SALT LAKE CITY — Even after almost 30 years of research, Jan Alpert still gets goose bumps when she discovers a new branch on her family tree.
“The biggest surprise is how much you can find out,” said Alpert, who was bitten by the genealogy bug in 1981 after helping her father pursue his own interest in family history.
Now the chairman of the National Genealogical Society, Alpert’s pursuit has led her on dozens of trips across the United States to locate records and pieces of her family’s story.
“There are millions of people like me out there doing it,” she said.
Beginning April 26, thousands of family history buffs are expected to descend on Salt Lake City to hone their skills — or begin their journeys — during a unique week featuring four conferences focused on genealogical research and technology.
Anchored by the 2010 National Genealogical Society’s Annual Conference, the week also includes the Brigham Young University’s annual Conference on Computerized Family History and Genealogy, BYU’s Family History Technology Workshop and the FamilySearch Developer’s Conference for software developers.
Because the four events take place at the same time, Alpert, a retiree with homes in Michigan and South Carolina, said she believes it “will be the largest genealogical event ever.”
Dozens of workshops will be held daily to provide beginners and experts alike with tips on basic research, organizational skills, locating resources, deciphering records, understanding DNA testing and writing and editing family narratives.
Special technology workshops are also planned to aid in understanding and using various genealogy-specific databases and programs.
The week also includes several special events, including a genealogy “kids camp” for youth in grades four through 12 and a Celebration of Family History concert featuring the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and author David McCullough.
McCullough’s books include biographies of Harry Truman and John Adams.
Recent annual NGS events have drawn about 2,000 people, but Alpert said early registration for the Salt Lake City conference is “exceeding expectations.”
The response could be due in part to Salt Lake City’s unique resource: The Family History Library of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which has been collecting data since 1894.
Considered the largest genealogy collection in the world, the library’s database contains well over a billion names drawn from thousands of original records, including births, deaths, marriages, census data and patron contributions.