Reflections on an Australian Lecture Tour

I have just returned from four weeks traveling and lecturing in Australia. I was the keynote speaker, giving fifteen lectures and participating in a panel at a genealogy conference on a 9 day cruise out of Sydney. I also gave 4 lectures in each of six cities: Hornsby (Sydney); Brisbane; Perth; Adelaide; Canberra and Melbourne. Everything was wonderfully arranged by Alan Phillips at Unlock the Past.  In total, I presented 39 different lectures on 15 different aspects of British Isles research.

Audience interest met and exceeded our expectations throughout the tour. During the conference, I was gratified to find that people kept coming to my lectures and in fact, began bringing their cruise companions along. During the cities tour, we exceeded attendance expectations, sometimes having double the numbers we expected.

It goes without saying that I had to be well prepared to give 15 different lectures for the cruise, and ensuring that each one was chock full of information.  In point of fact, I had to cut content to meet the 50 minute time limit of the format, since in the U.S. audiences expect a lecture of 60 to 75 minutes. Thank heaven for the power point changer with its built-in timer keeping me on schedule!

Each city venue chose its own four lectures from the fifteen given on the cruise, often with very different subjects to appeal to a wide audience, rather than being chosen to form a cohesive package. Using power point slides meant that I could make adjustments to my presentations while traveling, and thus ensure that the lecture met the specific needs of each audience as we traveled from city to city.

My goal was to make sure that everyone attending learned something new about how to do their own research, and that the beginners did not feel left in the dust. Feedback tells me we succeeded in meeting that goal.

The lectures would not have been so successful without excellent physical arrangements, and for this we thank Unlock the Past.  Venues varied greatly, but were often in clubs (rare to non-existent in the US), such a RSL (Returned Service League), Celtic , Irish, and Broncos (sports team). Major benefits of using the clubs were ample parking and on-site restaurants. Other sites included a town hall and (the best from the presenters’ perspective) the banked auditorium within the State Library of Western Australia.

Events were set up with typical 9-4/5 schedule, but during the week in a 1-9 time slot so that folks could come without missing a whole day of work. Registrants could also choose between a full or half day of presentations, for further flexibility of participation.

Mini lectures on Flip-Pal or Find My Past, given by Rosemary Kopittke, were scheduled in the middle of my four presentations. This was a very smart scheduling move, as it gave me a break. Then, while the audience members had their break, I was 100% focused on answering individual audience questions.

And this brings me to my comments about the audiences I encountered.  Their numbers varied from 80 to 150. Across the board, their base knowledge of general British history, geography and UK genealogical resources was generally far above what I would find in a typical US audience. Many more were themselves or had descended from recent immigrants; therefore, the likelihood that they had traveled extensively in the UK was also much higher than I encounter in the U.S.

I also learned that the standard procedure in Australia is not to provide handouts at the event. I was concerned about this, because it is my practice to provide a content-rich handout so that participants can focus on the examples and do not need to take extensive notes in the lecture. But I found out that it worked well with such a sophisticated audience. I provided the handouts downloadable from this website after the lectures.

Participants were eager for knowledge, case studies, and for resources. They participated actively in the discussions and in the profiling of their needs and interests that I conduct at the beginning of each session. I could readily see that they went away excited and eager to do more research.

It was great fun and a real privilege to lecture to diverse audiences.  My thanks to all! We also made some great new friends along the way.

Unlock The Past Genealogy Cruise – Buried Treasures: What’s in the English Parish Chest?

We are now into day four of the Unlock the Past Genealogy Cruise. The lecture that has opened the most eyes with excitement so far has been “Buried Treasures: What’s in the English Parish Chest?”  This lecture examines the civil functions of the English parish, highlighting the records it may provide: the names of the fathers of illegitimate children; the place of origin in the settlement records; those receiving indoor or outdoor relief from the parish; the names of parish officials; the names of those paying property taxes, or being excused because they are too poor. English Parish Chests contain lots of records that participants did not know existed. For many, these could be the resources they need to break down their brick walls.
Once home after this 10-day genealogy intensive in the beautiful Pacific, participants will be able to check out parish records as a new and possibly rich resource for their research.

Hornsby RSL – New South Wales – A Different Audience

Yesterday I gave 4 presentations with a Scottish focus to a group of 70-80 genealogists at the Hornsby RSL (Returned Service League) Club in the northern suburbs of Sydney. To get a sense of the audience my opening question was – How many people can identify their Scottish ancestors and put them physically on the ground in Scotland? Everyone put hands up. I knew immediately that I had a different audience than I typically find in the U.S.

In the States, when asking a similar question, I will often only get only a handful of participants who can physically locate their ancestors in Scotland. These folks have come to learn how to jump the Atlantic and locate their ancestors.

The participants in Hornsby knew where their Scottish ancestors came from, and  they  were familiar with a wider variety of research tools. Their questions were thoughtful, and they were well prepared to go deeper to break down the brick walls in their research.  At the end of the day, they seemed a little overwhelmed but they were clearly ready to immediately use the more complex (and sometimes less known) research tools we discussed.

A thoroughly good day for all.

 

Speaker Nerves

As speakers we all get nervous before an event, especially a big one. My nervous energy is high right now. I leave this afternoon for 4 weeks in Australia. In that time period I will give 15 different lectures, doing 38 presentations. See my calendar if you want to know when, where and what topics. I will not be home in between. If I don’t have the document image, or scan with me I will do without it. In the old days when everything was on overhead transparencies and you got on that plane everything was set in concrete. Now with powerpoint we tinker with the presentation, making adjustments, fine tuning the transitions and content right up to the time it is given.

The reality is that I know where the strengths and weakness are in my presentations because I am the presenter, and that should be the case. I know what I am having to leave out because of time constraints. From the audience perspective the issue is can I cover the subject in a clear and instructive manner. I know I will do that. So why the stress? Because as speakers we can and always want to do the best job that we can do. Plus we want to be continually improving.

Since I start the trip with a genealogy conference on a 10 day cruise I know internet access will be limited. However, I hope to share observations about how things are done a little differently ‘down-under’ during this trip. So I hope you do follow along.

Now its time to finish packing the camera, computer and the suitcase.

Scottish Course at the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research – June 9-14, 2013

There are a few places left in the Scottish track at the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research being held Jun 9-14, 2013 at Samford University in Birmingham Alabama. This is an intense week focusing just on Scottish Research. If you are interested you need to act soon as the class is filling up. Have a look at the following class schedule. If you are interested go to IGHR 2013 to Register.

Monday

  • 8:15 a.m. – 8:30 a.m.: Class Orientation/Introductions
  • 8:30 a.m. – 9:45 a.m.: Scotland – Definitions, Sources, Repositories and Processes
  • 9:45 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.: Morning Break
  • 10:00 a.m. – 11:15 a.m.: Scottish Emigration to North America
  • 11:15 a.m. – 12:45 p.m.: Lunch
  • 12:45 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.: History of Scotland
  • 2:00 p.m. – 2:45 p.m.: Afternoon Break
  • 2:45 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.: Internet: Commercial Sites (Computer Lab)

Tuesday

  • 8:30 a.m. – 9:45 a.m.: Internet: Free Sites (Computer Lab)
  • 9:45 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.: Morning Break
  • 10:00 a.m. – 11:15 a.m.: Find the Correct Place: Maps and Gazetteers
  • 11:15 a.m. – 12:45 p.m.: Lunch
  • 12:45 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.: Civil Registration
  • 2:00 p.m. – 2:45 p.m.: Afternoon Break
  • 2:45 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.: Making Sense of the Census

Wednesday

  • 8:30 a.m. – 9:45 a.m.: Church Records for B/M/D
  • 9:45 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.: Morning Break
  • 10:00 a.m. – 11:15 a.m.: Kirk Session and Poor Relief Records
  • 11:15 a.m. – 12:45 p.m.: Lunch
  • 12:45 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.: Inheritance: Wills and Executries
  • 2:00 p.m. – 2:45 p.m.: Afternoon Break
  • 2:45 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.: Inheritance: Transfer of Land and Buildings

Thursday

  • 8:30 a.m. – 9:45 a.m.: Burghs and Their Records
  • 9:45 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.: Morning Break
  • 10:00 a.m. – 11:15 a.m.: Occupation Records
  • 11:15 a.m. – 12:45 p.m.: Lunch
  • 12:45 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.: Scots in the British Military — Part 1
  • 2:00 p.m. – 2:45 p.m.: Afternoon Break
  • 2:45 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.: Scots in the British Military — Part 2

Friday

  • 8:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m.: Overlooked Sources — 17th and 18th Centuries
  • 9:00 a.m. – 9:30 a.m.: Morning Break
  • 9:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.: Overlooked Sources — 19th and 20th Centuries
  • 10:30 a.m. – 10:45 a.m.: Mini-Break
  • 10:45 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.: Planning your Trip to Scotland
  • 11:45 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.: Certificates and Farewells