Getting the Most Out of This Year's Conference: Suggestions for First-Timers and Others
From: Milton R. Goldsamt (
Date: Tue, 18 Jul 2017 13:16:18 -0700 (PDT)

           Getting the Most Out of This Year’s Conference: Suggestions for First-Timers and Others 

 Milton R. Goldsamt

If I can supplement Jan Meisels Allen’s very thorough and practical advice in a recent message-- As someone who’s attended a number of IAJGS conferences (and been the Public Relations maven for two of them), I’ve also come across some effective strategies for getting the most out of these relatively few days of intensive session-going, networking and research-gathering. Some of these “Conference Attendance Rules of Thumb” may be especially useful to conference first-timers.

However, in general I’ve found that-- the more you prepare, and the more family history information you bring ready to use, the more efficient will be your conference experience! Here are my suggestions:

1.     Make a list of your family history "research goals"--- What towns, surnames and actual people do you want to know about? What specific info you want to gain about those individuals? Bring a full version of that list with you. Don't shorten it by excluding some goals: if one thing you're researching doesn't work out, you can easily turn to another goal.

2.     Bring along some key research tools, such as:

COPIES (not originals) of data sources--- of family trees, addresses of relatives and other key documents (including those needing translation), key descendent charts, even a list of surnames and dates. Bring them with you EACH day, in an “easy for YOU to refer to it” format, and also to share with others if needed.

Copies of documents for Conference document translators to deal with

 “Mystery photos” for others to react to (also as copies, not originals)

3.       Review the Conference Program in advance and decide which features seem to be most useful or “must attend”, such as sessions on topics that “matter” to you (including any sessions dealing with ways to bypass hurdles).

4.     Bring these supplies along to the Conference:

   A small pad to write down persons' names, e-mail addresses, and a full-size pad for writing down detailed or extensive information you learn

 Pencils, pens, erasers, and highlighter marking pens to mark photocopies that you plan to keep, and

A reasonably good magnifying glass, to help you more easily read small or illegible writing on documents. 

5.     Bring business cards to give others, for exchanging information and contacts with them, with your preferred e-mail address. Or make up 3 x 5 or 4 x 6 filing cards, with your preprinted contact info (including towns and surnames you're researching), to easily give to others. Bring more cards than you think you'll need!

6.     Even if you’re a veteran of attending IAJGS Conferences, introduce yourself to others, and ask what towns, surnames, or geographic areas they’re researching. In other words--- always “network, network, network.”

7.     When gathering information and whenever possible, photocopy, print or store on your flash drive the document or pages you consider useful. More insights may come later when studying it for the second time, during a Conference evening or at home afterwards. Don't write down an abstract of the information: that takes more time, AND you might leave out something possibly useful later in your research.  Always write down a full description of the page you've photocopied, with key relevant details, which could reconcile conflicting information from various sources.

8.     When you go to relevant sessions, don't be afraid to ask questions that help fill-in some information you're seeking. That also help someone identifying you and later coming up to you afterwards to help you learn more about that topic. (I’ve had that and was very grateful to them.)

9.     Don’t pass up the Resource Room, where a great many genealogy materials including usually subscription fee-based materials are on the computers there at no cost to you, and (2) the Exhibitor area, where it’s likely that a book you’ve wondered about its scope might be on display or be sold. It might be at a Conference discount, and easy to ship home to avoid overwhelming your luggage at the airport. Also ask those staffing the booths about their products or about the area you’re researching, on which their book, map, etc. focuses. These Exhibitors are usually well-versed; their knowledge might help you solve “brickwalls.”

10.  EACH NIGHT of the Conference, review what new information you've gathered that day.   Turn to the research goals list you’ve brought along: see if some loopholes still exist that warrant another visit to the Resource Room, the same website, or tracking down the same lead for clearer/more information.  Keep trying to close up your loopholes.

11.  After the Conference, follow-up on all the new information you've gathered. Contact any fellow researchers (by e-mail or postal mail) that attended the Conference and you weren't quite able to reach. (Use contact information from the Conference Family Finder.) Contact anyone who exchanged cards with you.  Follow-up on some of the Internet sites or other data sources that you learned about during the Conference. Review the documents to see if something else still was needed, and attempt to obtain that. Add any new information into your ongoing data files, folders, and family trees. Check to see if the new information is consistent with what you already have, or are revisions needed.


 12.  BE PATIENT!! As Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said in his poem "The Student's Tale," "All good things come to those who wait." Some information that you doubt is useful may indeed become useful--- as other/new facts come along.  Don't despair. When in doubt, it's easier to gather the information right then and there at the Conference (rather than passing it up). Sooner or later, it may help you clear a "brickwall" in your family research!

            AND, ABOVE ALL---

13.  Enjoy the Conference! Be sure to bring your good humor (last minute program changes or technical glitches do occur, perhaps beyond what the Conference Co-chairs anticipated!), your sense of adventure, AND your inquisitive mind!

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