Discover Paths to Your Past

Join thousands of family historians and genealogists in Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2–5 May 2018, for the National Genealogical Society’s 40th Annual Family History Conference. Choose from more than 175 lectures and special programs. Topics range from local, state, regional, and general genealogy to broader topics on genetic genealogy, technology, records and repositories, ethnic, religious, military research, and much more. The conference program also offers you the chance to enhance your research techniques, and fine-tune your analysis and problem-solving skills.

Participate in the Consummate Genealogical Networking and Learning Environment. The conference provides a great opportunity to share your success stories and discuss road-blocks with fellow family history researchers. Sign-up for social and pre-conference events. Explore the latest products, online resources, books, and courses at exhibitors’ booths. Learn about NGS online courses and publications. Access all information about the conference at Spread the news about the conference to friends, family, and colleagues.


Discounted, early-bird conference registration runs from 1 December 2017 through 20 March 2018. Fill out the registration form on page fifteen or register online at Attendees may also register for tours, meals, and special events until 20 April 2018 (or until events are fully booked). Space is limited for all social events, so register early.

Online registration ends on 20 April 2018. Registration sent by USPS must be postmarked by 20 April 2018. On-site conference registration opens Tuesday, 1 May 2018, noon to 7:00 p.m.

NGS offers a refund, minus a $50 service fee, until 20 April 2018. No refunds after 20 April 2018.

Attendee Check-in Hours

Tuesday 12:00 p.m.–7:00 p.m.
Wednesday 7:00 a.m.–3:30 p.m.
Thursday 7:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m.
Friday 7:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m.
Saturday 7:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m.


DeVos Place, located at 303 Monroe Avenue NW, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49503, will host most conference events that are conveniently located around the Grand Gallery.

Parking: Public parking at DeVos Place is currently $12 per day.

Wi-Fi: The convention center has numerous Wi-Fi hot spots. All conference hotels offer free Wi-Fi in each guest room.


The historical Amway Grand Plaza, 187 Monroe Avenue NW, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49503, is adjacent to DeVos Place and connected by an enclosed walkway.

The Courtyard Marriott, 11 Monroe Avenue NW, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49503, is connected to DeVos Place by an enclosed walkway through three city blocks.

Both conference hotels have the daily room rate of $144 plus all applicable fees and taxes for single, double, triple, or quad occupancy. For details about hotel amenities, parking,  and cancellation policies, see The back of this registration brochure shows the location of all the conference venues.


By Air: Grand Rapids International Airport (GRR) has six airlines (American, Delta, United, Southwest, Allegiant, and Frontier) making 120 non-stop flights daily to twenty-
four cities. See

For information about parking, taxi and car service, and access to Grand Rapids by train, see


Subscribe to the NGS conference blog and receive updates at The conference blog will provide the latest information about conference events, speakers, exhibitors, research facilities in Michigan, and things to do in and around Grand Rapids.

Conference Events, Wednesday–Saturday, 2–5 May 2018


How the Erie Canal Transformed the Midwest
Wednesday, 8:00 a.m. W101

Be sure to attend the conference’s opening session and hear its keynote address, “Coming Along the Towpath: The Erie Canal and the Peopling of the Great Lakes States.” Well-known speaker, John Philip Colletta, PhD, FUGA, will explore the building of the Erie Canal—an “impossible” engineering feat (1817–1825)—and the myriad ways our ancestors may have worked for, on, or along the “Artificial River.” Learn how the canal delivered Yankee ancestors from New England, New York settlers, and emigrants arriving from overseas to populate the Midwest and change the economy of the United States.


Wednesday, 5:00 p.m.–8:00 p.m. W170
Center Concourse, Amway Grand Plaza Hotel

Society Night is a great opportunity to meet representatives of state and local genealogical and historical societies from Michigan and nearby states and discover new research resources and publications. Volunteers will be delighted to answer questions about their membership opportunities. This event is free and open to the public.


Thursday, 6:00 p.m.–8:30 p.m. T270, $25
Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum

Visit the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, 303 Pearl Street NW, by using the pedestrian bridge between the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel and DeVos Place to cross the Grand River.
View the galleries and enjoy dessert and coffee with fellow genealogists while listening to the Schubert Male Chorus. For more details see


Famous Storms and Shipwrecks Of The Great Lakes

Friday, 6:00 p.m. Reception (Cash Bar); 7:00 p.m. Banquet F370, $45
Ambassador Ballroom, Amway Grand Plaza Hotel

Ric Mixter will entertain us with stories and videos of his shipwreck discovery experiences in “The Great Storms of the Great Lakes.” Mixter—a shipwreck researcher, diver, and photographer—has explored more than 100 shipwrecks including the Edmund Fitzgerald. He has produced many programs for PBS and the Outdoor Channel and appeared as a shipwreck expert on the History and Discovery channels.


Saturday, 5:15 p.m., S470

Meet the NGS officers and board of directors and hear updates on courses, publications, and more from NGS president, Ben Spratling, JD.

BCG Skillbuilding Track

Board for Certification of Genealogists® (BCG) will sponsor a four-day skillbuilding track designed for intermediate to advanced researchers. Presentations include analyzing sources, information, and evidence and case studies for problem-solving. Lectures are open to all who are registered for the conference.

Dining With Guest Speakers

Participating societies and organizations sponsor luncheon speakers. See the conference schedule for details. Friday features a ticketed barbecue luncheon buffet in the Exhibit Hall with two seating times to minimize time in line and maximize time visiting the exhibits. Purchase meal tickets by using the registration form on page fifteen or go online to Meal reservations close 20 April 2018.

Salads and sandwiches may be purchased at the concession stand in the Exhibit Hall during lunch hours, and a coffee cart will be open in the morning outside the Exhibit Hall. Your registration bag will include dining information.

Explore The Family History Expo

Free and open to the public Wednesday through Saturday, the Exhibit Hall features a family history expo that typically hosts more than eighty exhibitors. Browse the latest software
for genealogists, books and periodicals, products and accessories of interest to family historians, demonstrations, book signings, daily drawings, and giveaways.

Enhancements For 2018

This year the conference will include a two-day African American Track and many other lectures exploring ethnic backgrounds and research related records. The popular genetic genealogy DNA track will again run four days.

Also new will be several special, interactive programs in smaller classrooms. Program topics will include Research Trips and Learning—NGS Style; DNA programs; the Records Preservation and Access Committee (RPAC); and Reclaim the Records. Details about these programs can be found in the far-right column of the daily conference schedule.

Based upon attendee feedback, each lecture in the program schedule includes the audience experience level to aid in the selection of lectures.

Discover hidden paths to your past at the 2018 NGS Family History Conference!

Special Pre-Conference Events, Tuesday, 1 May 2018 


8:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m.

This intensive, full day of learning focuses on skills needed by any genealogist and advocates established genealogical standards. Limited to sixty students and geared to intermediate and advanced practitioners, the two in-depth sessions incorporate hands-on exercises and active class discussion. The $110 registration fee includes lunch, class sessions, and syllabi. NGS Conference registration not required. Space is limited so register online at Sponsored by the BCG Education Fund, an independent charitable trust.

Connie Lenzen, CG, “Planning and Executing Reasonably Exhaustive Research, or How to Ensure a Successful Hunt.” Effective genealogy begins with a plan. Group practice will make creating a research plan and then executing it, all with genealogy standards, less daunting. Participants will go away with new tools that will help them break down “brick walls.”

Thomas W. Jones, PhD, CG, CGL, FASG, FNGS, FUGA “Citing All Kinds of Online Sources.” Through hands-on activities, participants will learn the citation implications for each of three kinds of online content and four kinds of source-image pairings. Discussion includes understanding what sources are and the five basic questions citations must answer.


ProQuest invites librarians who work with family history patrons to its pre-conference program at the Grand Rapids Public Library, 111 Library Street NE, located a few blocks from the conference hotels. The program, Newspapers—An Indispensable Tool for Serving Library Patrons, will run from 9:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m. Space is limited so register early. Registration closes on 20 April 2018. Lunch and complimentary parking are included.

The program will review a wide range of newspaper resources available both online and in other media.

Jim Beidler, “Enhancements in Digitization and Cataloging of Recent and Historic Newspapers”

Library of Michigan Staff, “The Ever-Expanding Library of Michigan Newspaper Collection”

Michael D. Lacopo, DVM, “Discoveries in Religious and Ethnic Newspapers”

Tim Pinnick, “A Primer on Using African American Newspapers”

Julie Tabberer, “The Collections of the Grand Rapids Public Library” and Library Tour


Library of Michigan and Archives of Michigan Research Day (Ten Hours)
8:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m. $25

Located at the Michigan History Center in Lansing, Michigan, an hour’s bus ride away, both the library and archives offer family historians a wealth of research materials. Participants will attend a brief orientation program and then have approximately six hours for research. The Archives space is limited so each participant will have at least two hours for Archives research (more time if space is available). A box lunch will be provided.

Library of Michigan: The collections include surviving newspapers and city directories for all of Michigan in print and on microfilm, state as well as federal censuses, cemetery records, county histories, plat maps, and much more. For details about the collections, see

Archives of Michigan: Onsite original collections include Michigan naturalization records, probate files and tax rolls for some counties, and the Abrams Foundation Historical Collection, with its published materials emphasizing the New England, Mid-Atlantic, and Great Lakes states. For research guides and free online content—including death certificates and state censuses—see

Thanks to Gale (a Cengage Company) and ProQuest, the tour fee is only $25.

Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park (Four Hours)
9:00 a.m.–1:00 p.m. $45

Discover the beauty and splendor of thirty acres of botanical gardens and an internationally acclaimed sculpture park in Grand Rapids. Entrance to the gardens and a tram guided tour are included in the fee. Take a leisurely walk around the grounds, explore the largest tropical conservancy in Michigan, or view the current exhibits. Enjoy a coffee break or lunch on your own at the Garden Café. For more information, see

Grand Rapids City Tour (Three Hours)
9:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m. $35

Explore downtown Grand Rapids and learn the history of the city through an architectural tour of the Heritage Hill District, which has one of Michigan’s finest concentrations of homes built in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Civil War Tour (Three Hours)
1:00 p.m.–4:00 p.m. $35

Participants will view the most significant Civil War monuments in the City of Grand Rapids. The tour also will feature gravesites of three Civil War generals in the Fulton Street cemetery and the area’s first Civil War cemetery at Oakhill. Attendees will learn about the Oakhill cemetery’s ongoing genealogy-based project to identify the many “unknown” Civil War soldiers who rest there.

All coach tours will depart from the Lyon Street cul de sac located between DeVos Place and the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel. Please arrive fifteen minutes before departure. A tour with less than thirty-four registered participants will be canceled thirty days in advance of the conference, participants will be notified by e-mail, and the tour cost will be refunded.

Beer City Ale Trail
Tuesday Evening

Tuesday afternoon, pick up the free Beer City Trail map at the Hospitality Booth and enjoy a self-guided walking tour of several breweries in downtown Grand Rapids.