NGS 2016: Presentation Composition

Slide1In my last post I noted the two presentations I am giving at the NGS 2016 conference in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, in May.  I thought I would chat more about how my presentations are constructed.

I am most satisfied with my presentations when they combine three organizational elements.  Every presentation is composed similarly:

  1. element of scholarship:  I do not need to reinvent the wheel, so I look to see what others, particularly historians or scientists, have written about the topic.
  2. element of story: I think the audience is always interested in a story.  The other night at the Swedish genealogy class we tweezed out three stories from one record that spanned 10 years–the father’s marriage to the second wife, the son emigrating to the US and leaving the rest of the family behind and the farm girl’s illegitimate child. Sometimes, I am following the evidence trail of a single ancestor, but sometimes the FAN Club joins in!
  3. element of “how to”: Every presentation has to include a methodology of how the audience members can apply the information and apply it to their personal genealogical work. It can be websites or resources or a process–whatever the topic requires.

With that in mind, the presentations can take form. “Push and the Pull: Decision Making of the 19th Century Emigrant” illustrates this concept and contains the three elements.

  1. Element of scholarship: I researched the origins of the terms “push” and “pull” as they relate to immigration and found the terms were applied to migration by E.G. Ravenstein in his 1889 article in the “Journal of Royal Statistical.Society.” [1]
  2. Element of story: Using a letter written by an emigrant in 1864 describing his journey across the Atlantic and settlement in Iowa, I tweezed out the multiple reasons why he emigrated.
  3. Element of “how to”: The resources listed include a long list of books of letters from a variety of ethnic groups. Your family may not have letters from your immigrant but letters by other immigrants of the same era may survive which you can use instead to create the context of life in the homeland and why some emigrants left and others stayed.

I estimate the push/pull presentation is weighted approximately 40% scholarship, 50% story and 10% methodology. The weight of each of the elements is different for each presentation.

I’ve noticed that Judy Russell also organizes her presentations similarly but has the ability to weave the story more tightly with the scholarship than I do.

Happy Hunting & hope to see you in Florida!


What I have done since the last post: Completed teaching the “How Swede It Is! Beginning Swedish Genealogy” series of courses.  There were 17 students and many of them made major discoveries in the two weeks between the 3 classes. The class members wanted to continue the course.  This is under consideration. Accepted a couple of other speaking engagements in the area.

[1] Ravenstein, E.G. “The Laws of Migration.” Journal of the Royal Statistical Society. LII:2 (June, 1889), 241-313.




3 comments on “NGS 2016: Presentation Composition

  1. Barbara Mattoon says:

    “looking for stories in the FAN Club” gave me an idea. I thought I had “milked” the story of the migration of one of my families from Chicago to Scandia Kansas, but I’ll bet there is a lot more there. Thanks!

  2. Jana Last says:

    Wonderful post Jill!

    I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today’s Fab Finds post at

    Have a great weekend!

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