Why I Wore Pajamas to a Genealogy Conference

Red Cross Conference

A photo of the national convention of the Red Cross, which took place in Washington D.C. in 1937.

Finally, a conference where you can sit around in your PJ’s and not leave the comfort of your own home. Or, if you have plans, you don’t even have to change them!

In less than a month, Family Tree University will be hosting its Fall Virtual Conference.  I have to say that I am beyond excited. With this conference, you can attend at your leisure while still having time to spend with friends and family, and not even have to worry about missing work.  As an introduction to genealogy conferences, the Virtual Conference I attended last spring was perfect.

The Spring 2012 Virtual Conference coincided with my mother-in-law’s visit, but I wasn’t worried at all.  I could download all the video classes and watch them at my leisure, either that weekend or in the future.  Plus, they were then mine to keep. I can re-watch the videos whenever I need a refresher on a specific topic. There were several live chats I wanted to participate in, but was only able to squeeze in one: a viewing party for the NBC show “Who Do You Think You Are?” It was a blast.  Discussion boards were up and running too.  Plenty of connecting, sharing and tomfoolery was to be had.

Not only did I learn a lot from the classes, but I networked too.  It was like being at a conference (and I have only ever been to a handful of large conferences), but without the bustle and bumping of the crowds. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to escape the expensive takeout food since we were in Washington D.C. that weekend.  No escaping pricey food and drinks for me.

So what did I learn? What were my favorite classes? There were so many, and each of them provided new ideas, even if it was just revamping an old system.   I’ve listed a couple in each of the three tracks that I personally got the most out of in the past few months.

The tech classes covered many concepts.  I was particularly interested in the ones on Using Evernote (by Kerry Scott) and Using an iPad for Genealogy (by Nancy Hendrickson).  Evernote has been a great tool for my research, becoming my research notebook that I can access at home and while traveling.  Plus, at that time I was still learning to use my iPad, and the tutorial on how to set it up for genealogy use was wonderful.

Within the research track, I immediately watched the class on Civil War Pension Files (by Diana Crisman Smith), since part of the reason we were in D.C. was to go to the National Archives and look at pension files.  I had already taken her Civil War class, and this video was a great refresher.  Since then, I have gone on to watch the rest of the classes and have started to put them to good use.  Recently, I put the information from the class Getting Creative With Death Records (again by Diana Crisman Smith) into use, trying to track down records for elusive ancestors.  I have gone back and begun to question facts that were given to me when I first started, and am on a quest to find original records.  Finally, the class on newspaper research (by Lisa Louise Cooke) has been one of my most valuable classes in the last 6 months.  Not a week goes by in which I don’t look for a newspaper clipping; it has really become addictive!

The last track was the ethnic track.  I went ahead and downloaded all the classes, because even though I don’t currently know of any reason for me to know about Jewish, Polish, African-American or Scandinavian genealogy, I may in the future.  There was one class on English genealogy: Strategies for Finding English Ancestral Origins (by J.H. Fonkert, CG) that I have watched and re-watched.  Though I identify more with my Irish heritage, I can’t deny that there is a heck of a lot of English ancestry in me, and in my husband as well.  It’s in my blood, so might as well do my best to follow the trail across the pond to see what I can find!

It’s difficult to convey all that I learned, but I hope that you can at least sense my enthusiasm. Many of my posts from the past six months would not have been written without what I learned from those presentations.   I use this knowledge every week–even daily in some cases.  That, in my book, makes the conference a raving success.

Hope to see you in a live chat or on the message boards in September!

Family Tree Firsts is an ongoing blog series featuring newbie genealogist Shannon Bennett of Locust Grove, Va.

Register for the Fall 2012 Virtual Genealogy Conference here, and save $40 by using the coupon code FTU0812 at checkout.


One thought on “Why I Wore Pajamas to a Genealogy Conference

  1. Great post title! One of the problems of attending live conferences is that by the time I get home I maybe remember half of what I heard. Maybe. Sadly, I’ve noticed that this forgetfulness does not improve with age. So a conference that lets me keep the entire session..forever!..is great!

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