Last weekend (October 12-13) I had the honor of attending the Afro American Historical and Genealogical Society 39th annual conference in King Prussia, PA just outside of Philadelphia. The conference actually started on Thursday, but I was only able to attend Friday and Saturday. Since I have only been a member of this organization since February of this year, I didn’t really know what to expect. I reviewed the agenda online after I registered and was happy with the sessions that would be available for me to choose from. I registered for the conference in July and it’s hard to believe that I have been and am back home now. To say I had a great time would not do my experience justice.
Thursday was a travel day for me, and I arrived in Philadelphia airport around 1130pm and to the actual conference hotel just after 1am – to say traffic was horrible would be an understatement. Slowly but surely I had made it to the conference hotel and once I started seeing some of the conference signs after checking in, I really started getting excited. When I got to my room and got settled, I reviewed the agenda for the next day and saw that registration was at 8am and the general session started at 9am. I had good intentions Friday morning of getting up and being downstairs at 8am, but that isn’t what actually happened.
I made it to the general session around 845am to an already packed room. But I was able to find a seat in the back to listen to the presenter, Dr. Allison Dorsey. After the general session was over at 1015am the workshops started at 1030am, so that gave me 10 minutes to find the registration table so I could get registered. Luckily the workshop sessions and registration were in close proximity to each other and I already knew which workshop I wanted to attend, so I was able to get my badge and information and make it to my first workshop, Let’s Get Organized presented by Joyce Mosley, in plenty of time. So much time, in fact, I was able to find a good seat. Next, there was an author’s luncheon for the winners of the International AAGHS book awards at 1145am. After the luncheon, I was talking to some of the people at my table and lost track of time so I missed the 130pm workshops. But I got back on track and attended Help Me to Find my People: The African American Search for Family Lost in Slavery presented by Dr. Heather Williams at 245pm and the 4pm workshop, Using Courthouse Records to Uncover the Lives of Slaves presented by Robin N. Smith. Friday evening was dinner at 7pm with a presentation on Slavery and the Black Laws of Northern States by Judy G. Russell.
I was able to stop by the Sons and Daughters of the US Middle Passage lineage society’s booth during the time of the 130pm workshop that I missed. My missing that workshop turned out to be a blessing because had I gone by the booth in between sessions there probably would have been a lot of people around. I was super excited to visit this booth for two reasons – 1) I love this organization and the work that they do in honoring our enslaved ancestors and 2) I am a member of this organization. I was able to meet the founder and president Dr. Evelyn McDowell, and she actually recognized my name from my application. I was so excited that she knew me. We were able to talk for a few minutes about my research and some exciting things that are happening within the organization. That time I was able to spend with Dr. McDowell was a very special moment for me.
Also on Friday, I was able to meet one of my own blog subscribers. She walked up to me and said ‘You’re Trisha and you have a blog, right’. I was completely blown away that someone would recognize me. It turned out that she not only reads my blog, she contacted me earlier this year about some information on the high school that my parents attended, Branch High School. And we had communicated through email as well. We were able to spend some time together and talk about our research and some of our goals. We exchanged information so we can keep in contact. But I was so excited about everything that I forgot to take a picture of us together.
I’m an introvert by nature, but I told myself before I arrived that I needed to get out of my comfort zone and talk to people and really network if I wanted to get the most out of this conference. And that’s what I did. I talked to the people that I sat next to in workshops and at lunch/dinner. I introduced myself to the presenters after their workshops, and I even handed out a few of my cards with my blog and website information on it. Friday was a long day, but I had so much fun and learned so much that I didn’t really even feel tired. I got back to the hotel room sometime after 10pm and reviewed the schedule for Saturday with more good intentions of getting up and being on time for the first general session at 9am.
It was so exciting to be around other family historians that know the joy and struggle of researching African Americans. The people I got to meet and be around love talking about genealogy and their research as much as I do. I love that this society is about genealogy research and history. I learned so much about our country’s history and my own research. And this is how my journey will continue…
To read my day 2 recap of the 2018 AAHGS Conference click HERE
To read more about my membership in the Afro American Historical and Genealogical Society click HERE
To read about my membership in the Sons and Daughters of the US Middle Passage – Click HERE