      There really was not enough time to attend the conference and do research, unfortunately I was unable to get up there any earlier or stay any later due to family commitments. This made me very efficient, and sad, but I know I have to return one day!

      I was nervous, too, and very thankful that it seemed to go so well with my family. This is a good thing.

      We are looking at San Antonio. Fingers crossed that we will be able to make it.


  • Amanda Clark

    Hello! I was also a first-time attendee and I also am a Hoosier, born and bred. :)) Did you attend the BCG Certification Seminar at ACPL?? I’m asking because I did and I saw a lady there with children. I had no idea there were even kids in the audience until I saw you at the break…they were extremely well behaved! I’m planning on attending the NGS Conference in May 2014 in Richmond, Virginia, and will be bringing my two sons and husband. My sons are older, though, in their teens, so I’m not sure if I’ll actually have them attend the conference. Most likely, they’ll hang out with their Dad during conference days. I have ancestors from nearby in Virginia, so the second part of that trip will be research. I can’t wait! Anyway, I just wanted to say hi! I’m on my way to the local historical society as we speak to do some work. :))

    • Shannon Combs Bennett Post author


      Always nice to meet a fellow born and bred Hoosier! 🙂

      Yes, I was at the BCG Seminar held at the ACPL. They were not at all interested in that lecture (if you could imagine why) and I was very happy they were content surfing the internet on the tablet and playing with Lego bricks. I think a lot of people were surprised at how quite they can be. Especially for boys.

      I will be in Richmond as it is driving distance from my home. No hotel for me! However, my boys will be in school so they will not be in attendance with me. Richmond has a lot of excellent research places. Make sure you take time for the State Library and the Historical Society. Many of the records you will want to see will be there and not at county courthouses since there is a collect and film policy for the state to try and preserve as many records as possible.

      I find it funny that you said you have VA ancestors since most of my IN lines originated in VA too.