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Getting the most out of this conference:
Suggestions for first-timers


The writers of this document have attended many IAJGS conferences. Along the way they've come across some effective strategies for getting the most out of a relatively few days of intensive session-going, networking and research-gathering. In fact, they've found that the more you prepare, and the more family history information you bring ready to use, the more efficient will be your conference experience!

Granted, the IAJGS Conference may be a little overwhelming for first-timers. With that in mind, the writers offer some "conference attendance rules of thumb" so that you, the reader, can get the most out of your time here – and particularly in the Nation's Capital – before, during and after the conference.


Visit the Internet site for DC2011 at http://www.dc2011.org/, to get familiar with its features, in particular: the conference program, which will be posted in about May and periodically updated as the time draws closer, and the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) pages, which are likely to address most of your concerns about travel, registration, lodging and restaurants.

Register on line, in advance, as soon as possible to attend the conference: there is a discount for doing so. Discounts also apply to a spouse or other companion (someone who lives in the same residence) who might like to attend some part of the conference, such as the Gala or the Film Festival. The schedule of sessions, luncheons, tours, films, classes and workshops, will be posted in late Spring. We'll notify you by email so you can return to your on-line registration record and sign up for the ones that appeal to you and meet your research needs. (Even then, if you're unsure of what you prefer, you can return to the site later and update your registration.)

airportsmap2Think about how you'll come here if you don't live close to Washington. Look for travel discounts on airline fares. Three airports serve this area: Reagan National, Dulles International, and Baltimore-Washington Thurgood Marshall International (BWI). BWI is outside Baltimore, and the other two are in Virginia. Reagan National is the closest to the city and has a station on a Metrorail route to the conference hotel. Some travel tips appear on our Traveling to D.C. page. Click the map at left for a larger, interactive version.

The 31st IAJGS Conference will be ADA compliant. If you have special needs, associated with a disability, you should contact the conference hosts by May 1 at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it to make your request for accommodation. Be specific. You will receive a prompt acknowledgment of your request followed by a statement regarding the accommodation. The Grand Hyatt Washington is ADA compliant. A limited number of guest rooms (22) at the hotel are specially designed, so please make your reservations early, so that you get one of these rooms if you need it. This should be done by making a reservation on our hotel reservation page and following up with a phone call directly to the hotel at (202) 624-8054 to specify that handicapped accommodations are required. The conference area has an accessible elevator, and all rooms will be set up in accordance with ADA specifications. While resources are limited, we will endeavor to make reasonable accommodations.

Finding a roommate will help save some money, if you're open to a chance to make a friend who might even have similar research interests. When you register you can ask for help in finding a roommate. We will try to match up the requests and put people in contact, but it's up to the individuals to make hotel arrangements.

Make a list of your family history "research goals" – What towns, surnames and actual people do you want to know about? What specific info do you want to gain about them? For example, this could include dates of birth, marriage, death; what towns they were from; or trying to reconcile differences between data from one vital record and information from another source. Bring a full version of your research goals list with you.

Bring along COPIES (not originals) of data sources – of family trees, relatives' addresses and key documents (including those needing translation). Print out descendant charts, and a list of surnames and dates. Bring that information to the conference EACH day, in an "easy for YOU to refer to it" format, and to share with others. You also might bring along copies of documents for conference translators to deal with (remember to schedule appointments early in the conference with such experts).

Bring photos. Some attendees post mystery photos on the bulletin board in a heavily traveled area, asking if anyone recognizes the individuals shown in the photos. Here too, remember to bring copies, not originals!

Locate Washington-area records facilities from these sources:

  • The Washington-area research pages on the DC2011 Internet site. Turn to that for street addresses, phone numbers and Web sites of the numerous records facilities in the District of Columbia, Virginia, Maryland and, separately, Baltimore.
  • When registering, arrange to purchase a comprehensive, spiral-bound for easy use description of virtually all D.C. area records facilities, called "Capital Collections: Resources for Jewish Genealogical Research in the Washington, DC Area." Now in its fifth, 30th anniversary of JGS of Greater Washington (JGSGW) edition, it is "the bible" for detailed information about the resources, phone numbers, Web sites, hours, locations and security regulations at D.C. area records facilities. (One way to find your way to these facilities is to check with the conference Hospitality Desk for travel directions.)

Planning to stay at the conference hotel, the Grand Hyatt Washington? Please keep in mind that as you prepare to gather research on line, note that only hotel guests who have purchased Internet service will have access to wireless Internet service in the hotel's public spaces outside the conference area. The conference will have "hot spots" in the conference lobby area, as well as a Cyber Café for retrieving email.

Review the conference program when it is posted on the DC2011 site and the agenda on the registration pages. Create a list of the most useful, "must attend" events, and take advantage of the personal agenda builder in the registration pages. If you're already registered, just go back to your registration record and step through the process until you see the newly posted lists of scheduled events. Check off the ones you may want to attend, and print out your own personal agenda.

Another useful device is the printed Daily Planner included in the package of materials you will get when you check in at the conference. It will list, day by day, all of the lectures, films, workshops and other events. Compare it with the agenda you built on line or by hand, in case any of the sessions have changed times or locations. Use a highlighter to designate your choices.

In creating your personal list, please consider attending some of these features:

  • Special Interest Group (SIG) and Birds of a Feather (BOF) breakfasts or lunches (you must pre-register for them), both excellent places for meeting people with similar research interests. Look for lectures and events that are designated as part of a track of sessions on regions, towns or surnames you're researching
  • The Vendors' Showcase, an interesting place to browse for genealogy- and Jewish-related items for gifts and personal use,
  • Lectures and sessions on topics that "matter" to you (including any sessions dealing with ways to bypass hurdles; the latter usually are very focused, practical sessions) Reviewing the speakers' biographies may help you decide.
  • Classes and workshops. It's best to register in advance because attendance is limited. (Also, planners and instructors can better prepare when they know in advance who's coming.)
  • Tours to local attractions, records facilities, or local cemeteries (such tours are available for spouses and companions too)
  • Keynote or especially invited speaker addresses.
  • "Breakfasts with the Experts" (especially if you have anything so insurmountable in your research that you'd like to discuss it with such experts).
  • The Conference Gala on Thursday evening, where social networking reaches its heights among new friends and old with delicious fare of your choosing. The program will enlighten you with the presentation of the annual IAJGS awards and the musical entertainment will enrich you and lighten the milieu.
  • Or catch the many films with genealogy or Judaic themes in the Film Festival running through the days of the conference.

The Syllabus contains handouts for each lecture. A CD containing the complete Syllabus will be in the package you will receive on checking in. When you register in advance, you may order a printed copy that you will pick up at the conference. No printed copies will be distributed before the conference, and no extras will be available for sale at the conference. Your on-line order must be made and paid for by June 30.

Consider buying the audio recordings, which are sold during the Conference ad delivered in CD format or on a thumb drive. Knowing you will have sessions in that format may reduce your decision level when two or more of interest are scheduled at the same time. Having the set of recorded sessions means that you can listen to those you missed, after you return home.

Bring some key documents with you:

  • Photo ID.
  • Printout of your conference registration confirmation. It will contain your confirmation code, which will let you go through Express Check-in, so long as you don't need to change or add any fee items. If you need to make changes, having your confirmation code will save some time. Either way, you must present your photo ID.
  • Copy of your hotel reservation confirmation.
  • List of your medications.
  • List of physicians with their phone numbers.
  • List of emergency contacts.

Suggested supplies, useful at the conference and at research facilities you may visit:

— A small pad to jot down names and email addresses, and a full-sized pad for detailed lecture and research notes
— Graph paper for easily laying out family trees.
— Pencils, pens, erasers, and highlighter to mark up photocopies that you plan to keep.
— A straight-edge ruler
— Cell phone charger and any other electronic charger you will need.
— A reasonably good magnifying glass if you have trouble reading small or unclear writing on documents
— A flash drive, to store essential files for easy look-up or to record new information.
— A portable computer mouse, if you need one to work effectively. All computers provided by the conference will have touch-pad cursor controls and a wired mouse. You may plug in your own USB wireless mouse while working and remove it when you leave the computer.

Bring personal or business cards to hand out, for exchanging information and keeping in touch with new contacts. (Some personalized cards will be given to you as part of your registration packet, but why take chances?) Make sure the cards you create include your preferred e-mail address. If you don't have business cards, then make up 3x5 or 4x6 filing cards, with your preprinted contact info (including towns and surnames you're researching), to easily give to others. Bring more cards than you think you'll need!

Dress comfortably, perhaps in layers, and consider the weather. Conference rooms and hotel areas vary in temperature. Wear comfortable walking shoes as days are long and you will be on your feet much of the time. Dress informally, with perhaps one nice outfit if you will be attending the Conference Gala. The summer weather in Washington, D.C., can be intense, and may include periods of rain. Get a 10-day forecast for Washington, by going on the Internet to http://www.weather.com/weather/tenday/USDC0001. Bring along sunglasses, a summer hat, and sunscreen lotion.


After picking up your materials at the conference check-in desk, look for these major components:

  • The Daily Planner: Does it match the notes you've made, or the personal agenda you created on the Registration pages? Room locations, perhaps unavailable on line, now are in the Daily Planner changed, and flag those for your convenience.
  • The Last Minute Changes listing: Have any sessions or conference features that "mattered" to you been canceled, their locations moved or their times changed? Even moved to another day? (!)
  • Become familiar with the conference hotel layout and study the map in the Daily Planner. Knowing where things are (or periodically asking volunteers for assistance) may save you countless footsteps, as you race for a session! The Hospitality Desk also will have brochures and fact sheets about local attractions, neighborhoods and restaurants. The staff will be all too willing to answer questions about those settings, transportation needed, etc.
  • Study the "Family Finder," which lists everyone who has registered by June 30. The Finder is organized in several ways: by surnames and by towns being researched, for example. Decide on the approach easiest for you.
  • You'll receive a name badge holder and a printed badge showing name, where you live, up to five family names and ancestral locations that you provided when registering. Please wear your badge whenever you are in the conference area, so that security personnel around the hotel will know you are registered. In addition symbols printed on the reverse side of the badge show the classes/workshops and meals you have paid for, including the Thursday Conference Gala. Monitors at entranceways to paid events will be looking for the appropriate codes. Again, please wear the badge/badge holder at all times at the conference.

Even if you're a veteran of many IAJGS Conferences, introduce yourself to others, and ask what towns, surnames, or geographic areas they're researching. In other words, always "network, network, network."

Check the posted notices for the latest updates and schedule changes.

When gathering information and whenever possible, photocopy the document or pages you consider useful. More insights may come when studying it the second time, during one of the conference evenings or at home after the conference. Don't write down just an abstract of the information: that takes more time, and you might leave out something possibly useful later in your research. Do make notes on the source, such as: the title of the book it's from, its year of publication and publisher, authors, its microfilm reel number, document number, page number, or the records repository it came from. This certainly can help, should you need to return to the full data source, or need to cite this information in a family history or tree. You may need to reconcile conflicting information from various sources. A photocopy machine is available in the Resource Center.

When attending sessions, don't be afraid to ask questions that help fill in some information you're seeking. Because of your question, you could learn something you didn't know. There's also a chance that now that you've identified yourself (by asking the question), someone could come up to you after the session to help you learn more about that topic. Make sure that you state your questions and comments from the centrally located microphone, so that everyone can hear you.

Some other pointers when attending sessions:

— Leave seats in the very front of the room for those attendees with special needs.
— Avoid the temptation to save a seat next to you, just to give yourself more room.
— If you use a rolling book carrier for your belongings, or use a walker or other walking aid, put them aside or out of the aisle so that others can walk safely.
— The ever-popular, "Turn off your cell phones, beepers and similar devices" in consideration of the session speakers and those around you.

Don't pass up the Resource Center, where a great many genealogy materials and databases have been especially gathered for conference attendees' use. The Resource Center also will provide access to free use of genealogy databases that generally would require subscription fees to use, such as ProQuest and Ancestry.com. This also will give you a chance to see the scope of that information, and evaluate whether a future subscription to those databases would pay off for you. A collection of books and maps also will be available for you to use. In addition to a notepad, make sure that you bring your ID and some change for photocopies.

Stop by the Vendor Showcase, where it's likely that a book you've heard about but never seen is on display, perhaps for sale at a conference discount.

Review each day's accomplishments every night. What new information did you gather? Turn to the research objectives list you've brought along: see if some loopholes warrant a further visit to the Resource Room, going back to the same Web site on the conference computers, or tracking down the same lead for clearer or added information. Keep trying to close up your loopholes.


Follow up on all the new information you've gathered. Contact any fellow researchers (by e-mail, postal mail or phone) who attended the conference and you weren't quite able to reach. Pick up contact information from the Family Finder. Contact anyone who exchanged cards with you. Follow up on some of the Internet sites or other data sources that you learned about during the conference. Review documents to see if something remains outstanding, and try to get it. Enter any new information into your ongoing data files, folders and family trees. Check to see if the new information is consistent with what you already have.


BE PATIENT!! To paraphrase a line in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem "The Student's Tale," All good things come to those who wait. Some information that you first doubted was useful may become valuable, as other/new facts come along. Don't despair. When in doubt, it's easier to gather the information right then and there at the conference (rather than passing it up). Sooner or later, it may help you clear a "brick wall" in your family research!


Enjoy the Conference! Be sure to bring your good humor (last-minute program changes or technical glitches do occur, beyond what the conference co-chairs anticipated!), your sense of adventure, and your inquisitive mind!

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