Going Nowhere

By Susan Wenner Jackson Premium

Ironically, after last year when the Federation of Genealogical Societies’ (FGS) annual conference went on the day after Sept. 11, the year 2002 may go down in genealogy history as the year of cancelled conferences.

First, a new genealogy conference planned for July 14-18 in Dearborn, Mich., was cancelled in mid-June because it didn’t have enough registrants. Just six weeks later, the National Genealogy Society (NGS) announced it was officially taking the 10-year-old genealogy-technology group GENTECH under its wing — and axing the 2003 GENTECH conference in Phoenix because of budgetary concerns.

A newcomer to the national conference scene, the International Roots Conference had only 300 people signed up to attend — about 1,700 fewer than its organizers expected, according to their attorney, David Miller. The business that planned the conference, My Conference Planners, had more than $300,000 debt and closed its doors just weeks before the conference. Registrants and others who paid money to the conference did not receive refunds, Miller says. Registrants paid $60 per day or $199 for five days ($230 if registered after May 1), plus additional fees for special events and meals.

Genealogists who lost money on the conference quickly organized an Internet mailing list to coordinate information and action plans. At press time, the Yahoo group <> had more than 100 members.

Not long after the International Roots fiasco, NGS officials announced the big news about GENTECH. Following a vote by GENTECH in June, the genealogy-technology organization became a division of NGS, with an advisory committee (initially made up of GENTECH’s board of directors), a board member and a staff member at NGS’ Virginia headquarters.

Although the new division plans to continue GENTECH’s traditional activities, NGS President Curt Witcher announced that GENTECH 2003, slated for Jan. 16-18 in Phoenix, would be cancelled due to budgetary and scheduling problems. Arizona-based conference co-chairs Jeannie Rogers and Rusty Perry maintained that the cancellation was actually a casualty of GENTECH’s absorption into NGS. They responded with their own press release at <>, saying, “We will not let our volunteers’ work be smeared and categorized as mediocre, over budget and behind schedule.”

NGS officials promised that the GENTECH conference would resume in 2004 in St. Louis. See <> and <> for more on the merger and the conference.

Despite the chaos of 2002, the show went on as usual this year for the “big two” national conferences. NGS still went forward with its annual May conference in Milwaukee, and the Federation of Genealogical Societies with its annual August conference in Ontario, Calif. Next year, NGS’ conference will be in Pittsburgh, May 28-31, and FGS will gather in Orlando, Sept. 3-6.

From the December 2002 issue of Family Tree Magazine