April 25, 2020
Sadly, last week Larimer County Genealogical Society cancelled their 2020 Conference for a Cause. Although the conference wasn’t scheduled until late September, the conference committee felt that there is just too much uncertainty about the future to proceed. We felt that in light of travel issues for our speaker, the location of our conference (a hospital conference room) and the fact that many of our attendees are older and thus at higher risk, the responsible course was to cancel for this year and focus on 2021. Planning is already underway for that event, and, hopefully, things will have returned to some sort of normalcy by then.
It was a tough decision, but we are not the only ones to have to make similar decisions. Nearly every day now, I receive an email notifying me that this conference or that is cancelled or has changed to be all virtual. So far, I know that seminars and conferences large and small all over the country have cancelled or changed to virtual only, including the Colorado Genealogical Society’s daylong seminar with Angie Bush in Denver, the NGS Family History Conference in Salt Lake City, the Institute of Genealogical and Historical Research in Athens, Georgia and probably many more that I haven’t heard of yet.
Right now I’m waiting anxiously to see what the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh is going to do about their July weeklong institute for which I’m registered. While I very much want to attend the course I’ve signed up for: New Jersey Research, I’m also aware that things will most likely not be back to any kind of normal by July. That means even if the institute goes forward, I may not feel comfortable flying across the country (if my flights are even still running) and staying in a dorm setting for a week. If the organizers decide to go virtual, I will have another decision to make since I happen to be one of those folks whose internet connection is not great. At times I can stream successfully; at others the speed nearly slows to zero. I will need to decide if trying to attend lectures will be worth the almost certain frustration that it will cause me. While I appreciate the availability of virtual conferences (they’re certainly a lot better than nothing) I find virtual conferences much less satisfying than up close and in person ones, and that is especially true for small group in-depth settings such as the genealogical institutes. Genealogy tends to be a solitary experience most of the time, just you and your computer, so conferences and seminars and meetings are a great chance to connect with real flesh and blood people and hear about their successes and failures in real life.
I know that these concerns about genealogy conferences and my inability to attend them is petty during this time of crisis. Some people are facing illness and death, not to mention the loss of their livelihoods and homes. If the worst thing that happens to me is that I have to lose a few hundred dollars and miss the opportunity to spend a week concentrating on nothing but genealogy, I’ll be very lucky and deeply blessed. Knowing that doesn’t mean that I’m not grieving the loss of all of those conferences and seminars I’d planned to attend this year. I know that there’s always next year, and, God willing, I’ll be able to attend some of them then. I hope that missing a few genealogy seminars this year is the worst thing that this crisis brings to all of you, too.
Researcher/Director at Large
P.S. Just as I was getting ready to post this yesterday, I received an email telling me that the GRIP institute in Pittsburgh is now going to be virtual. That caused a flurry of trying to figure out what I want to do. Since I have until the 10th of May to decide whether I want to attend virtually or get the majority of my money refunded (why it’s not ALL of it is another story), I haven’t made a final decision yet. There are pros and cons to attending virtually, and I’ll be thinking seriously about them this week.