Saturday, June 26, 2010

Create Your Own Genealogy Conference

So you’d like to brush up on some of your genealogy research skills, but you are not able to make it to one of the many Genealogy Expos, Jamborees and Conferences that are being held around the U.S. this summer? You have other commitments, you can’t afford to go, the conference is too far away . . . look no further, you can create your own conference in the comfort of your own home.

Many of us get so wrapped up in our own research that we sometimes forget the valuable learning resources that are available to us online - at no cost.

First, take a little time to plan what you would like to get out of a genealogy conference. Make a list of what new techniques and skills you would like to learn.

Next, search the web for available resources. Bookmark those sites that will become the agenda for your personal conference. When you believe you’ve done all of the legwork to design your personalized conference, set aside a full day or a full weekend, or maybe an hour or two a day for a week. Whatever works into your schedule can result in a valuable learning experience.

Here are some ideas to help you Create Your Own Conference Agenda.

Every conference needs a keynote speaker. Who better than Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak to open your conference?

From, we can find a variety of presentations, so the keynote might be Megan's presentation on Michelle Obama's Roots.

Search RootsTelevision for other research topics you are interested in. For example, I searched on the following terms: Irish (27 hits), Photographs (17 hits), Family History Library (25 hits) - pick out those videos of interest to you and add them to your customized conference agenda.

Another of my favorite presentations on research methodology is The Bachelor: Reconstructing a Solitary Life  Using Obscure and Far-Flung Records. This is a 48 minute presentation by Mary Penner at the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) Management Conference in September 2009. You can watch and listen to the speaker and view her PowerPoint slides all at the same time. A four page workbook is also available. This would also make a great keynote for your custom conference.

Your next step for some online genealogy lessons might be YouTube. Search on terms such as "Family History" and "Genealogy." Select those pertaining to your research interests and add them to your Favorites on YouTube. has a YouTube channel, with two short videos. Genealogy Gems also has a channel with almost 50 videos to chose from. There truly are many gems here, including interviews with bloggers Randy Seaver and Thomas MacEntee. You can get several hours of presentations here. GenealogyGuy also has some great instructional videos on YouTube.

After all of these sessions, it's time for a break! My custom conference includes a song from The Young Dubliners. You can listen to a couple more songs, but don't take too long! We have to get back to our agenda! has a host of archived webinars available at no cost - and a subscription to is not required to access these webinars. Some of the webinars available at this writing include: Using Family Treemaker 2010, Finding Your Military Heroes, Finding Females in Your Family, Avoid Traps in African American Genealogy, New York City Research, European Research, Planning a Family Reunion, Italian Ancestry, Polish Ancestry, Irish Ancestry, English Ancestry, and many more. Surely, you can find several to add to your custom conference agenda.

For those new to genealogy research or who want to brush up a bit, has an online class on Introduction to Genealogy.

Back issues of Ancestry magazine are available on Google books. Complete issues of the magazine are available and there's sure to be several topics of interest to you.

By the time you've viewed presentations and read articles, you've probably had a full day's worth of learning. But something is missing from your Create Your Own Conference - socializing!

There's no better place to socialize with other genealogists than and  If you're new to both forums, you might begin at Geneabloggers - this is a centralized location that brings together people who blog about genealogy. Start by reading a few blogs on topics, surnames and locales of interest to you. Nearly every blog has an option for you to "Follow" the blog - meaning you have access to the blog archives, such as on Many blogs also have links to the author's Facebook and Twitter pages. Become a fan, a friend and a follower, and in no time, you'll be connected with hundreds of fellow genealogists who share your passion. Facebook has a feature by which you can chat with your Facebook friends in real time, or send them personal messages if you don't want to write on their wall. It's not quite the same as face-to-face meetups, but it's a nice alternative for those who can't make it to a conference.

Creating Your Own Conference is something you can do anytime, anywhere - as long as you have internet access. It's a great way to brush up on your skills and give you a little bit of a break from doing your own research. As with attending an in-person conference, you will come away with new ideas and strategies to apply to your own research.

Comments welcome - if you have other web resources you recommend to include in a Create Your Own Conference, please add them in the comments section below. 


  1. I love this idea! Thanks for sharing!

  2. I'm glad you liked it, Amy! Thanks for commenting! I'm actually doing a few of these things today!

  3. Thanks for the thumbs up, Tonia! I'm already coming up with some more ideas for Create Your Own Conferences. For example, Netflix subscribers have access to a lot of on-demand movies and documentaries of historical significance. Some of those can provide some perspective on the times in which our ancestors lived.