Tag: professional development

Education Hangout: Self-Editing Your Work

It’s no secret that genealogists do a lot of writing—but do you know about the resources out there to help you self-edit your work to make it the best it can be? Shannon Combs Bennett and Eric Wells, the NextGen Genealogy Network’s Education Co-Coordinators, share their personal advice as well as several writing resources and workshops to help the genealogical writer in the January Education Hangout:


Don’t forget to bookmark our YouTube Channel and listen in for fantastic, friendly advice on a variety of topics relevant to the young genealogist!

Preparing For Your First Genealogy Conference

In February 2015, I attended my first genealogy conference—RootsTech and the Federation of Genealogical Societies in Salt Lake City, Utah. Living in Australia, I was somewhat nervous about flying to the US, to a state I had never set foot in before. On top of that, it was my first international trip without the parents. However, I was also really excited.

As I was traveling to the other side of the world, I started researching the conference early. I’m talking a whole year early. I wanted to know things like how the conference operates, registration costs, and what I should bring.

I have come up with a list of ideas that should help you prepare for your first genealogy conference. These have come straight from my head after reflecting on my first conference. While I may not have thought of everything, whether your first conference is RootsTech in February or another conference later in the year, I hope you will find a few helpful ideas here.

  • Research hotels and prices early

Conference dates are announced at least 12–18 months prior, if not sooner. If possible, start researching hotels and prices about a year beforehand. If it is an annual conference, have a look on the conference website for the previous year’s hotel information. This should also give you an indication of how soon to book the hotel, which is usually six months prior to the conference. Always double check if the hotel is doing special conference rates. The conference website should tell you which hotels they have partnered with.

  • Early bird registration

Keep a watch over conference announcements to discover when registration opens. Take advantage of early bird prices! In most cases, you can save $20–$50!

  • Research transportation

If you are flying in from interstate or overseas, ensure you have researched transportation to get to and from the hotel and airport, and between the conference venue and hotel. Some hotels run airport shuttles, or if you are feeling adventurous, check out what public transport options are available. It is quite rare these days to find a major airport without a train station.

  • Business cards

Business cards? What? I’m serious! Have some business cards made with your name, contact details, social media and/or blog links if applicable, and family surnames. I used VistaPrint for mine. Business cards are a fabulous way to stay connected after the conference. Sometimes you will receive a card and notice a surname that is in your family tree. Could there be a connection? It happened to me at RootsTech! Turns out we are more than likely seventh cousins one time removed!

  • What to expect at the conference

If the conference has any social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, you name it), follow them! This is the perfect way to stay up to date with conference updates, before and during the conference. Another idea is to have a look on YouTube for any videos about previous conference experiences. These are a great help especially if it is your first time. For example, GeniAus and DearMyrtle have had Google Hangouts about RootsTech. I watched a few and I am so glad I did!

  • Hashtags

People normally live tweet from genealogy conferences, and if there is a hashtag for the conference, follow it on Twitter so you can access it on the go. This provides you with the opportunity to network and see who else is tweeting from the conference.

  • Comfortable attire

Firstly, shoes. I am very serious about this one. Yes, there is plenty of sitting down time at conferences. There is a lot of walking too! Are the sessions in different rooms? Is the venue small or big? Are there stalls or vendors to peruse? You do not want your feet hurting by 1 p.m. when you still have five hours left. Ensure you have comfortable shoes that you will be okay doing lots of walking in. Secondly, clothes. I know we all want to look nice, and we can. However, I would rather not get annoyed with a top making my skin itchy, or something being too tight. Dress for comfort too. You might not have time to whip off to your hotel to change. Think about the weather as well, inside and outside the venue. Keep a jacket/sweater with you at all times.

  • Bag

Another important aspect to think about is what you are going to carry around all your stuff in. Is your back okay to handle a backpack for the day? What about a small bag with wheels? Again, this is all about personal opinion and what YOU are comfortable with. You do not want your back to be aching halfway through the day from a heavy backpack or shoulder bag. Whatever your bag choice, be prepared to keep it with you all day.

  • Note taking

Think about what your method of note taking is going to be. Pen and paper? Tablet? Cell phone? Feather? You need to assess what is most comfortable, quick, and easy for YOU. Keep in mind that not all conference rooms have desks. A little tip—too much information on the PowerPoint slide to note down quickly? Snap a photo of it on your phone or tablet. Please note—only do this if it has been approved by the speaker.

  • Choosing sessions

Are there particular topics or speakers you definitely must see? Are there a number of classes on at the same time? Are any sessions being recorded? These are things to keep in mind when choosing classes to attend. Have a rough schedule planned. However, keep in mind that your schedule will more than likely change. Be up for deciding last minute to go to a different class, or choosing to go have a meal with someone. Your schedule will probably change, and that is perfectly okay.

I hope you have found something helpful on this list. One more piece of advice—do not be afraid to say hi! Genealogists are one of the friendliest groups of people I know. I have never met a genealogist who bites. Oh, most importantly, don’t forget to HAVE FUN!

Caitlin Gow

Caitlin Gow is the author of the blog Genealogically Speaking. Based in Australia, she has a Bachelor of Criminology and Criminal Justice from Griffith University. She is an avid supporter of using social media for family history, and loves using her “detective skills” to solve mysteries.


Suit Up and Show Up

I am a young genealogist. True, there are days when the gray hair pokes through and I pop when I walk, but since I am not yet forty I am clinging to the fact that I am among the younger members of the field. Even when I may feel like I’m falling apart, I still suit up and show up making my presence known. Do you?

What do I mean by that? Well, I like to think that we are the future of this field. One day we will be the mentors, the establishment, I guess you could say “the man.” However, nothing happens overnight and many times becoming a trusted member of a community takes years. Are you working towards that goal?

If you are not actively working to safeguard the future of genealogy, why not? Many people tell me they are scared or do not know where to start. Some do not want to rock the boat of their local society. To that I say, sometimes you have to splash in the water to keep a community on course. Trust me, getting a little wet never hurt anyone. If you are interested in spreading those wings and trying to become a leader in your area, here are a few things you should think about.

Suit Up

Continuing education: We are primarily a self-taught community since there are only a few (when compared to other professions) degree programs or professional outlets. Genealogists have to make the commitment to themselves to suit up and show up to advance their knowledge in the field. Making yourself accountable to participate in whatever way possible will only help you be a better researcher and professional. Then try teaching what you learned to others.

Dress the part: While there is a time for jeans and grubby clothes (like in a cemetery), if you want to be taken seriously you should dress the part. If you are lecturing, wear a suit or something appropriate for the venue. If you are attending a conference, seminar, or society meeting, consider wearing business casual. You do not want people distracted by your appearance. You want them to think, “Yeah, he/she has it together.”

Smiling and manners: Did you know that smiling on the phone, even when the person can’t see you, still comes across in your tone? Being friendly, approachable, and easygoing are traits that people respond to. No one wants to be around a sourpuss, so even on my grumpiest days I put on that smile and save my smart aleck comments for my close friends and family. Frequently, I see genealogists with very bad manners and habits. You can be polite yet firm if you are upset, just like you can patiently sit through someone’s family brick wall without looking bored.

Stay focused: You have to hold yourself accountable. It’s the hardest thing to do, but the only one who can keep it all going is the person you see in the mirror every morning. Your success will not be handed to you. Work hard every day. Accomplish something (even if it is as simple as writing an email) every day. Lead by example in all things.

Learn from the mistakes: It is very hard for me to put myself out there. Many times I do not feel confident in my abilities. I have made mistakes and there are things that now I would have done differently. Working through the setbacks and learning from those mistakes, especially when I started my genealogy career, only made me better. If you can kick aside the failure when it happens and see the accomplishments along the way, you will find a better path. Your successes should be touted and your failures learned from.

How do you suit up and show up in the genealogy community? 

Shannon Combs BennetShannon Combs-Bennett is the owner of T2 Family History, Creative Director for The In-Depth Genealogist, and Education Coordinator for the NextGen Genealogy Network. Based in Virginia, she writes and lectures on a variety of topics from genetics to methodology and is a contributor to Family Tree Magazine / University.


Education Hangout: Reuse and Recycle

You don’t always have to wait for inspiration to strike to begin writing. Consider reusing and recycling your old material – whether blog posts, research papers, newsletter articles, or even presentations – to create something new! Shannon Combs Bennett of the NextGen Genealogy Network’s Leadership Team shares practical ideas for expanding your audience and bringing new life to your “old stuff” in the July Education Hangout.


Don’t forget to bookmark our YouTube Channel and listen in for fantastic, friendly advice on a variety of topics relevant to the young genealogist!