I’m on the road again. Up in Manchester, New Hampshire, for the twelfth New England Regional Genealogical Conference (NERGC). The conference regularly attracts hundreds of attendees. There are many reasons that this is one of the well-liked large conferences in the country.
NERGC was started more than twenty years ago. The six New England states are a very compact territory compared to other areas of the country. But even within this area, New Englanders tend to have a very localized mentality. I was born in Rhode Island, the smallest state in the Union. There is a mentality there among many that if you have to drive for two hours, it should be a weekend trip.
In addition to the statewide societies, there are many small organizations throughout the region. These small groups with tiny budgets do not have the resources to put together large events. The thought was that if they banded together, they would be able to bring in national-level, high-quality speakers to the region.
The first NERGC was held April 25 and 26, 1992 in Sturbridge, Massachusetts. The next was held in 1994 in Manchester, New Hampshire. One of the tenets of the group was that the conference would move around with each state taking a turn hosting the conference. This worked well for awhile, but the conference has now grown so large that there are no facilities in Vermont large enough to accommodate it.
I have attended every conference since the third in Burlington, Vermont, in 1995. For awhile I had the pleasure of serving on the planning committee. It definitely has a different vibe and feeling than other similarly-sized events. And, conference after conference, it is increasingly successful.
I have lost track of the number of doomsayers over the last few years prophesying the “end of the conference as we know it.” Frankly, I’ve been listening to such talk for well over decade. Yet attendance at NERGC continues to grow. Attendance at the last conference in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 2011, grew 14% over the previous one. And the totals for this year’s conference are already higher than Springfield, with two more days of walk-ins to be added.
One of the major reasons for the success of the conference is the teamwork. There is no doubt that it can be challenging sometimes to organize things with dozens of organizations involved. However, so many groups having a vested interest in the success of the program makes a major difference. And the program is very carried and interesting, with topics and speakers not often heard elsewhere.
Attendees come from all over the country for this fantastic opportunity. If you have New England roots, you should consider attending the 2015 conference. It will be held in April 2015 in Providence, Rhode Island. I will definitely be there.