Saturday, April 05, 2008


MoSGA Board member Mary E. Celeste has offered us some tips on getting the most out of our NGS Conference experience in May 2008. Her guide is fairly lengthy, so I will be posting it over several days. Enjoy!

NOTE: Mary is not an official NGS spokesperson- these tips are based on her own past attendance at national genealogical conferences.


6. BE KIND TO OUR ENVIRONMENT. Follow these tips to save trees and prevent pollution.

a. Save a tree – choose the CD version of the syllabus
b. Write a large note to the housekeepers to simply make your bed but not change the linens
c. Write a large note to the housekeepers to leave the towels. Be sure to hang them neatly rather than leave them on the floor.

If you are a “true believer”, make up a couple of these signs and laminate them. Store them in your luggage so you always have them with you when you travel.

7. BE KIND TO THOSE WHO NEED YOUR HELP. Since it won’t make any difference in the hotel fee whether you use the sample size personal grooming products, take a plastic bag to bring home each day’s supply. You can:

a. put them in small plastic sandwich bags, add a coupon to a fast food restaurant, and give them out to panhandlers.
b. package them with new socks and underwear and donate them to the local veteran’s hospital.
c. ditto for homeless shelters, refuges for abused women and children, and similar facilities.
d. support mission or international relief organizations abroad
e. make small attractive cloth bags from colors that go with your bathroom and tie with a pretty ribbon for your own guests.
f. put them in plastic bags for your family when they go camping or travel.

One request we have had from the VA is to NOT include mouthwash or anything with alcohol content–- the alcoholics drink it! This is probably good information for several of the suggestions above.

8. WHAT SHOULD I BRING? When you’re attending a local conference and have a room at the Conference Hotel, you can bring just about anything you’d like. When you’re traveling out of town, you have to be a little more frugal about what you pack.

One thing that you should bring is a sturdy brief case or tote bag that will accommodate a notepad, pencils and pens, and all the literature you’ll be collecting each day. Ideally, get one with a zippered pocket where ladies can keep wallets, cell phones, your room key, etc. This will save you from having to carry a purse.

Be sure to empty your tote each evening. Sadly, about two-thirds of the handouts you get will, on studying them more closely, be irrelevant and will go directly into the trash can. You do NOT want to carry around yesterday’s stuff-– you’ll accumulate just too much! Make notes on the ones that you keep. Do you want to revisit that booth with more questions? Do you want to look at that website? Do you want to purchase that book? You also want to take time to review your notes. If you’ve brought a laptop, it’s a good idea to transcribe your notes while they’re still fresh in your mind. You may remember things that you didn’t note and you’re more likely to recall those comments you made in your own form of shorthand.

Speaking of laptops, some people carry them around all day and use them for note taking during meetings and sessions. If you plan to do so, bring lots of batteries or you’ll need to get to the room early enough to stake out a seat near an outlet. You’ll need your power cord, which presents several problems. Running it across an aisle presents a tripping hazard; moving your chair against the wall so as not to have the cord run across a walkway may present an exit blockage in the case of a fire or other emergency which requires evacuation. Other problems with laptops are that their weight grows in direct relationship to the number of hours you spend at the conference. Also, unless the session is a workshop, you seldom have a table, so you need to balance it on your lap. I find it better to take notes manually and then transcribe them in the evening.

You will definitely want one of those rolling shopping bags for the vendor area. They fold up so they don’t take up much space until you need it. If you plan to purchase any books, this is a must. You can also use a small rolling suitcase, but they are a nuisance to open and close Look for the rolling, fold-up shopping bags that are open at the top in the luggage department of department stores, the airport shops, or the hotel gift shop.

I used to pack one suitcase inside another so I would have an extra one to use to pack all my purchases to bring home. It would inevitably be overweight and I would have to pay extra to take it on the plane. However, most major conferences now have an area where you can purchase boxes, fill then, and mail them home. It saves a big hassle and is a lot cheaper. Be sure to check early for information on when they are closing, which is sometimes the day before the last one of the conference. This is a wonderful service. You can check with the vendors and see if anyone has an extra box or two. You’ll want to check with the vendors that are selling books or other fairly heavy items-- you don’t want to send books in a box that was intended to carry light products! Also, some vendors will mail the item for you, saving you the cost of postage. This usually is only for larger purchases, but be sure to check.

Another nice service often found at conferences is a “coat check” where you can also check your purchases so you don’t have to carry them to sessions. Just don’t forget to pick them up before you go back to your room or car. Be sure to learn their hours of operation before leaving your items.

I went to a library conference once where they had a large area of vibrating chairs and were giving face, neck and shoulder, and foot massages. What a great idea! The problem was that most librarians are too poor to afford the services, and since genealogists are not usually in a higher income category, I don’t expect to see anything like that, but wouldn’t it be nice?

9. SHOPPING: Ahhhh! The vendor area is like Heaven to a genealogist! You can buy books, maps, CDs, clothing, jewelry, gift items, learn about genealogy related organizations and database vendors, and just about everything except the proverbial kitchen sink! Before the conference, create an alphabetical list of the titles of books and CDs that you own and carry it with you to the vendor area or make a wish list of those subjects you really need more for your own personal library.. You’d much rather purchase something additional for your collection than duplicate what you already have.

Be sure to carry business cards (make some up, even if you’re not a “professional genealogist”) and a couple of sheets of stick-on name/address labels. There are many drawings for door prizes and the address labels save you a lot of writing. Other situations call for a business card. Be sure you have included your email address and your website, if you have one. You can jot notes on the backside and hand it to people you meet who have the same surname or live in a community/county where you are searching. Conversely, if you accept a business card from someone, make a note on the back to remind you of the significance of this contact. If the individual doesn’t have a business card, be sure to record their name, contact information, and a reminder of the reason you want to correspond with them. For this, you’ll want a small notebook that you can put in your pocket or purse. Be sure to tie a pen or pencil to the notebook….they have a bad habit of running away!

Study the vendor list before you go and plan which booths you are most anxious to visit. To check out who is coming to the 2008 NGS Conference in Kansas City, go to In the column on the left, click on “Exhibitors” and then, again in the left column. click on “Exhibitor List”. You can look for particular vendors by selecting the first letter in their company name or you can browse the entire list alphabetically. Click on the underlined name of any exhibitor that interests you and you’ll get all sorts of information about them. Add the names and booth numbers of the ones you want to visit first to your Conference Planner (described above). Once you’ve had a chance to stop by those booths, then plan a strategy to visit all the others. Visiting the vendor area is as important as attending the presentations, so be sure to plan accordingly.

Most exhibitors will accept credit cards, but it’s a good idea to carry cash as well. Decide before you go what your budget will be and then discipline yourself not to go overboard. Usually, you’ll get some sort of discount, but it you have a wish list of titles, check them out online before you go, so you know whether or not you’re getting a bargain.

Don’t be afraid to talk to vendors if you have questions about their product. All the major online database vendors and organizations, such as, ProQuest/HeritageQuest, Footnote, NewsBank, Family History Library/Family Search, New England Historic Genealogical Society/New England Ancestors, National Archives, etc. will be represented by employees who are experienced researchers. Start writing down you questions now and take your list with you.

Mary E. Celeste
Kansas City, MO

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