One of the larger annual genealogy conferences in North America is that of the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS). Held in a different city each year, FGS conferences typically attract 1,500 to 2,000 attendees over a four-day period. I have attended most of the FGS conferences of the past twenty years and must say that I have enjoyed them. From what I hear, this year's conference will be as good as any of the past events, possibly better.
The 2007 annual FGS conference will be held at the Grand Wayne Center in Fort Wayne, Indiana, on August 15 through 18. Fort Wayne is especially appropriate this year because the nearby Allen County Public Library contains one of the largest genealogy collections in the world with more than 50,000 volumes of compiled genealogies, nearly 5,000 genealogies on microfiche, numerous family newsletters, and access to almost all significant online genealogy databases. Best of all, the library is housed in a brand-new, state-of-the-art complex that opened only a few months ago.
If you haven't yet been to the Allen County Public Library's new building, you have to stop in and see what a 21st-century genealogy library looks like. Luckily, the site of this year's FGS conference is a five-minute walk from this marvelous library. In fact, the library will be open extra hours every day of the conference in order to accommodate conference attendees.
The Allen County Public Library is also co-host of this year's FGS conference.
The FGS conference is really two or three conferences in one. The first day, August 15, combines the FGS Genealogy Conference, a Librarians' Day and the Association of Professional Genealogists' Professional Management Conference, all held at the same time.
As the name insinuates, the Federation of Genealogical Societies is a loose-knit confederation of societies that band together to share resources and expertise. They also hold this great once-a-year conference. Societies and their libraries generally are moving quickly these days to adopt technology; and therefore, many tech-oriented presentations are planned at this year's conference.
The technology focus begins immediately at the Opening Session with a presentation by David E. Rencher, director of the Records and Information Division of the Family and Church History Department in Salt Lake City. His talk will be, "Societies Going Virtual: What Have You Done Lately?" This session will reinforce the need for your society to jumpstart itself into the 21st century and will give specific suggestions on how to create a viable virtual offering to your members for years to come.
The Thursday keynote speech will feature Dr. Andy Anderson, speaking on "The Healing Power of Family History and Genealogy." Dr. Anderson is Senior Vice President and Chief Historian of Wells Fargo & Company. Over the past 28 years, he has built the Wells Fargo Archives, several Wells Fargo history museums, and a modern fleet of Wells Fargo stagecoaches. He also has managed Wells Fargo's corporate marketing, advertising, and brand management programs, and the initial development of wellsfargo.com in 1994.
Dr. Anderson's interest in history led him to his current avocation - helping families and businesses discover their family history and their cultural roots. He believes that, by understanding their history, a family can better manage its legacy into future generations.
The Friday evening conference banquet will feature Megan Smolenyak speaking on "The Quest for Ellis Island Annie."
One event that I have not seen before at a major genealogy conference is the Youth Fair. Children at a genealogy conference? Yes, and it looks like a great idea. Fifteen-year-old Hailey Campbell, daughter of well-known genealogist Starr Campbell, will be teaching one of the classes.
The FGS Youth Fair will be held on Saturday, August 18th, from 10 AM to 3 PM. All events and activities are free and open to the public; you do not have to purchase a conference admission ticket to attend the Youth Fair.
Events and exhibits at the Youth Fair include the following:
- A day in the life of a Union soldier and display of toys and clothing by re-enactors from the 44th Indiana Civil War Historical Association
- Pioneer music performed by Settlers, Inc.
- Bagpipe music performed by the Fort Wayne Scottish Pipes and Drums
- Wool spinning demonstrations by the Fort Wayne Flax and Fleecers Guild
- Short talks on Local Historic Figures by Historic Fort Wayne
- Period costumes provided by the Fort Wayne Civic Theatre. Photos of children in costume will be taken and printed on the spot. Scrapbooking materials and assistance will also be provided so that you can create a personalized memento.
- Allen County Genealogical Society of Indiana
- Allen County 4-H
- Girl Scouts of Limberlost Council
- Boy Scouts of the Anthony Wayne Area Council
- Shipshewana Chapter of the Children of the American Revolution
Technology and traditional topics will be interwoven throughout this conference with more than 200 presentations, workshops, and discussion panels. Yes, that's more than 200 sessions! The list of speakers includes nearly all the leading genealogy presenters of today. Add in a few more luncheons and a banquet and I am sure you can find something of interest all day, every day.
Of course, my favorite area at any genealogy conference is the Exhibitors' Hall. I consider this to be the most interesting area of any conference as you can see the new genealogy products and services provided by the leading vendors of today.
I can be found much of the time in Booth #321, near the back center of the Exhibits Hall, next to the Footnote.com booth and not far from the tables in the back. In fact, I am planning a surprise for laptop-carrying attendees. To anyone who saw my booth at the recent NERGC Conference in Hartford, please don't spill the beans. I expect to do roughly the same thing again at my booth at the FGS conference only expanded a bit. Please help me keep this a secret until the opening day of the Exhibits Hall. All I will say is, "Please drop by and relax for a bit."
Accommodations may be a small problem. The conference location has two large hotels within walking distance. The problem is that both of the hotels are already fully booked. However, there are many more hotels in Fort Wayne within a ten to fifteen-minute drive of the convention center. Luckily, there is plenty of parking space available at the convention center. If you have an automobile, you will find it cheaper to stay some distance away and then drive in daily. You can find the conference organizers' list of suggested hotels at http://www.fgsconference.org/lodging.php.
That list certainly is not complete. You can find many more hotels on Travelociety.com, Expedia.com, Hotels.com, or any of the other online travel sites. If you have a favorite hotel chain, you may prefer to first check that chain's web site. I was impressed by the long list of Ft. Wayne hotels at http://hotel-guides.us/indiana/fort-wayne-in-hotels.html. That site also includes many short reviews written by former guests. A few minutes spent on most any search engine will probably find still more hotels, most of them very reasonably priced.
This year's conference features a rather unique "Roommate Service." Bobbi King, a member of the Federation of Genealogical Societies Board of Directors, will put potential roommates for the 2007 FGS Ft. Wayne conference in touch with each other via email. Details may be found at http://www.fgsconference.org/roommate.php.
Wherever you stay and however you get there, this year's Federation of Genealogical Societies is shaping up to be a great event.
Registration for this four-day event costs $185. If you can only make it for one day, the single-day registration is $95. You will find additional charges for luncheons, the banquet, and for the APG Professional Management Conference. Further details may be found at http://www.fgsconference.org.
If you can be in Fort Wayne on August 15 through 18, I am sure you will have a great time. I expect to be there and hope to see you. Most of the time, you will find me in this newsletter's booth in the Exhibitors' Hall.
If you cannot attend, you should be able to read about this conference in a future newsletter. I hope to report on some of the highlights and also post a few pictures.
I'll see you in Fort Wayne!