Report from the FGS Conference 2018 in Fort Wayne – Day #1

I am fortunate enough to spend most of this week in Fort Wayne, Indiana, attending the annual conference of the Federation of Genealogical Societies. This 4-day conference started today, Wednesday, August 22. The conference is being held in the Grand Wayne Convention Center, a first-class conference center. Unlike some conferences I have attended in the past in various cities, the lecture halls and the grand ballroom and the exhibits hall are all within a short walk of each other. In addition, there are two attached hotels and lots of parking, along with dozens of world-class restaurants within easy walking distance.

Of course, the world-famous genealogy collection at the Allen County Public Library is across the street from the conference center. It is one of the largest genealogy research collections available anywhere, incorporating records from around the world. All in all, the Grand Wayne Convention Center is a great place to hold a genealogy conference!

The library staff are co-hosting this year’s FGS Conference 2018 conference.

The presentations of the first day of FGS conferences were mostly about the care and management of genealogy societies and most of the target audience consists of society officers, boards of directors, and concerned society members. However, all of the presentaions were open to all regustered attendees. In addition, a couple of today’s presentations appealed to a wider audience than only those involved with societies.

The opening keynote speech this morning was delivered by Scott Fisher, creator and host of the nationally syndicated genealogy talk show, Extreme Genes.

His talk was about “Whether sharing your family story with family members or working with the media, telling a story in a clear, in a clear, interesting manner is the key.” His presentation was clear and with a powerful message. Several attendees later told me it was one of the better talks they had ever heard at a genealogy conference.

One presentation I attended this afternoon was “old news” to me but I heard it presented in the best manner I had ever experienced. Judy Russell spoke on Preserving the Past, Protecting the Future. She is well known as the “Legal Genealogist” for her blog at

Judy is one of my favorite genealogy speakers and she didn’t disappoint anyone with this presentation. She made us laugh, she made us cry… well, perhaps nobody shed any tears but the audience certainly followed her closely through the ups and downs of her talk.

Judy described some of the history and many of today’s challenges concerning gaining access to records that legally should be available to the public. Since we are in Indiana, Judy started first by describing Indiana laws of 1824 that dictated that anyone who earned a living by gaming or had no visible means of support, or was a vagrant, or committed loitering was to be exiled from Indiana by the local authorities. She then pointed out that the records of people so removed are some of the more valuable records for use by genealogists today. In contrast, many modern-day legislators and bureaucrats want to destroy many court records and other important records within a very few years.

Some towns will not allow photocopies of official records. Instead, they only will provide the information via “official” birth, marriage, or death records. These sanitized certificates created many years after the event often omit the most valuable bits of information, such as the reason for an arrest or the cause of death (which might be inheritable) or maiden name or names of parents or something similar that is critical for family history studies.

She also pointed out that genealogists are not the only beneficiaries of access to these records. For instance, medical researchers often need access to cause of death when inheritable medical conditions are involved. If there is an inherited disease floating around in your family tree, wouldn’t you want to know about and learn about its treatments BEFORE it becomes a problem for you and your descendants?

Judy also offered some solutions. None of them are simple and none can be implemented overnight, but she pointed out that “The only thing necessary for the Triumph of Evil is that Good Men (and Women) Do Nothing.” Now is the time to get involved!

All in all, it was a fun day, as expected. Tomorrow will be the first “full day” of presentations about a wide variety of genealogy topics. You can find more about the schedule at

Tomorrow also will see the opening of the exhibits hall. I certainly will be there, looking for new things to write about in this newsletter.

One Comment

Dick, Enjoy and keep sharing this one I could not attend. Was thrilled to see you in Grand Rapids. So through your thoughts I will learn what I missed. Thanks, Blessings and be safe. Cousin Susi Pentico


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