Family history buffs heading to Utah
By JENNIFER DOBNER
Beginning April 26, thousands of family history enthusiasts are expected to descend on Salt Lake City to hone their skills — or begin their journeys — during a unique week featuring four conferences focused on genealogical research and technology.
Anchored by the 2010 National Genealogical Society's Annual Conference, the week also includes Brigham Young University's annual Conference on Computerized Family History and Genealogy, BYU's Family History Technology Workshop and the FamilySearch Developer's Conference for software developers.
Dozens of workshops will be held daily to provide beginners and experts alike with tips on everything from basic research and organizational skills to locating resources, deciphering records, understanding DNA testing and writing and editing family narratives. Special technology workshops are also planned to aid in understanding and using various genealogy-specific databases and programs.
The week also includes several special events, including a genealogy "kids' camp" for youth in grades 4 through 12 and a Celebration of Family History concert featuring the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and author David McCullough. McCullough's books include biographies of Harry Truman and John Adams.
Recent annual NGS events have drawn about 2,000 people, with early registration for the Salt Lake City conference "exceeding expectations."
The response could be due in part to Salt Lake City's unique resource: The Family History Library of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which has been collecting data since 1894.
The library is a well-known destination for genealogists. Considered the largest genealogy collection in the world, its database contains well over a billion names drawn from thousands of original records, including births, deaths, marriages, census data and patron contributions.
The library also has more than 300,000 volumes of data, including published family histories, county and city directories and transcripts or abstracts of other documents with genealogical significance, said David Rencher, the facility's chief genealogical officer. The records are from the United States, Canada, the British Isles, Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa. A staff of 80 professionals and 600 volunteers are on hand to help individuals with their research.
About 700,000 lovers of family history from around the world visit the library each year, said Paul Nauta, manager of public affairs.
"They just have this yearning to identify their ancestors because it's part of who they are," Nauta said.
Another factor driving interest in the conference may be new TV programs — including PBS' "Faces of America" and NBC's "Who Do You Think You Are?" — that show celebrities discovering their family trees with the help of trained genealogists. Most of the shows have used Family History Library services, Rencher said.
IF YOU GO
Genealogy Week: Four events are scheduled April 26-May 1 at the Salt Palace Convention Center, 100 West Temple, Salt Lake City. Workshops cover all aspects of genealogy research. The exhibit hall includes hundreds of vendors and products.
Registration: Fees vary for each conference and range from $25 for students to $245. Some day rates available. www.ngsgenealogy.org
Salt Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau, 801-534-4900, www.visitsaltlake.com/visit/.