Genealogy conferences are very different from other conferences. At other conferences, most based on affinity groups, the common interest, professional or hobbies is what brings people together. Although that common interest is certainly an attraction at genealogy conferences, the connections between people literally go deeper.
Yesterday, at the IAJGS conference in Jerusalem, amidst all the wonderful discussions about methodologies, techniques, tools and resources, there was another thread that was consistent.
This other conversation was about familial connections and finding relatives among the conference attendees. Sure, at other conferences there might be conversations among attendees seeing who knows whom in the city in which you live. This though is very different. The conversation is extremely personal – it generally begins with the question “where is your family from” and progresses very quickly to comparing surnames to see if there is a family connection in that town.
Some attendees come to the conference knowing that there is going to be someone in attendance with whom you have already established a familial connection, but who you may never have met before. At one earlier IAJGS conference in France, I finally met a cousin with whom I had been corresponding for years, without ever meeting in the U.S. At the IAJGS conference in Boston a year later, I was able to meet two other cousins.
There is a strange tie between people with whom you share a common ancestor. Having a place, the conference, where the chance of meeting a previously unidentified relative or one with whom you have been in contact but never met, gives the conference an undercurrent of excitement.
I feel very privileged to be the next IAJGS conference lead co-chair. That conference will be in Seattle, Washington August 7-12, 2016. Hope to see you there.