This year's annual conference of the Federation of Genealogical Societies must be a good conference; I left my hotel room early yesterday morning and did not return until the wee hours of this morning. As a result, a day #2 report did not get written. I can now report that both days #2 and 3 have been good. Not perfect, perhaps, but darned good.
Thursday (Day #2) started off with a Plenary Session with a keynote speech delivered by Dr. Alan Weinstein, Archivist of the United States. My favorite event followed shortly thereafter: the opening of the Exhibit Hall. OK, so I do spend a lot of time in the Exhibit Hall, looking for new genealogy products and services. I have found many new things this year and will be writing about many of them over the next few days.
About ninety minutes after the Exhibit Hall opened, the day's seminars and presentations began. I counted about eighty such presentations on Thursday alone with nearly one hundred more presentations on Friday. The presenters included many of today's leading genealogy experts and lecturers. You can read the full schedule at http://fgs.org/2006conf/FGS-2006.htm.
The final event on Friday was the conference banquet, with many after dinner awards and recognition of special achievements. The dinner ended with a performance by the Boston History Collaborative of scenes depicting important events in history that are tied to Boston: a reenactment of Alexander Graham Bell's first-ever telephone call to his assistant Mr. Watson, the story of the first smallpox vaccination, Dr. Faber's first-ever use of chemotherapy developed in Boston's Children's Hospital, and more.
One thing in this year's Exhibit Hall that was different from past conferences was the wide mix of accents. Walking up and down the aisles was pleasant to the ears as I listened to all the voices. As mentioned in an earlier article, there were many vendors from England, Ireland and Canada showing the products and services that they provide. Of course, Boston has a large number of Irish descendants; so, you might expect any vendor displaying Irish ancestry and heritage to enjoy a crowd around the convention booth. English genealogy and heritage is popular in nearly any North American city. The Canadians have an accent only a bit different from Americans, but their booths also attracted crowds. A few of the French-speaking Canadians have significantly different accents, and, with my own ancestry, I spent a lot of time talking with them.
Of course, Barbara Vines Little's voice added another instrument to the linguistic symphony. (Barbara is President of the National Genealogical Society. Her rich southern accent is only one of the reasons I enjoy talking with her.)
Another interesting item is the attendance numbers. A decade or more ago some of the national conferences attracted 2,000 or more attendees. That number has been slipping in recent years. In strong contrast, this year's FGS conference is actually crowded. More than 1,500 tickets were sold in advance, and another 300 or so were sold on-site by the middle of the third day. I suspect the final paid attendance number will be somewhere around 2,000 people. That doesn't count the many people I saw in the Exhibit Hall not wearing conference nametags. Admittance to the Exhibit Hall is free, and obviously many people stopped by for an hour or two. While the total attendance cannot be tallied, I suspect it will be well over 2,000 people. In short, this conference looks like "the good old days," only with even more vendors.
I have collected a lot of information about all the new things I saw at this conference. I'll be home in a couple of days and will then organize my notes and write about all the products and services seen at this year's conference. Until then, I'll be busy at the conference!