In the summer of 1992, Elizabeth Shown Mills—one of the most incredible mentors any genealogist could ever hope to have—suggested I join the NGS. I had met Elizabeth at the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research at Samford University. Fortunately, I had the good sense to pay attention. As has always proven to be the case with any of Elizabeth’s suggestions, the NGS has been invaluable. As an NGS member, devoted reader of the NGS Quarterly and the NGS Magazine, and an attendee at NGS conferences, I have learned more about genealogy than I could have anywhere else.
In order to provide family historians education and training, the NGS offers members and the public an incredible annual opportunity, when family historians and genealogists from all over the country converge at the NGS’s annual Family History Conference. For four exciting days each May, genealogists join experts and other practitioners from across the United States and beyond. The typical conference features more than 150 sessions led by the best genealogy speakers with topics designed to help advance family history research.
I am proud of how hard the NGS works to make its conference the genealogical event of the year. Held annually in a different area of the country, the NGS Conference offers lecture tracks and advice on local repositories that highlight the history of the region. At the recent NGS Conference in Raleigh, North Carolina, the program included presentations on southern research, information about North Carolina and neighboring states, and migration into and out of the region. The conference as a whole featured all the current topics that keenly interest genealogists, such as using land records, searching for religious records, solving genealogical problems, citing sources, planning research, writing family stories, using maps and historical context, and incorporating DNA into our analysis.
In addition to a rare educational bargain for genealogists, the NGS Family History Conference offers attendees a chance to share their experiences with more than two thousand family historians and professional genealogists and to build a network of colleagues within the genealogy field. The NGS also sponsors annual research trips led by experts in various specialties to Salt Lake City; Washington, DC; and other major research locations. These guided excursions help make the most of travel time and expenses. While these trips are available to all, NGS members also receive discounts.
One of the first things that drew me to the NGS was its wonderful array of publications, through which our members enjoy continuing education and awareness:
- The quarterly NGS Magazine, which publishes society news; library acquisitions; feature articles on genealogical methods, sources, and repositories; the uses of computers and new technologies in genealogical research; and software reviews.
- NGS Monthly—published digitally and E-mailed to members—offers articles on topics such as methodology, sources, research, and techniques for genealogists. It also provides press releases and timely information about the NGS conference and other activities.
- The National Genealogical Society Quarterly is the organization’s scholarly publication. Peer-reviewed by credentialed genealogists, the articles cover all regions of the United States and all ethnic groups, including compiled genealogies, case studies, and essays on new methodology and little-known sources. It also publishes critical reviews of important books in the field.
The NGS also offers a variety of cloud-based courses for members to continue improving genealogical knowledge and skills. You may start your family history quest or brush up on genealogy techniques by completing Family History Skills, an online self-paced, self-graded course that is free to NGS members. Consider this course a natural complement to the NGS’s new book, Paths to Your Past: A Guide to Finding Your Ancestors. When you have delved deeper into your family history research, you may want to consider other self-paced NGS educational courses, which offer in-depth learning for the intermediate to advanced family researcher.
The NGS also publishes the Research in the States series and the Special Topics series, which include workbooks that have become standards of the industry: Mastering Genealogical Proof, Genealogy and the Law, Genetic Genealogy in Practice, and Mastering Genealogical Documentation. Of course, NGS members receive discounts on NGS books.
I encourage my fellow Alabama genealogists to join the National Genealogical Society. It will enrich the work you are doing personally, locally, and regionally. The NGS website, ngsgenealogy.org, describes the society’s programs and services in detail.
The 2020 Family History Conference will be held in May 2020 in Salt Lake City, Utah. I hope to see our Alabama genealogists there in force.
Ben Spratling is the president of the National Genealogical Society. He holds a BS from Auburn University, a JD from Vanderbilt University Law School, and an LL.M (Taxation) from the University of Alabama School of Law.