I started this article in a hotel, continued it at Chicago's O'Hare airport, and then finished it after I returned home. I'm exhausted. I just spent four days at the annual conference of the U.S. National Genealogical Society. If I am this tired, I know it was a great conference!
The National Genealogical Society has had organizational issues in the past few years. As a result, recent annual conferences have not been as well organized, as well publicized, or as well attended as in previous years. In contrast, this year's event was very well organized and publicized. The result was increased attendance, and most of the attendees that I talked with seemed to enjoy themselves. I heard many compliments about the NGS organization and the eight co-sponsoring local societies. The few problems I heard about were quite minor.
I never heard the final attendance numbers, but on Friday evening NGS president Barbara Vines Little stated that the attendance at that time was 1,313 attendees. I am guessing the final count was in the high 1300s to low 1400s.
All in all, it was a very good conference, and I suspect it represents a turning point for the National Genealogical Society: the organization is now recovering nicely.
Many of the leading genealogy experts of our time delivered more than 150 presentations. As I mentioned in another article, it did seem strange that at least six presenters were plagued by computer or PowerPoint malfunctions. Everything else seemed to run smoothly. You can find a full list of the presentations at http://www.ngsgenealogy.org.
In a podcast a few weeks ago, I interviewed NGS President Barbara Vines Little. We discussed many of the programs and other attractions of the then-future NGS conference. She mentioned the Friday evening banquet speaker would be Craig Pfannkuche, speaking on "Excavating Grandma's Privy for Family History Data." With my tongue firmly in my cheek, I asked Barbara if she thought that was an appropriate topic for an after dinner speech. After all, digging up outhouses?
I can now report that Mr. Pfannkuche's talk was delightful. He did an excellent job of mixing humor with historical facts and stories. The talk was very much "on topic" and suitable for the dinner hour. I was especially amused at the beginning of his presentation, when he mentioned that "some podcaster" had questioned the appropriateness of the talk.
If you ever have a chance to hear Craig Pfannkuche speak about digging up outhouses at some future event, get a ticket immediately. You'll be glad that you did.
I spent most of my time in the Exhibitors' Hall. Much of that time was in a booth that promoted this newsletter. I must say that I was delighted to meet many subscribers to this newsletter who stopped by for a bit. However, I did get out of the booth from time to time and talked with many of the other vendors. Most reported good sales, significantly higher than in past years.
Four things caught my eye:
- The number of booksellers in the Exhibitors' Hall is decreasing every year. I believe there were fewer of them in attendance at this year's conference than ever before. Those who did exhibit seemed to have smaller booths than in past years. Several seemed to have a large inventory of CD-ROM disks. I guess that is a sign of the times.
- The number of software vendors in attendance also has decreased in recent years. The "big three" of Wholly Genes Software (selling The Master Genealogist), Millennia Software (selling Legacy Family Tree) and RootsMagic (selling the software of the same name, RootsMagic) were all in attendance. Ancestry.com also had Family Tree Maker on display, but it was not prominently shown. One new software exhibitor, however, had an interesting-looking product: PedigreeSoft is a new web-based application that functions much like a traditional genealogy program. I will write more about PedigreeSoft separately. The Foundation for On-Line Genealogy, Inc., also exhibited an online service that is quite different from traditional genealogy programs. I will also describe that service in a separate article.
- DNA generates more and more interest every year. Family Tree DNA, Relative Genetics, and the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation all had very busy booths. One newcomer seemed almost unnoticed, however: Chromosomal Laboratories of Phoenix, Arizona, offers several services, including testing for forensics, paternity, ancestry, and research and development.
- This was an international exhibitors' hall! Non- American organizations with booths included Ancestral Roots Travel Ltd. (England), Archive CD Books Ireland, Eneclann Ltd. (Ireland), Family Chronicle (Canada), Fampres.com (Germany), Genline (Sweden), German Life Magazine (Germany), Global Heritage Press (Canada), Heritage Productions (Canada), Ordnance Survey Ireland, Past Homes Ltd. (England), and RootsMap (England). I do not recall ever seeing that many non-U.S. booths at a conference in the states.
I found many new services and products on display in the 2006 NGS Conference Exhibitors' Hall. I will write about many of them in separate articles over the next few days.
I did take a few pictures of the conference, many in the Exhibitors' Hall, which you can see at http://blog.eogn.com/photos/ngs2006. Click on a thumbnail image to see the full picture.
My personal highlight of the week was the Saturday evening dinner. This is not a sponsored conference event. Instead, I hosted a dinner a few hours after the close of the conference. Twenty-three newsletter readers descended on a local Italian restaurant, where I had reserved a private room. We consumed a large amount of pasta, steak, chicken, calamari, veal, and assorted beverages. It's a good thing it was a private room as we kept the noise level elevated all evening long. To those who attended, I want to say, "Thanks for a very pleasant evening."
You can see pictures of the dinner attendees at: http://blog.eogn.com/photos/ngs2006dinner. Click on a thumbnail image to see the full picture.
The 2007 annual conference of the National Genealogical Society will be held May 16 through 19 in Richmond, Virginia. You might want to circle those dates now on your calendar. If you can get to Richmond, my guess is that you will have a great time.