Thursday, January 20, 2011

SLIG 2011 ~ Is There A Genealogy Conference In Your Future?

So is 2011 the year you plan to attend a genealogy conference ~ good for you! 
What are your next steps? 

The first step is to give some serious thought and do a bit of reading and/or online research to decide where to travel.  One of the main reasons I enjoy attending Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG) is that the Family History Library (FHL) is nearby and has a wealth of research materials and personnel to assist you in your research.  Salt Lake City hosts a number of research conferences and seminars throughout the year (or you can make the trip to the FHL on your own). 

Perhaps you want to start out closer to home or closer to local research facilities that are key to your family's history.  Throughout the year, there are conferences and seminars in a number of places ~ select one that is near research facilities that will be of use to you.  Check out Genealogy Conferences and Expos (a Google Calendar from GeneaBloggers) to find out about upcoming conferences and seminars. While you are there, why not also check out GeneaBloggers' Events and Daily Blogging Themes calendars.

The second step is spending some serious time thinking about what you want to accomplish with your trip. 
  • If You Fail to Plan ~ Plan to Fail!
    • What do you want to accomplish?  What is/are your research question(s)?  Write out your Research Plan(s)!
    • How do you intend to accomplish your goals?  Find out what resources are necessary to help you answer your research questions. Use your Research Plan to help you accomplish your goals.  Oftentimes the process of putting it down on paper shows the strengths and weaknesses of your current research and points you in the right direction to break down those brick walls.  If you spend a bit of time and effort now you will save a great deal of time and effort later.
The third step is spending some quality time planning your trip.  Whether you use pen and paper or your computer, you need to focus on the following areas and keep copies (either on your computer, mobile device, or printed out on paper) of all reservations, receipts, outlines, course materials, packing lists, travel information, as well as any legal and medical information.
  • Budget
    • Do you plan to attend a seminar?  If so, how many days is the seminar and what are the costs associated with it (course fees, travel arrangements, accommodations, meals) as well as research costs (photocopies, local travel, other purchases)?
    • How many days do you plan to research on-site and what are the costs associated with the trip (any additional travel, accommodations, meals, or research costs)?
    • There are simple template budgets in Microsoft Word and on Google Docs - draft and revise your budget throughout the planning stages and there will be fewer surprises during your trip!

  • Pre-Trip Planning
    • Make use of AAA services, go online at Trip Advisor, contact the local genealogical societies, archives, libraries, etc., to check out the logistics of your trip.  Find out the hours of operation, what is going on in the community, possible places to stay, interesting sites to visit, restaurants to try, how to get from one facility to the next (the nuts and bolts of the physical part of your trip). 
    • Give yourself plenty of time to check out a variety of websites and follow up with telephone calls and/or emails to staff (the nuts and bolts of the research part of your trip). 
      • You don't want to plan your trip when the facility is closed or on shortened hours. 
      • You want to make sure you have checked out any online research catalogs in advance (a real time saver)
      • You want to get as much done in advance to make the best use of your time once you are on site.
    • Save your web page searches using Microsoft OneNote (a truly great program), EverNote, copying and pasting the web pages into your word processing program, or printing out the applicable information. 
    • Whether you save the information to your computer or print it out, make sure to update the information as your trip nears.

  • Course/Seminar Sign up
    • Check out the early bird deadlines (usually a big cost savings) and make sure you are on any mailing list or blog that the sponsoring organization has set up to keep attendees apprised of news and events.
    • Google the coordinators and instructors so you have some idea of their areas of expertise and see if they have any materials online, at the library (or bookstore) to get a feel for their teaching style. 

  • Travel Arrangements
    • Make use of any of the travel services online (AAA, Trip Advisor, Priceline, Kayak, specific airline portals) to get an idea of travel costs (keep in mind you may be driving, taking the train, or flying to your destination).  Use a mapping program to check out the area (Google is great for this).  Watch prices and determine the best days for travel to save costs.

  • Accommodations
    • Whether there is a conference hotel or not, always determine what housing arrangements best suit your needs.
    • Keep in mind that distance will make a difference with all day conferences (especially if you need to make local travel arrangements).  Keep an open mind and be sure to check out bed & breakfasts, inns, hotels, university summer housing, and staying with friends and/or family.

  • Packing Lists
    • Start making your packing list both as it relates to the standard travel items as well as your genealogy related travel items
      • What will the weather be like?  Why not put the weather gadget for the city in question on your iGoogle page to start getting a feel for your trip.
      • What is the dress standard for your conference or research trip?
      • Think comfort and keep in mind that at conferences, rooms can be drafty, too cool or too warm ~ think layers!
      • Make sure you know what the research facility will allow you to bring in - notebooks, binders, pens & pencils, computers, cameras, scanners, etc.
      • Make sure you know how much copies cost ~ most facilities require cash and prefer small bills. 
    • What about your Virtual Research Toolbox?  Why not register to listen to some expert advice from Thomas MacEntee when he gives a Legacy Webinar on "Building a Research Toolbox" (scheduled for April 6, 2011).  
  • Research Plan
    • What do you hope to accomplish?  Repeat after me ~
      • I won't get it all in one trip 
      • I will not be at the research facility from dawn to dusk (trust me you will burn out!)
      • I will focus my research in advance of my trip so I make the best use of my time
    • Spend some time writing up your Research Plan(s) and have a plan of attack! 

  • Travel Research Binder
    • What do you need/want in paper format to make your research trip organized, timely, helpful and useful?
      • Pedigree Chart(s)
      • Family Group Sheet(s)
      • Copies of any applicable records (vital records, religious records, censuses, emigration/immigration records, land records, tax records, city directories, and military records) used in your Research Plan(s)
      • Master Location List
      • Master Source List
      • Full citations for sources already used in your Research Plan(s)
      • Pages from Maps and Gazetteers of the areas in your Research Plan(s)
There are a couple of great webinars that do an amazingly in-depth job of explaining research plans, travel research binders, Research Logs Part 1 and Part 2, and taking a genealogy research trip ~ all found at  Be sure to check out all their research courses as well as their research wiki.  Don't forget to check out Wikipedia for Country and region information.

Additionally Professional Genealogy has two excellent chapters dealing with research plans and analysis (Mills, Elizabeth S. Professional Genealogy: A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers, and Librarians. Baltimore: Genealogical Pub. Co, 2001. Print.) Be sure to check out Chapter 14 - Problem Analyses and Research Plans and Chapter 15 - Research Procedures for some excellent tips.  (More on Research Plans in a separate post!)

You can watch the webinars in the comfort of your own home and check Professional Genealogy out of your local (or genealogy) library. Find the closest library at

Have you recently taken a genealogy research trip?  Do you have any tips, tricks or suggestions to add?  Please share!

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