Congress 2015: Catch Ups, Meet Ups, Great Talks and Sore Feet

I was fortunate to be able attend the 14th Australasian Congress on Genealogy and Heraldry recently. I was just of the 500+ avid genealogists who made their way to the National Convention Centre in Canberra to attend this once-every-three-years event.

National Convention Centre, Canberra. Source: personal collection

National Convention Centre, Canberra. Source: personal collection

It was fun. It was tiring. It was exciting to meet so many people that I have met online. And it was fabulous to catch up with others I have met before.

Unlike most of the others (in reality probably all) who’ve been reporting on Congress, I wasn’t there to attend the talks, but rather be there as an exhibitor – helping out on the Gould Genealogy & History, Unlock the Past, Unlock the Past Cruises stands. I arrived in Canberra late Thursday night, which was too late to set up, so that meant an early start on Friday morning … to get in and set up before the exhibition opened at  10am that day.

Surprisingly we did alright, and were pretty much ready to go … and I even had time to pick up my Congress kit and grab a cup of hot chocolate before the morning tea break.

some of my 'stash' of goodies from Congress

some of my ‘stash’ of goodies from Congress
Source: personal collection

Morning tea time was when the exhibition hall first opened to the public, and for exhibitors that was when it got rather crazy. We had a pretty big stand, and the five of us at the stand (Alan, Helen, Rosemary, Eric and myself) we were kept non-stop busy until the next talk was due to start. After a little breather, the same thing happened at lunch break – so it was just as well we ate before the official lunchbreak started.  As for that hot chocolate that I bought prior to it all starting … well … let’s just say it was no longer hot by the end of the day when I got back to it.

our Unlock the Past stand at Congress 2015. Source: Lauren Waters

our Unlock the Past stand at Congress 2015.
Source: Lauren Waters

Throughout the whole Congress it was very much a case of mass-influx of people for the breaks, and mass-exodus of people when the talks were on again – which is to be expected.

The Congress organisers did well with the food (morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea), which was all served in the exhibition hall area, and there were tables and chairs to sit down, though probably not enough for everyone to do so at once.

Anyway during the not-so-busy times, is when exhibitors (myself included) meet up with the other exhibitors. Catching up with those you know from previous events, and meeting others that were there for the first time. It was great to catch up with a number of people I have met before, but hadn’t seen for some time, while also meeting some new people who wee exhibiting for the first time.

I’ve been reading some of Carol Baxter’s books, and wanted to get the others that I hadn’t got yet … so I made it to her stand, and bought a bundle of books that I had to find room for in my suitcase to bring home.

new books to find room for on my bookcase

new books to find room for on my bookcase
Source: personal collection

I briefly caught up with Cassie from Inside History magazine and Irish Wattle, but she was busy (which isn’t surprising). But as I’d just received a “your magazine subscription is about to expire”  notification, I did manage to pop over to her stand and resubscribe … and I even got a discount for doing so at the Conference, which was an added bonus.

Inside History Magazine stand at Congress 2015. Source: personal collection

Inside History Magazine stand at Congress 2015.
Source: personal collection

Vicki, Melissa and Josh were kept busy at the Findmypast stand, explaining to people about the records FMP has, and how to use their website. And as a bonus for attendees they had a special 1 month offer which was popular.

Findmypast at Congress 2015 Source: personal collection

Findmypast at Congress 2015
Source: personal collection

And Ben and Christine from the Ancestry stand were as well.

Ancestry stand at Congress 2015Source: personal collection

Ancestry stand at Congress 2015
Source: personal collection

There were a few new names amongst the exhibitors. Those such as ReplayU, Finders Cafe, Endangered Heritage and Preservation Australia (ok, they’re not new, but I’d not caught up with them before, so it was nice to meet each of them.

As I mentioned I was there to primarily be on the stand, however I did manage to get to a few talks, all of which I found very useful.

– Heraldry and the Genealogist, by Stephen Szabo
– Bankrupts and Insolvents in Mid 19th Century England, by Sue Reid
– Interpreting and Evaluating Name Lists, by David Rencher
– Finding Your Ancestors in the Genealogical Haystack, by Heather Garnsey

All of these were great talks. I found the speakers knowledgeable and very inspiring … now, if I just had some to spend on my own family history …

Monday was a quieter day, people were worn out after 3 sold days of soaking up everything they can . And I was exhausted from being on my feet for three days straight. So while it was sad to see it end, it was also needed.

Anyway  I’d like to thank the Congress 2015 organisers. They did a great job. With the venue, the stands, the meals, the speakers (at least those I know and others I heard about) – and at least from my side of things everything ran smoothly, though I know from experience of being on the organising side, that it never works that way in reality.

The one disappointment for me was that while the exhibition hall closed at 1pm on the Monday, the exhibitors weren’t told what time we’d have to be out, so we assumed we have until Congress was over (ie. around 4pm), so the fact that guys came in to dismantle the booths shortly after 1pm, and we ended up also being kicked out, was incredibly annoying and a bummer of a way to finish Congress.

Anyway I want to leave you with this quote that Heather Garnsey ended her Haystack talk with …

“Absence of evidence
is not
evidence of absence!”

One Response to “Congress 2015: Catch Ups, Meet Ups, Great Talks and Sore Feet”

  1. Fran says:

    Can’t believe how the time has flown since the conference. You had a very popular stand.

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