[APG Public List] Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced

Rev. David McDonald strude86 at charter.net
Sat Oct 3 12:52:26 MDT 2009

Wanda raises an interesting point, and one I'd like to expound on.

While local societies and libraries may, in fact, offer beginning and elementary seminars and workshops, why should the national conferences ignore beginners in planning their agendas? First, when a "big" conference comes nearby many local societies choose to forego some of their own events and activities in order to provide local leadership for the national gathering--leaving those events and activities without presenters and leadership. The "big" conferences then temporarily fill the purpose of the local society, even if not being run by the local societies themselves.

In addition, we all have to admit that sometimes local lecturers are brought in because they're "available," not necessarily because they're "the best." Anyone who has ever been a local society program chair knows that getting top-flight lecturers can be a real task, and sometimes you have to take what you can to fill the slot. NOTE: this is not a criticism of local societies, speakers or program chairs! It's intended as a reality-check for us all.

Thirdly, why shouldn't new researchers, and those less-experienced, be exposed to leading lecturers in the field early on? Are we saying that competent and top-flight figures in the community have only the more advanced researchers to teach? I'll grant you, lecturers for those with greater experience may be harder to find, but I also would be hesitant to limit their exposure to only more seasoned researchers.

I'm reminded of life in the academic field, where more advanced scholarly endeavors are handled by the "full profs" but the first-year lectures are given over to the grad student and TA set. Wouldn't it occasionally be refreshing for the big shots to teach in the big lecture halls, too?

One of the beauties of the field is that genealogy is far from a one-size-fits-all proposition. I think the national conferences do a pretty good job of stretching to meet the needs of both beginners and more advanced learners.

(In the interests of full disclosure, I serve on the NGS board, which runs one of those "big" conferences, and am occasionally a speaker at both NGS and FGS. I have run week-long advanced-level seminars on British research, and am working to plan a regional advanced seminar in the upper midwest. But, I also do still speak at local and county society meetings, lineage society chapter meetings, various state-level seminars and regional entities within the broad spectrum of genealogical lecturing.)

Rev. Dr. David McDonald, CG(sm)*
Old Northwest Research, LLC

*"CG" & "Certified Genealogist" are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists (R), and are used by authorized associates following periodic, peer-reviewed competency evaluations. Certificate  No. 452, renewed, expires 19 April 2014.

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