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Article posted: April 14, 2000

Who Are Genealogy Conferences For?
By: Ryan Taylor, Biography and Archived Articles

Who are genealogy conferences for? I was asked recently if only experienced researchers should attend them, or if beginners would also benefit.

The answer is that conferences are for everyone. Good programmers schedule lectures at both beginning and advanced levels. Many talks are informative for all researchers.

Methodology talks give factual information about certain kinds of records, repositories or techniques. For beginners there might be introductions to census research or the resources at the Archives of Ontario or National Archives of Canada.

Illustrative talks recount experiences which the lecturer had while looking for certain kinds of information, with examples of what was found and why it helped (or didn't).

An example of a more advanced talk which can still be useful to novices is one called "Church Records: Beyond the BMDs". This looks at the kinds of documents churches generate aside from the baptisms, marriages and burials which we are all familiar with. It is surprising how many there are, and how useful they can be for genealogists. For instance, membership records, which virtually all denominations keep, can be used to discover where people moved when they left that church. It can help to look in them when you have some relatives who have disappeared.

Most conferences now feature talks which discuss on-line genealogical searching and sources. There are so many places to look, and many of them are so mis-represented in their advertising, that genealogists need help in determining which ones to use.

In addition to the lectures, conferences are good opportunities to meet other genealogists. You may find someone who is actually looking at the same families or locales, or merely find a friend to gossip with about your research.

All conferences also feature sales tables of publishers or software producers. You can handle the books you might want to buy to see if they will be useful. You can also chat with knowledgeable vendors about their products.

In all, conferences are a chance to fill your brain with new ideas and enthusiasm for your research.

The Ontario Genealogical Society's annual Seminar is being held in Ottawa this year, on May 12-14. Its theme is immigration: why ancestors decided to migrate, why they chose Canada, and how they moved around once they reached North America.

The speakers include well known names such as Brenda Dougall Merriman, Brian Gilchrist and Bruce Elliott. There are sessions for beginners, including a review of 18 common resources in Ontario which I may attend myself. For more information, look at the Seminar website at, or contact the Seminar committee directly at 613 820-4488, or OGS Seminar 2000, Merivale Postal Outlet, Box 65087, Nepean ON K2G 5Y3; E-Mail:

Another large conference is near to Ontario this year. The Allen County Public Library Foundation in Fort Wayne, Indiana, is sponsoring the Millenium Conference on July 19-22. It will be held at the Grand Wayne Center in Fort Wayne, only two blocks from the second-largest genealogical library in North America at the Allen County library and a mere six-hour drive from KW. The library will be opening extended hours, from 6 a.m. to midnight, during the conference.

More than forty speakers from across the continent will give almost 100 lectures on a wide range of topics. The program has a special emphasis on technology and genealogists, including uses of certain search engines and sites, and research techniques on the internet. Speakers include Cyndi Howells (of Cyndi's List), Matthew Helm (author of Genealogy Online for Dummies) and Brenda Dougall Merriman. There will be online demonstrations of a variety of software packages, including PERSI, the genealogical periodicals index.

For an information package, phone the library at 219 421 1225, write to Millenium Conference, Box 2270, Fort Wayne IN USA 46801 or check their website at

*** EDITOR'S NOTE: will have sales tables at both the OGS Seminar in Ottawa and the conference at Fort Wayne Indiana. For information about other conferences and reunions, check out The Global Gazette's Upcoming Events Listing

Books By Ryan Taylor

Across The Waters, Ontario Immigrants Experiences 1820 - 1850 - by Frances Hoffman & Ryan Taylor, 1999. Riveting first-hand accounts of the immigration and settlement experience, taken from the diaries and letters of 150 immigrants.

Routes To Roots, The Best of Ryan Taylor's columns from the Kitchener Waterloo Record, by Ryan Taylor 1997

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Norway Bay United & Anglican Cemetery
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The Merivale Cemeteries
(Protestant - Ottawa area)