The annual conference of the Federation of Genealogical Societies closed Saturday afternoon at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex in Birmingham, Alabama. Co-hosted by the Alabama Genealogical Society, this conference usually is one of the larger genealogy events of the year in North America.
I thought this year's event was an excellent conference. Attendance was lower than that of recent years, but the presentations were as high quality as ever. The number of presentations also seemed to be about the same as usual. The convention center also was first-rate. In short, most everything worked well.
I felt the large convention center apparently contributed to the appearance of a lower number of attendees. While I do think attendance was lower than normal, the fact that we (the attendees) were spread out over such a large convention center made it appear to be sparsely populated. I rarely saw more than a handful of attendees at any one time, and yet I know there were dozens of places they might be. The classrooms and exhibits hall were spread out over three large floors in the convention center while other meetings, banquets, luncheons, and similar events were held at the hotel across the street. At any given moment, only a handful of attendees were visible even though hundreds more were in presentations, workshops, or the exhibits hall.
The lower-than-usual attendance was bad news for the exhibitors, most of whom reported lower sales than usual. However, it appeared to be a non-issue for everyone else. I know that I enjoyed the entire conference, and I heard similar reports from many other attendees. In short, most everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.
Everyone who planned to attend the conference had nervously been watching the weather. However, Hurricane Isaac cooperated nicely and veered to the west just before opening day. The weather in Birmingham was overcast most of the time during the conference, but temperatures were a bit lower than normal for August in Alabama. I saw a few raindrops, but the weather was very nice most of the time. In other words, the weather turned out to be a non-issue.
I won't attempt to describe all the individual events, presentations, and dinners as a great deal of information is already available on the conference web site at http://www.fgsconference.org/. I'll refer you to that web site for the details. The only changes in the planned events was that the Sloss Furnaces outdoor evening was cancelled due to a weather forecast of rain, and a couple of presenters had problems attending as planned and substitutes were found. (While the weather was good in Birmingham, a few speakers and attendees from areas further west were in the midst of a hurricane and were unable to travel to the conference.)
If you were unable to attend and would like to listen to an audio recording of any of the lectures, there is good news. Many of the presentations at the FGS Conference were recorded by Fleetwood Onsite Conference Recording. A few sessions were not recorded, however. For instance, workshops do not lend themselves to recording. Most special events and some luncheons are not recorded. Another reason is that a speaker feels the presentation is too reliant on the visuals and the recording would not be adequate. The recordings can be downloaded as MP3 files or ordered on audio CDs. Look at Fleetwood’s website for details: www.fleetwoodonsite.com.
My highlight of the week was the EOGN Dinner held Saturday evening, shortly after the close of the conference. I'll write about that separately.
If you would like to attend a first-class genealogy conference, I highly recommend the annual FGS Conference. Next year's conference will be held in Fort Wayne, Indiana, on August 21-24, 2013. Librarian's Day will be Tuesday, August 20. While Fort Wayne can be hot in the summer, it rarely has the humidity of Alabama. It also is almost immune to hurricanes. In other words, weather at next year's conference shouldn't be a factor.
If I remember correctly, the one downside of Fort Wayne is that you won't find a huge number of hotel rooms close to the convention site. There are more than enough rooms for day-to-day business, but the sudden appearance of 1,000+ genealogists in town will probably fill the two nearby hotels quickly. If you are thinking of attending FGS2013 in Fort Wayne, I'd suggest making hotel reservations NOW. You can always cancel later if you change your mind.
The Hilton Hotel is fully attached to the convention center. The Courtyard by Marriott is across the street but also connected by a skywalk. If you expect to have an automobile available, you will find dozens of other nice hotels a bit further away. I remember once staying at a very nice hotel on Interstate 469, the 31-mile beltway around Fort Wayne's east side. The downside is that the beltway hotels are about a 15-minute drive from the convention center. The I-469 beltway seemed to have at least two or three modern hotels at most every exit along the Interstate.
The FGS web site doesn't yet have much information about next year's conference, but that obviously will change over the next twelve months. You might want to check the new FGS web site at http://www.fgs.org/ from time to time.
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