Conferences and seminars

Getting ready for RootsTech this week, so these were our questions:

  1. Thinking about attendance: Which genea-events were on your past, current and future calendar? Benefits and disadvantages of face-to-face versus online?
  2. Thinking about conferences or seminars for learning: Are they effective learning experiences? What’s your preferred format: lecture, demo, Q & A, online or offline, other? What platforms work best for online delivery?
  3. Criteria for event selection: What helps your decision making: speakers, venue, topics focus, friends / genimates, speaking opportunities? How do you determine what gives value for money? Does it help if you can mix a conference with family travel or research?
  4. What makes a difference? Please share one or more examples of an effective learning experience. Why was it successful? How do we encourage others to participate in learning opportunities?
crystal710 / Pixabay

Which of these conference or seminars have you attended or planning to attend in the future?

Unlock the past cruises

RootsTech – at Salt Lake City  or London or online in 2021

Australian Congress – Norfolk Island this year

Family History Down Under – online this year, hopefully face to face next year

PRONI – Public Records Office Northern Ireland – sign up for their newsletter to find monthly list of what’s on

DNA DownUnder

Oral history conferences

Society of Australian Genealogists seminars

Legacy Family Tree Webinars

SOPS: My first #genealogy show was 10 years ago: #WDYTYALive in London… Current: I think there might be a humongous international #FamilyHistory event taking place online? Imminently? 🤔😉 Future: @THE_Gen_Show!

Sharn: This year my conference list includes RootsTech (February) FHDU (March) Congress (August) and The Genealogy Show. I am thrilled that virtual conferences can reach a larger audience but I miss catching up friends

Maggie: Loved attending WDYTYA?Live when I lived in the UK, and enjoy the events now on this side of the world. It’s been a bonus to have so many international events go virtual in the last year – but means it can be difficult to fit them all in!

Pauleen: I’ve been to many genea-events over the years: ANZ National Congress, state conferences, day seminars, Clare Roots Society conference, webinars, zoom, and of course #RootsTech in Salt Lake & London

Fran: Love going to #RootsTech. I have also attended the AFFHO 3 conferences and 3 Queensland ones. I try to get to a NZ one each year. DNA downunder. The occasional seminar in Brisbane. Our own society has good speakers each month also.

Pros and cons of conferences/seminars

Most participants in the chat had very similar views. Main one was cost of attending face to face conferences especially if overseas or even interstate – cost of conference, accommodation, travelling to and fro and also money spent buying things at the conferences.

Many enjoyed attending a conference if it was part of travel – send family off to enjoy the sights while you at the conference making connections.

Jill was praised as a helper for those first timers at conferences she attends. Now using social media as well with Facebook group for the RootsTech conference.


Allie: For physical events, location/accessibility is the main criteria, closely followed by cost. There are topics that I’m especially interested in, but I like learning about new areas and seeing different speakers. ‘Value for money’ often depends on my mood!

Pauleen: Speaking enthusiastically about what we’ve learned at conferences etc, promoting them on blogs and other social media, can convince some to join in. However, some just aren’t ever going to be interested.

Fran: How can we help others to participate? I will take a first timers to a conference with me. I use my blog and social media to inform people about conferences / seminars. I actively support events within my local society. Interested in other suggestions.

Sue: I like sessions where great sources are mentioned where you can follow up with more research especially if they give a PDF with links

Jennifer: I’ve really loved the virtual events during covid. Usually I would be working, making attendance at events difficult. I love that I can participate in an event from home in my PJs

Jennifer: I love learning so genie conferences are a must for me. I found the @scottishindexes virtual conferences last year and ongoing this year to be very good learning experiences. Great topics, knowledgeable and entertaining presenters and very well organised

Jill: I find the videos on Youtube so useful for honing skills and “Just in time learning”. I can go at my own pace and stop and start the recordings at my leisure.

Sharn: I had a lady admire my jewellery at Rootstech one year. She asked me where I got my lovely beads….. I had to smile. Blogger beads! I’ve had to explain them many times which leads to spreading the word about blogging

SandraG: I work full time so it’s hard to consider any actual events

Pauleen: DNA Down Under was great – so much to learn from very professional speakers and then meeting up with friends outside learning hours. I also got to do some research beforehand at #NSWArchives.

Jill: Being able to visit relevant repositories and ancestral towns and villages was a huge bonus during RootsTech London.

Jill: I like a workshop environment if I am learning a new skill eg technology or how to use a resource, these have to allow attendees to proceed at an individual pace.

Pauleen: #RootsTechLondon was an example of the benefits of mixing travel and research. With many Down Unders having families from the UK or Ireland, you could see genimates sleuthing ancestral places. Being able to do research or travel is a pivotal for me.

Brooke: I’ve only been to that big one in Sydney; Congress? I didn’t understand the ticketing so got stuck in the Friday newbie lectures. I liked speaking to the exhibitors & met Carol Baxter. I ran up to @geniaus like a goofy fan.

Fran: The beads and ribbons make it easy to find kindred souls at huge events – they are great conversation starters.

Carmel: I don’t ‘get’ the badges and ribbons stuff at in person conferences just more junk to throw away #ANZAncestrytime at least online conferences are not cluttering the world with cheap souvenirs – IMHO

Allie: Have been to Back to Our Past in Belfast, and events run by Soc of Genealogists and Irish Genealogical Research Soc in London. Online def more accessible, but I miss the atmosphere of ‘real’ events. Would love to meet up with some Twitter genies in the future!

Paul: I love the buzz of a live show that feeling of connect that brings but I’m super impressed at how the genealogy community have adapted and evolved with so many innovative ideas -face versus online?

Fran: Love a live show too though our society, Caloundra Family History, leaped into Zoom to do the talks, interest groups and more online. It means many members feel confident going to virtual conferences now.

Paul: How societies and organisations have so quickly adapted has amazed me! New podcasts have popped up as well as zoom meetings, live talks it has been a breath of fresh air and I hope that some of these continue

Carmel: A variety of formats keeps learner interested. I’m pleased some of the upcoming ones are also varying the length rather than the mandatory 40-45 mins #ANZAncestrytime Always enjoy when presenter includes something of their own story but not too long

Tara: Very quickly F2F – great networking but costly to attend/travel & board plus time consuming and if you snooze you lose. Flipped for online: Cost and time effective, recorded sessions allow for on-demand & repeat/learning integration but limited/no networking

Pauleen: For me, a demo is really only suitable for a tech class but even that is limited if there are too many in the class. I’m feeling a bit zoomed out after 2020 and the myriad sessions I attended.

Jill: I like presenters who engage their audiences. Not all experts are effective presenters. They don’t need to be circus performers of comedians but good communication skills and a lack of arrogance are essential.

Jill: I love the subscription model from Legacy that has a library of lectures available for genies to use when they have a particular learning need.

ANZ: Very good value for money and they have an Australian series.

Pauleen: I prefer lectures because they give me a chance to learn from a speaker with wide knowledge. I don’t really like Q&A though occasionally they can reveal different perspectives of the speakers. #QFHS have done a good job with this.

Helen: Don’t like overlong talks unless the presenter is an excellent presenter. Like good use of PowerPoint with diagrams and like lots of (well moderated) Q&A. Simple needs!

Jill: Online events like #RootstsechConnect provide us with opportunities to hear speakers we would never see in Australia from the comfort of our homes. Avoiding long haul travel is a bonus.

Jane: I agree … being able to organise what you will watch and when for yourself via a playlist makes things a bit less frenetic too

Pauleen: #RootsTechConnect is going to offer so many opportunities to hear from people we might never otherwise, and hear from all sorts of places. A great opportunity for those with different ethnic backgrounds in our #familyhistory

Helen: I did attend the Related Histories conference @nlagovau in 2017 and remember being impressed by the DNA speaker and also Graeme Davison (I’d read his book Lost Relations) – was attending with ‘academic’ hat on (past life) not geni hat

Pauleen: Friends made during conferences in person become excellent networking contacts if you need help or advice on something or somewhere unfamiliar to you.

Jill: I love our local meetings that have local speakers. It’s a mixed bag bit I learn so much about our local area from them.

Jennifer: I’m thinking of joining our local FHS for that reason Jill. I have no family history but would love to learn more about the history of this area

Readers: Which conferences or seminars have you attended and why?

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