[APG Public List] National Genealogical Meetings

jfonkert at aol.com jfonkert at aol.com
Mon Oct 5 07:54:19 MDT 2009


Carolyn,



Isn't there a middle ground?? It is not a binary choice between a 1-hour illustrated lecture and a 4-speaker moderated panel.? Many other options exist -- although I"m not arguing for or against any of them at this point.



As for your fear that no one would come to hear a 1-hour detailed problem-solving lecturre such as you described, I beg to disagree.? Such a lecture is certainly not everyone's cup of tea, but I have attended such lectures by well known people at FGS and NGS, and the rooms have been packed.



Again, it is not an either-or proposition.? Most of my lectures on such mundane topics as census research or immigration records include one or two short case studies to illustrate the application of research methods to the source material.? It can be done, and many lecturers do it quite well.



Jay Fonkert, CG

Saint Paul, MN






-----Original Message-----
From: Carolyn Earle Billingsley <cebillingsley at earthlink.net>
To: Public APG <apgpubliclist at apgen.org>
Sent: Mon, Oct 5, 2009 1:39 am
Subject: Re: [APG Public List] National Genealogical Meetings


I've spent many years of my life attending and presenting at history conferences. There are always three or four presenters in an hour and 15 minutes session. They read an abbreviated version of their longer research paper, which may or may not become a longer journal article in the future. 

There is usually a panel chair who has read the papers in advance and makes points, compares, and critiques the ideas presented after the presenters give their talks.

I've never seen but one history conference where visuals were presented, except one I did and often the ones at the Arkansas Historical Association annual conference.

Most of the give and take is because the presenter can only present a small portion of his or her work due to the 20-minute time constraints, so the audience perceives the gap of all the information that was not included in the talk--and there are never any kind of handouts. But, yes, the Q&A sections do often bring up arguments and disagreements and challenges. Usually civil, but not always.

Moreover the give and take, or the Q&A can only last 5-10 minutes because of the way the sessions are structured. Not enough time to really delve deeply into something.

But these presenters are NOT paid; are not reimbursed for any expenses; and in fact, their conference entry fees are not even paid.

And they are not often vetted to any great degree. People submit papers and often try to get their own panels of interrelated topics together on their own, and if the conference head decides it sounds useful, s/he accepts it.

Genealogy has developed a style of conference or lecture presentations that is much more interesting and informative. Let's don't emulate other professional disciplines' styles, for goodness sakes! We have developed a style of presentation that meets the highest quality as far as time allotted, visuals, and handouts. Great lecturers are not a dime a dozen, so conferences are our opportunity to hear the really great ones and sometimes even hear those not of the very highest quality yet with something to teach us.

Genealogical lecturers can only present what people want and will pay to hear. And they're not going to do it for free, because they have plenty of work to do in the genealogical world (or the "real world") and have no need to pad their vita by giving free lectures (except for the pro bono lectures we often give to help some small society).

As for audience participation, I am always willing to talk to anybody who wants to question or remark on my lecture . . . preferably after the lecture is over. Can you imagine the kinds of questions we would get from less experienced genealogists who only want to take about their own grandpa? Been there; done that.

Yes, we could have a conference that was devoted to high quality research and standards for the advanced genealogist. But, how many do you think would come? That's why we have Samford's IGHR (to name but one venue) for those who want to learn about topics in depth with higher standards.

Furthermore, we now have a university program that has an Associates Degree, a BA, and an MA in Genealogical Studies. Those who want material that is really challenging and in depth and is on the level of college classes have that option.

In other words, there is a place, a conference, a school for anybody in genealogy at any and all levels. National conferences perforce try to offer appealing topics for the widest audiences at all levels.

There are plenty of options for any genealogist at any level to get what they need (or want). The national conferences are designed to appeal and help genealogists at all levels--and they do just that.

Some of the best experiences I've had involved Round Tables at a conference--where people could sit at a particular table with a particular "expert" and the ensuing discussion was just that--a discussion, give and take, and not a lecture. There are multiple tables with a variety of topics.

We did that at the Texas State Genealogical Society annual conference and I thought it was a great success. Perhaps national conferences might fit in this type of multiple round-table discussion technique; just ten people at a table discussing and dissecting one topic under the leadership of someone with the knowledge to lead the discussion. Nothing formal--just give and take, with input from all and someone to keep it all under control and on topic.

Also, someone suggested more lectures on problem-solving. I wonder if I gave a lecture entirely composed of why I had a problem knowing if three German Wittenberg brothers were really brothers and the sons of both parents and how I solved the problem with DNA and in-depth genealogical research over one hundred years after the birth of these sons?

It seems to me that such a specific problem-solving lecture would have few participants. You probably wouldn't come unless you were interested in the specific problem solved, would you? Can national conferences afford to present topics with only ten people in the audience?

Just a few of my ideas on the topic. Regards, Carolyn

Suzanne Johnston wrote: 

Although many of the instructional lectures use problem-solving within 
the presentation, it would certainly be interesting to have a track at 
national conferences that is totally devoted to interesting and unusual 
case studies and/or the use of unusual resources to solve a particular 
problem.

Another way that genealogy conferences differ from other professional 
conferences is in audience participation. At many professional 
conferences (I can cite some history conferences and at Audiology and 
Speech conferences) a lecture is presented followed by audience 
questions. But not just polite questions designed to better understand 
what the speaker has said. These questions cover the research techniques 
used and the conclusions drawn by the speaker and require the speaker to 
defend all of his/her techniques and conclusions. The questioner often 
suggests other conclusions that could or should have been considered and 
the speaker must answer to both the questioner and the audience. The 
debates I have heard were usually civil, but occasionally became quite 
heated. The listeners often learned more about the topic by this 
give-and-take after the lecture. Unfortunately, this type of rigorous 
questioning rarely occurs at genealogy conferences, at least the ones I 
have attended.

The majority of lectures given at our conferences don't need this type 
of questioning because of the nature of the presentations. But the 
lectures using case studies or problem-solving techniques could benefit 
from audience questioning, critiques, etc. Again, the track suggested in 
the first paragraph above might encourage this type of interaction. IMO!

Suzie Johnston


jfonkert at aol.com wrote:
  


I've only been to a handful of national conferences, but I've perused 
the program of several others over the past 4-5 years.  From what I 
see on the programs, it would appear to me the conferences are of a 
quite different nature than academic or professional conferences it 
other fields.  The national genealogy conference programs do seem 
geared toward reporting research or new developments.  Rather, the 
programs seem to have the same core cluster of topics year after year 
(not a terrible thing, necessarily, as the conferences move around to 
different regional audiences).  The programs are heavy on 
instructional topics (record types, methodology, technology -- again 
not inappropriate), but do not seem geared toward talks that report 
research or developments.  Personally, I would like to see more 
research-based talks that demonstrate problem-solving techniques.  I 
can read about census records or passenger records on my own, but I'd 
like to hear about how people solve interesting problems.

    






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