Why I Won’t Be Speaking at FGS 2013


Rejection is never easy, but I’m posting about not being selected to speak at the Federation of Genealogical Societies’ Annual conference in August 2013 in a proactive way since I know I’ll eventually be bombarded with questions from members of the genealogy community in person and on social media channels.

Am I disappointed?  Sure.  Am I devastated? Not in the least.  I could go and sulk or act out publicly and go on a rant, but I’ve taken time to put this into perspective since I was informed of my rejection last night. Earlier in the week I was informed that none of the sponsored lectures I had submitted for clients were accepted.  So I had a sense that many, if not all, of my personal topics might be rejected as well.

I’m Not Entitled To Speak Anywhere. Period.

Some might say that since I am a genealogy speaker of some notoriety, and that I am a board member for FGS, and that Ft. Wayne, Indiana is right in my back yard, that I should “get to” speak at the FGS 2013 conference. Oh how I abhor those two words which are so overused in today’s society.

When I was growing up, it was made very clear to me that I was entitled to nothing in life. Not because of who I was or who my family was. Much of what I encountered in life would be according to my efforts and abilities in combination with luck and providence.  That’s just the way it is and I still believe that.

I consider it an honor when I am selected to speak at an event, whether it is a one hour lecture in front of five people at a genealogy society or at a large conference in front of 1,000 people. I am blessed by the fact that I have presented close to 100 lectures and webinars in 2012 and will probably do the same in 2013 and years to come.

The program committee at FGS 2013 has to make decisions based on the topics and speakers they think are best for their event in order to not only attract the most attendees, but to provide quality genealogy and genealogy society management education.  I look forward to seeing the final list of selections and I know that many of my colleagues will be presenting some great lectures.  I look forward to attending as many of them as I can.  Yes, I’ll be going to FGS 2013.

What I Had Hoped to Present

In case you’re wondering what I submitted to the FGS 2013 program committee, here is the list of topics:

  • 21st Century Marketing for Genealogy Societies
  • Genealogical Uses for QR Codes
  • Introduction to Webinars
  • Staying Safe Using Social Media
  • Tech Initiatives for Genealogy Societies
  • The Genealogy Cloud: Which Online Storage Program
    is Right For You
  • The Homestead Act and Genealogy
  • What Every Genealogist Should Know About Copyright
  • Your Society’s Presence on Facebook

In addition, I submitted these sponsored lectures:

  • Collecting the Fabric of a Life
  • Metadata for Digital Images
  • Pinning Your Family History

The ironic part is that all of the sponsored lectures and several of my personal lectures were accepted at the upcoming Ohio Genealogical Society’s annual conference in Cincinnati, Ohio, April 25-27, 2013.

The Genealogy Conference System Has Its Flaws

This is not sour grapes on my part.  Anyone who has had discussions with me about the genealogy industry and genealogy conferences knows that I’ve been critical of certain aspects of these industry events. Most are run by volunteers and non-profit organizations which have served us well in years past, but as the genealogy business grows, a need for more professional methods and practices may be needed.

  • There is a need for a better notification system.  I was informed by a colleague on Sunday evening that she had been selected to speak at FGS 2013 and asked which lectures I was presenting. I figured that not all the notices had been sent which was confirmed via my email to the Program Chair. Either a system of sending notifications a few at a time was used (which doesn’t make sense given today’s technology) or someone just didn’t want to inform me of my rejection.  Either way, there needs to be a better mousetrap.  Given the amount of work that speakers put into making proposals, there needs to be an efficient way of notifying those who submit lectures and each submitter, including those rejected, should receive a notice at the same time.
  • Genealogy conference program committees are unpredictable. Some would even say “out of touch,” but I’m not sure I would go that far. I’ve attended national conferences where many felt a particular person had no business lecturing, but was able to do so because of some little letters after his or her name.  I also don’t understand why qualified African-American genealogists are blatantly overlooked each year as speakers on the national level. I’d love to see each and every conference, large and small, publish its guidelines as to the selection process including who is on the program committee. Transparency would go a long way in building confidence in the process and ensuring the best possible education for the genealogy community.

I’m Okay With This. Really.

I was honored to receive a personal phone call from a FGS Board member last evening apologizing for my not being selected.  I said there was no need for an apology and that I realize that I can’t get every speaking opportunity.

I always turn rejection into rebound.  This is what my ancestors did and this is what I’ll continue to do. It is part of survival and a key part of my success.

©2012, copyright Thomas MacEntee

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