Presentation Improvements: Whatcom Genealogical Society

WGS seminar 2014I had a terrific time at Whatcom Genealogical Society’s Fall Seminar yesterday.  I was warmly greeted by both Cindy Harris and Sharon Neem at the door and found they were surprised I had arrived before Jim Johnson of Heritage Quest spoke on land records.  They didn’t know that I am naturally an early riser so it was reasonable that I would want to attend the first session of the day given by Jim.  After Jim (he also runs Heritage Quest book store in Sumner, WA) did an online presentation of interesting options on land records, including a film clip from Lisa Cook’s CD on using Google Earth for land analysis, I was up!

As regular readers know, I had spent the last week redoing all three of my presentations to simplify them and  incorporating the ideas offered from the Transitional Genealogist and the APG listserves.  Not one of the three presentations was spared a total re-do.  It was many late nights to get it ready.  Of course, I had to submit the syllabi early and so those did not have the benefit of the re-do.

Some of the ideas I incorporated included:

  • used one theme for all of them and customized it with “my” color, a grayed teal.
  • included my logo on the first and last slides
  • removed all web addresses from the presentation…they cannot get them copied down in time anyway
  • made the verbiage less an outline of my talk by removing words and putting them into the notes instead (I probably reduced the word count by 30%!)
  • animated numerous items throughout the presentations (I had to teach myself how to do them first), but was careful to make sure they were used appropriately
  • simplified many slides by making them all graphics
  • inserted Whatcom county examples into the context slides of the Non-Population Schedules presentation
  • clarified the slides that were about evidence and those that were about context in the same presentation

…all the while being mindful to avoid the concept of context as “stage set design” but rather that it is fundamental to understanding the motivations of our ancestors.

My first talk was “Genealogical Proof Standard for Beginners.” approached the topic from a slightly different perspective than most who speak to the intermediate to advanced audience attendee.  I remember what it was like to be “partly there.”  My goal was not to make each one a NGSQ writer but to have each researcher “ratchet” up their genealogical game just one increment–whatever that might be.  I also tried to make the GPS relevant for the “non-believer,” illustrating ways the GPS can help at any level.  It was very well received.  I had several individuals say that they had sat through many presentations on the GPS but this was the first one that made the topic feel relevant to the work they were doing.

After a very nice lunch, the topic was “I Found My Family on the Internet! Now What Do I Do?” a look at four websites that have contributed family histories–Ancestry, Rootsweb, FamilySearch and FindAGrave. I focused on how a “consumer” can analyze and evaluate what they see.  This one raised lots of questions about what you can use on the internet and what you cannot.

To wrap up the day, we had fun with “Using the Non-Population Censuses for Evidence and Context.”  We looked at four different non-population censuses, Agriculture, Manufacturing/Industry, Mortality and the Social Statistics (including Defective, Dependent and Delinquent) Schedules of the 1800’s.  I did not cover the Slave Owner, 1890 Veterans or the 1935 Business schedules.  In each case, I described what they were and gave examples of how to use them for evidence (if possible) and context.  I discovered that my gggrandfather’s land which he bought for $694 in 1854, was valued at $3240 just six years later–over 400% return in just 6 years!  The next 10 years did not yield as good a return–just 14% per year!  We also looked at community statistics: in 1860 a carpenter in Whatcom County earned $4/day without board.  In 1870 that same carpenter was making $6/day–a 50% increase in 10 years.  Day laborers lost ground, however.  It is amazing what you can find.

Next week I present to SGS one of my favorites, “Soldiers, Spies and Farm Wives: the Changing Roles for Women during the Civil War.”  I love refreshing that one each time I give it.  Did you catch the statement in “The Roosevelts” (PBS) that Eleanor Roosevelt’s role became one of an activist during the Great War because her husband was away so much?  Wars can “change the rules” for women; Rosie the Riveter was not an anomaly.

So, I am still in a recovery mode but put the day to good use.

Happy Hunting!


What I did since the last posting:  incorporated comments and principles from Presentation Zen into my presentations for Whatcom Genealogical Society.  I worked (a lot) on “Unraveling Family Myths using the Principles of Logic” (to be presented on 8 November) and worked (a little) on Ostfriesen Culture Overview (gotta come up with a better name before this is given on 11 November).  I proofed the last article for the SGS Bulletin and even started laying it out.  Can’t do too much more until I get this one article to the editor and back.


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