I started to get very active in genealogy and the genealogical community in 2006. I was actively following the APG (Association of Professional Genealogists) list and absorbing everything from uber genealogists such as Elizabeth Shown Mills. It must have been on that list that I learned about the New England Regional Genealogical Conference (NERGC).
While I was actively engaged in writing on the APG list I still wasn't coming face to face with other genealogists. In February 2007 I attended my first APG meeting. There I met Melinde Lutz Sanborn who ran the meeting and Polly Kimmitt, who was also a first time attendee.
Between the APG list and the APG meeting I really felt that I needed to attend NERGC so that I could, first and foremost, learn from the sessions and secondly to meet other genealogists.
The conference in April 2007 was held in Hartford, CT which was a big help. I had grown up near Hartford and my Dad still lived in a nearby town. I could stay with him, save some money and have my big adventure.
I was nervous because I didn't know anyone except the few people that I had briefly met at the APG meeting a few months earlier. But my desire to attend was greater than my fear of not knowing anyone.
There were some great highlights of the conference for me. The best perhaps was attending the sessions and speaking with Hank Z. Jones, the Palatine expert. I have a Palatine ancestor and had spent hours intimately pouring over his books. He was a wonderful speaker and very accommodating when I approached him.
Another highlight was hearing Sandy Clunies. She was a terrific speaker, entertaining, engaging and knowledgeable. I also went to see a talk by Diane Rapaport who spoke about her book The Naked Quaker. I was captivated by that talk as well.
I think I went to every talk by Megan Smolenyak and Colleen Fitzpatrick. I approached Megan in the Exhibitor's Hall and spoke with her briefly. I was petrified at the time. But I really wanted to tell her about this crazy research idea about the Edwards family owning Manhattan. I'm not so scared to talk to Megan now but I am still trying to sell her on the Edwards family!
I remember seeing Melinde Sanborn in the Exhibitor hall as well. I caught her at a moment when she wasn't talking with anyone else. I don't remember what we talked about. I just remember wanting to meet her again and let her know how interested I was in genealogy and how happy I was that I attended the APG meeting. Melinde has this incredible way of engaging people in conversation, identifying their potential and then forcing them, with the softest words, to be their absolute best. Not all at that one moment of course, but over time. I remember she made me feel so welcome.
During the course of the conference I randomly passed a man in the hallway named George Silver. I stopped him and asked him if he was one of the Silvers from Kincardine, Scotland. We compared notes and indeed he was. I had found my first cousin. Besides being a distant cousin, George happens to be one of the most delightful people you could talk to. I was so happy to see him again at NERGC 2009 and fully expect to see him in 2011 as well.
By the end of NERGC 2007 I found myself wandering over to Melinde and offering to volunteer to help with NERGC 2009. Yes, I admit, after my first conference experience I wanted to get involved.
Did NERGC 2007 change my life? Absolutely! It may not change yours quite as much as it changed mine but I'm sure you will have no regrets if you decide to make this your first experience at a genealogy conference.