The 2006 edition of the National Genealogical Society's annual conference opened this morning at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare hotel in Rosemont, Illinois, just outside of Chicago. The weather was perfect, although most conference attendees probably never noticed: there was no need to go outdoors. The hotel and the conference facility are all within the same building.
The Hyatt Regency O'Hare is a great facility for an event of this size (1,000 to 1,500 attendees). Everything seems to be available within a short walk.
This year's conference is co-hosted by several local societies. These societies obviously brought a lot of manpower: the place has been well staffed by smiling and helpful volunteers, most of whom also seem to be experienced genealogists.
The opening session this morning featured two well-known speakers. Dr. Allen Weinstein, Archivist of the United States, was followed by John Philip Colletta, whose topic was "They Glided This Way: The Erie Canal & Peopling of the Midwest."
I was standing in the Exhibitors' Hall when the opening session finished. A sea of humanity entered the hall within a very few minutes. Those of us who are exhibitors went from zero to full speed ahead within seconds as the genealogy throngs wandered among the exhibitors' booths.
A full range of more than 150 presentations started this morning although it will take four days to hold them all. You can find a full list of the presentations at http://www.ngsgenealogy.org.
The Exhibitors' Hall is always the major focus for me. This year is like "old home week" to see all the folks I have known for years. However, several brand-new vendors are also exhibiting their products or services for the very first time. I only got out of my own booth for a short time today, but in my short "walk-around" I saw several companies that I plan to return to in the next three days.
One new service was easy for me to find: WeRelate.org has the booth adjacent to my own. This new online service has what appears to be an excellent wiki-based product. Look for more information about this service in a future newsletter.
Many vendors make announcements about new products or services at the NGS conference. I have described two announcements that were made today in separate articles.
Keep an eye on the new partnership between Everton Publishers and Provo Labs. This has the potential to grow into a major online provider of genealogy data before long. Of course, Everton's has been a well-known name in genealogy circles for years. The name of Provo Labs is not yet well known within genealogy although the CEO of the company is a name known to many.
Provo Labs is an incubator for Web 2.0 Internet companies that was formed by Paul B. Allen, one of the people who some years ago purchased a small company of ten or fifteen employees called Ancestry Publishing and then changed the company's name to Ancestry.com. The growth of that company since then is well known to most American genealogists. Paul left the company some years ago and formed the "incubator company" to create or partner with other Internet companies. He is back in the genealogy business with the newly-announced partnership, and I suspect that he is going to become a major player in the field once again.
Keep an eye on the name Provo Labs. I bet you will hear it again and again in this newsletter and elsewhere.
Tomorrow I plan to wander a bit more and talk to more vendors. Of course, many of those conversations will be summarized in future newsletter articles as well. A few may get recorded and converted into podcasts for future newsletters.
If you can get to the Chicago suburbs sometime between now and Saturday, drop by the Exhibitors' Hall booth 809 at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare and say "Hello." I'd love to meet you. The location is easily accessible by automobile or by Chicago's excellent train system. Get off at the Rosemont station on the line that goes to O'Hare Airport.
Remember that admission to the Exhibitors' Hall is free of charge. You will have to pay admission only if you plan to attend seminars as well.
If you cannot attend in person, keep an eye on this newsletter over the next few days to read about the things you missed.