I just returned from a two-and-a-half-day genealogy conference in Burbank, California. The Southern California Genealogical Society held their annual Genealogy Jamboree this weekend, and it was a blow-out success. About 1,500 genealogists attended this year's Jamboree, making it one of the larger genealogy conferences of the year in North America. In fact, the attendance at this annual event has grown so much that it now meets or exceeds the attendance at some of the national events.
I first attended the Genealogy Jamboree five years ago and found it to be a pleasant event with about 400 attendees. Then I missed a few years but went back last year and I was amazed how much it had grown. Last year's Jamboree featured many more speakers than before and drew a much larger group of vendors. I enjoyed the event so much that I decided to return again this year. Indeed, the 2009 event even exceeded last year: even more attendees, a longer list of more than 100 lectures given over the three days, and an even larger group of exhibitors from all over the United States and Canada plus one from Northern Ireland.
The result was obviously successful.
The list of presenters included many of the better-known genealogy lecturers of today. You can find a complete list of all the speakers at http://genealogyjamboree.blogspot.com/2009/02/announcing-speakers-for-2009-genealogy.html and the complete conference brochure may be found at http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~socalobituaries/program%20brochure%202009-03color.pdf.
The keynote address at the Friday night banquet was delivered by Dr. Tukufu Zuberi, one of the stars of PBS's series, History Detectives. I had a chance to interview Dr. Zuberi on Friday for a Roots Television video and found him to be a delightful person. Indeed, he delighted a lot more people a few hours later at the banquet.
One item that differentiates the Southern California Genealogy Jamboree from other conferences is the annual Blogger Summit. At least, I think it is annual. It was held for the first time last year and was such a success that it was repeated in 2009. It was again well attended and I suspect the organizers will repeat it next year (That's my guess, not a promise from the organizers!). This year's "Blogger Summit 2: Son of Blogger" was a workshop presented by many of the leading information leaders in the geneablogging community today: Lisa Louise Cooke; DearMYRTLE; Leland Meitzler; TheAncestryInsider; Craig Manson; George G. Morgan; Stephen Danko, Ph.D.; Schelly Talalay Dardashti; and myself.
I always thought of the Genealogy Jamboree as a regional conference and, indeed, probably 90% of the attendees do live in southern California. What impressed me, however, was the number of national and even international presenters and exhibitors. Schelly Talalay Dardashti, author of the popular "Tracing the Tribe" Jewish Genealogy Blog traveled from Tel Aviv to Burbank to attend and present. Feargal O'Donnell, Vice Chair of the Irish Family History Foundation, Manager of Armagh Ancestry and Managing Director of Genealogy Ireland, traveled from Northern Ireland just for this conference and talked to many at the booth in the exhibitors hall. Louise St. Denis of the National Institute for Genealogical Studies traveled from Toronto, Ontario and had a booth in the exhibit hall. I was but one of more than a dozen people or more who traveled from the East Coast of the United States to be at this conference in Burbank.
I talked with quite a few of the vendors in the closing hours on Sunday afternoon. Every single vendor I talked to reported excellent sales; they sold as much or more than what they normally sell at national conferences. One vendor had to run out to a nearby Staples store on Saturday to purchase more receipts and credit card slips. Another reported that he normally places new orders into a large envelope and this weekend, for the first time, he had to obtain a second envelope. I didn't get the numbers, but the New England Historic Genealogical Society reported that they signed up lots of new members at the Jamboree. I suspect that all of this year's vendors will be back next year.
I spent quite a bit of the time in the exhibit hall, manning a table that I shared with George G. Morgan and Drew Smith of the “Genealogy Guys.” The table was next to Family Tree DNA's booth. I'm not sure if that placement was a good thing or a bad thing: the Family Tree DNA booth was crowded most all the time! The good news was that being next to a popular booth generated a lot of traffic in front of our display. The bad news is that all those people were interested in DNA, not in us! Indeed, presentations about DNA seemed to be everywhere. DNA is a hot topic in genealogy.” I have no idea how much business Family Tree DNA generated at this conference but I can report that I watched a LOT of people swabbing their cheeks this weekend in the adjacent booth!
Holding a conference of this magnitude requires the coordinated efforts of many people. There are many people I should thank for this year's successful Jamboree but I do not have the entire list. However, I certainly have to single out the efforts of Jamboree Co-Chairs Paula Hinkel and Leo Myers. Their performance was outstanding.
I want to thank Paula and Leo and all the others who worked so hard to make this year's Genealogy Jamboree a success. I appreciate their efforts and I imagine about 1,500 other genealogists do the same.
Will there be a repeat performance next year? I'm not certain, but I suspect the answer is “yes.” You probably won't see any new information for a while, but I would suggest keeping an eye on this newsletter and especially on the Southern California Genealogical Society's web site at http://www.scgsgenealogy.com.