Tips for FGS and Other Genealogy Conferences

By Diane Haddad

This week, I and a few hundred other genealogists from around the country are headed to Little Rock, Ark., for the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) annual conference.

I’m looking forward to hanging out in the Family Tree Magazine booth (#407), handing out magazines, showing off our latest products, answering questions and chatting with readers. It’ll also be an opportunity to catch up with other genealogy bloggers and writers, and get the scoop on the latest news and resources. I’ll be posting it here.

Besides touring the exhibit hall, attendees also will go to classes and workshops, field trips to local repositories, luncheons and other social events.

And I’m super-excited about squeezing in a little newspaper research at the Arkansas state archives. My bootlegging ancestor lived on the Texas side of Texarkana, a city that straddles the border, and I’m hoping his “entrepreneurship” made the local news.

Some tips for those going to FGS or another conference:

  • Wear comfortable shoes—you’ll be walking to classes, walking to your hotel, walking through the exhibit hall … you get the idea.
  • The air conditioning always seems to be cranked up at these things, so bring a cardigan.
  • Bottled water is pricey and drinking fountains can be hard to find. You can save by bringing an empty bottle to refill. (I usually bring granola bars, too. I have a thing about knowing where my next meal is coming from.)
  • Bring business card with surnames and places you’re researching and your genealogy e-mail address, in case you run into someone researching your lines.
  • Bring extra address labels, too, so you can stick them on entry forms for drawings (including ours).
  • If you’re attending by yourself and everybody else seems to know somebody, remember genealogists are a friendly bunch. Just say hi and introduce yourself. If all else fails, ask the person next you about his or her ancestors—you’ll have a conversation partner in no time flat.
  • Plan ahead for any research you want to do, so you can make sure you have all the charts and records you need.
  • Take some time before classes start to decide which ones you want to attend and learn where the classrooms are. That way, you won’t miss the first 10 minutes because you couldn’t find the room.
  • Take a reconnaissance walk through the exhibit hall and mark on your booth map all the vendors you want to return to. Check off each one as you visit it, but be sure to leave time for browsing.
  • Some exhibitors pack up early on Saturday to catch flights and whatnot, so don’t leave important business for the very end.

Pre-registration for FGS has closed, but you still can register at the door. A day registration costs $120; the full conference costs $225 (but just visiting the exhibit hall is free).

The conference is at the Statehouse Convention Center in downtown Little Rock. You’ll find this and more information on the FGS conference blog.

Hope I’ll see you there!