11 February 2007

How Does Your Society Help Beginning Genealogists?

Saturday was a big genealogy day in Ottawa. The morning featured the monthly BIFHSGO meeting. As usual, people gathered early in the auditorium lobby at Library and Archives Canada to chat with friends, have coffee or tea and biscuits, and browse tables with published resources. It's a time to get advice from the local experts, swap books, and share stories of triumphs and frustrations. A few years ago we started issuing name tags to everyone which saves considerable embarrassment for those of us, including me, with poor memories.
For the past few meetings there has been a short pre-main meeting presentation, known as pre-BIFHSGO, of a more basic nature organized by Lesley Anderson, the Society Director of Education. These have proved popular. This month Lesley had organized a whole session of five presentations for the afternoon so no pre-BIFHSGO session was held.
The main meeting was fairly typical; a series of announcements, appeals for volunteers and for support for a local initiative, this month it was to get approval for a new City of Ottawa Central Archives given by Friends of the Archives President, John Heney. The speaker of the day was Marguerite Evans on "Sarah Hersey's Diary: The Spirituality of a 19th Century Pioneer Woman." Marguerite is a former university lecturer and, despite speaking on a topic rather more academic than our normal fare, held the attention of the audience as she explored the evolution of Sarah's spirituality as expressed in her diary writings as the situation of her family changed.
The afternoon beginner session had about 30 people registered, many who had started researching their family history some while ago and now realized they wanted some guidance on how to do it right. The session is given semi-annually, sponsored jointly by BIFHSGO and the Ottawa Branch of the Ontario Genealogy Society, with the lead Society providing most of the speakers.
There were five 30 minute presentations using Powerpoint, supplemented by handouts. I started with a session appropriately titled "Getting Started" based on the Seven Golden Rules of Beginning Genealogy, as published in each issue by Your Family Tree. Alison Hare followed with a first rate presentation on using the census and civil registration records. Lesley Anderson covered organizing your information, Sharon Moor spoke on resources available in the Ottawa area, and Mike Moore on Internet Resources. The session ended with a question period, and many more questions informally after the close.
How does your Society help beginners, or those who want some elementary level instruction? I'd welcome information posted as a comment, or just a direction to your own blog entry or Society website information.

No comments: