Getting the Most From Genealogy Conferences

By attending, you can benefit your family-ancestry research in many ways.

  * Join Twitter and follow #LCAfricana, which tweets a link to African American Gen Daily, a genealogy-news website that posts dates and information about black genealogy conferences.

* Create a Facebook profile and “like” the pages for African-American, local and national genealogy organizations.

* Join local and national black genealogy groups and national genealogy societies. Get on each group’s email list or ask to be sent information about conferences.

* Check’s calendar regularly.

* Bookmark the National Genealogical Society’s page dedicated to events and conferences.

* Try “Upcoming events” on Christine’s Genealogy Website.

* Explore the Events & Activities category on Cyndi’s List, a roundup of sites.

* Also keep in mind’s About Genealogy Events Calendar.

When you’re choosing a conference, go to the organization’s list of classes on its website and look for African-American or slave-research workshops. If there are none, look for research-oriented or Internet/tech workshops, which are general-interest and will advance your work.

Once you’re registered, do your homework on the leaders of the seminars you’ve chosen to attend. Read each leader’s biography on the conference-registration website. Use to search for blogs, websites, YouTube research videos and books the leaders have written. Connect with them by following them on Twitter and “liking” their Facebook pages and/or subscribing to their updates.

After the workshop has ended, introduce yourself to the seminar leader. You’ll usually find a contact email address in the handout materials — use it to ask your research questions.

Conferences are also an effective way to network with other genealogists. Introduce yourself to other researchers during luncheons and banquets and trade information.

While you’re at the conference, you’ll find plenty to buy: books, computer software, CDs, DVDs, clothing, ethnic collectibles and more. Remember to pick up applications and membership forms in the exhibit area from conference sponsors and genealogy organizations.

After the convention, fill out evaluation forms and request slave and African-American-related workshops. If no evaluation forms are distributed, email the conference organizers through the registration site and express your (constructive) opinion of the convention. Suggest speakers and workshop topics.

And think ahead to next year’s conference. Consider conducting a workshop yourself and presenting your research to, for example, the Federation of Genealogical Societies or the National Genealogical Society. Go to the organization’s website and look for a call for papers or proposals to submit your presentation idea.

For more information about researching your family tree, check out The Root’s Guide to Genealogy.

Karin D. Berry is a newspaper journalist and freelance writer who has been researching her family history since 1988. Her articles, book reviews and op-ed articles have been published in Essence, Black Enterprise, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Macon Telegraph, the Baltimore Sun, the Evening Sun, Emerge and the Philadelphia Daily News.

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