Vendors, Software & Booths, Oh My! The Exhibit Hall at the National Genealogical Society Conference

I could go on and on about the great speakers and lectures I had the opportunity to hear, but the exhibit hall was something to behold.  Participants walked among vendors who discussed with them all things genealogy:  memberships, societies, website help and demonstrations.  I had the opportunity to use findmypast, a site that contains world records dating back to 1200.  After I did some searching, I was able to find my great great great grandparents, William Stewart and Agnes Simpson in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1861.  William's occupation is listed as "Pattern Book Maker Journeyman," which means he was a qualified tradesman who served an apprenticeship and worked as a mold maker for iron products.  Agnes is listed as a strawhat dressmaker.  I cannot wait to delve into findmypast even more.

While in the exhibit hall, I also visited,, and, all of which gave me an tutorial and guidance in the hope of finding more information and answers to lingering questions.  I also had a great discussion with the North Carolina Genealogical Society about periodicals in western North Carolina and other resources from that region.

Definitely make more than one trip to the exhibit hall if you're at the conference.  You'll definitely walk away with more knowledge and experience.

National Genealogical Society 2014 Conference in Richmond, VA

St. Thomas.  North Carolina.  California.  And now Richmond, VA.

In the past few months, I've done more traveling than since the time before I had children.  And while tiring--it's been awesome.

On Tuesday, I'm leaving to spend four days at the National Genealogical Society Conference in Richmond, VA.  And I can't wait.  I've never been to a genealogy/family history conference, and next week I'll be around so many genealogists and family historians.  And go to lectures.  And attend a Family Search blogger dinner.  And talk with other people who love to do exactly what I love.

It's like I've just entered Willy Wonka's chocolate factory.

I just renewed my membership for another year to the National Genealogical Society.  I haven't even begun to scratch the surface of all the wonderful things they offer.  Not only do they offer the conference, but they also offer online educational courses, periodicals, and discounts on other memberships like Fold3.

I get the privilege of being an official blogger at the conference this year.  And I'll be writing articles throughout my stay.  The speakers are top notch, and I hope I can absorb all the wonderful information that will be shared. 

So off I go.  And I will share with you the wealth of what is to come.

Discovering the Undiscovered - Getting Started with Your Family Tree

The initial start to finding your roots begins with you.  Most likely, you know your own birthdate.  You probably know your parents birthdates and places of birth.  Take that as the leaping pad into your journey. 

I started with  Yes, I pay for it.  But they also offer a free two-week trial.  For me, the fee is incredibly worth it.  Second Snack gives a great review of his experience.  I find the site incredibly user friendly, and from what I can tell, adds more and more resources all the time.  Also, when you type in a name of an ancestor, these little leaves start to appear next to the person's name.  For me, these little hints cause an almost addictive kind of thrill where you have to keep searching and searching until you find out more and more answers (and more and more questions.)  Be prepared to be in front of the computer for a long time; the first time I researched, I stayed in the same chair for five hours without moving. 

Family Search is another site I recommend.  And it's free! You can begin searching for your ancestors on their search page found here.  On thing I really like about Family Search is you can begin your journey by narrowing down your search by country and then by state.  (You can find this as you scroll down on their main search page.)  I found a lot about my grandmother's family in Tennessee by searching on the state's marriage records.

Many people have misconceptions about starting their family tree because they either don't know where to start, or they feel they already know a lot.  Jessie McKinley wrote a great article for Family Share about the misconceptions that can come with researching.  Even if you think your great aunt already researched everything you need to know, I guarantee you technological advances have given you even more gems and more avenues of research.

Merlin...probably not your ancestor.

Merlin...probably not your ancestor.

One thing to beware of while you're searching, especially on  those little leaf hints can link to family trees already established on the site.  Not all of the information on these family trees has been verified.  It can be incredibly addictive and exciting to take your tree back further and further, but all this information must be verified through records and other established sources.  I have a friend who was tracing her tree through another member's tree that claimed (highly unlikely) that Merlin was her ancestor.  So just be cautious.  Even if Merlin isn't your ancestor, you will find amazing, life changing things.