I am a party animal… there, I said it. This confession probably makes many people around me frown. I think most of them will have the impression that I am a calm, controlled and behaving person. Well, most days I am like that. If genealogy events count as parties, the description of party animal is absolutely correct. I love these events, whether they are close by or far away, whether they last one day or four days. Although I have to admit, I prefer in-person events better than virtual ones. Virtual events are of course a blessing, because not everybody – myself included – is able to travel multiple times per year to all kinds of countries and places to attend events in person.
Why do I love genealogy events? There are three good reasons.
- Events often include lectures, presentations, classes, talks or whatever you want to call them. These sessions are a great opportunity to learn from other genealogists, historians or professionals in a very different discipline.
- Most events have a place – some smaller, some enormous – where exhibitors display their (new) products and services, give demonstrations or invite you to interact with them. Whether these exhibitors are for-profit companies or non-profit organizations like historical societies, they all are well worth a visit.
- My main reason to attend events is that I want to spend time with like-minded people, preferably from different countries. As a professional genealogist I mostly work from home, without colleagues around me. Although my family is very supportive, talking to them about genealogy is just not the same as talking to other (professional) genealogists.
And then there is one extra reason. Ever since I started with genealogy, I found pleasure in conveying my knowledge and experience to other (beginning) genealogists. Thus, I gave lectures and taught courses. Literally thousands of people heard me speak about genealogy over the years. Genealogy events provide a new and additional audience. When possible, I try to be a speaker at one of the international events.
You might wonder which events I have attended in the past five years.
In 2015, 2016 and 2017 I attended the annual two-day conference of Familiekunde Vlaanderen, the national genealogical society in the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium. These conferences took place in Antwerp, Wavre and Bruges. I was an exhibitor twice.
In 2016 and 2018 I attended the bi-annual event Famillement in the Netherlands. The first time as an exhibitor, the second time as an attendee only. These conferences took place in Utrecht and Leeuwarden.
In the same two years (2016, 2018) I attended the International Conference on Heritage Interpretation, organized by Interpret Europe. At both conferences I spoke about the interdependence of genealogy and cultural heritage. For me, genealogy is heritage interpretation on a micro level. Especially when genealogy leads to heritage trips. These conferences took place in Mechelen (Belgium) and Köszeg (Hungary).
My first big international genealogy conference was the last edition of Who Do You Think You Are Live. This event took place in Birmingham in 2017. I connected to other genealogists, volunteered at the APG stand and took my very first DNA test.
The year 2019 was my first year as a full-time professional genealogist. This also meant that I was self-employed and that I had time and opportunity to attend several conferences. In February I was in Salt Lake City, my first RootsTech experience. I did not apply to be a speaker or an ambassoder. I hardly knew what that entailed, or what was expected from me. I just enjoyed the visit, the conference and the people. Later that year I was in Birmingham for THE Genealogy Show. I am a board member and offered to work as a volunteer at the show. I also gave a talk about Dutch genealogy. Two weeks later I was in London, the Canadian one (Ontario) to attend the Ontario Ancestors Conference (speaker again!) and to pick up my certificates from the National Institute for Genealogical Studies.
In September I played a home game, when MyHeritage Live took place in Amsterdam. Later that year I had my second RootsTech experience. This time in London, England. It was the first time RootsTech was organized outside Salt Lake City, outside the United States. I attended as a speaker and an ambassador.
For 2020 I have three conferences planned: RootsTech in Salt Lake City (February), THE Genealogy Show in Birmingham (June) and the APG Professional Management Conference in Portland (October). I am familiar with two of these events and I know for sure I will have a great time there. The third one is new to me, but the party animal inside me already is looking forward to that new experience. [Note: due to the corona virus outbreak, many conferences and events in 2020 were cancelled.]
If you get the chance to attend one of these conferences or any other genealogy event in your area, in your country or far away… take the opportunity and go! It might be expensive (traveling, accommodations, tickets) but I am convinced that these events are worth every penny and every minute that you invest in them.
Today’s giveaway is especially for those who will attend RootsTech in Salt Lake City this year. You should come and visit this event, because the 10th edition will be most likely a very special one. If you are at RootsTech Salt Lake City, you can meet me and get… a RootsTech Journal. That is, if you are the winner of this contest. All you need to do, is answer the following question. In which Hungarian town did I (John Boeren) speak about genealogy and cultural heritage? Send me the answer in an email or through a private message on social media. Once again, it is all for free and there are no strings attached.