by Delia

I've had the opportunity to attend a number of genealogy conferences through the years, as an attendee and lecturer. And I have wonderful memories of each of them as I learned new research sources and techniques, and visiting cities like Seattle, Dallas and Richmond. But one conference that stands out was my first national conference. It wasn't so much its uniqueness compared with other genealogy conferences, but compared to other non-genealogy conferences.

I had been to conferences concerning other fields before and, although I found them educational, attendees were clique-ish and often arrogant. If someone came alone, he or she stayed alone. If someone was new to the field or just new to that particular venue, that person was considered ignorant. It was not exactly an atmosphere to foster collaboration, encourage mentors, or mutual education.

The first national conference I attended was in 1991, in Arlington, Virginia. The first day, I went out for lunch by myself. As I waited for a table, three people separately wandered up and stood behind me to wait. We started chatting about genealogy and ended up sharing a table, enjoying the company of like-minded researchers when we had each anticipated eating alone. And it wasn't an isolated incident as I chatted with many other people during the conference, and even talked with speakers who listened and provided specific advice to various attendees. The great thing about this and other genealogy conferences I have attended is each conference is filled with educational opportunities, and attended by intelligent and friendly people, willing to share techniques, advice and ideas to further others' research.

Local, state and national conferences are a great opportunity to mingle with strangers with whom we have a lot in common. I encourage everyone to attend and join in a big, fun and educational party!