Sunday, July 22, 2007

READER'S FEEDBACK: Training ourselves up

From: Barbara
I'm a volunteer at a Family History Center, although I'm not Mormon. I'm a bit confused about what is user comment and what is your response under the subject Training ourselves up in the way we should go.

I consider it my responsibility to help each patron as best I can. Sometimes that help consists of telling the patron when to return to find the volunteer with expertise in the patron's area of need. Volunteers are *not* trained to help patrons do research, and are not intended to be trained so, only to help them find the resources they need and how to use the resources and equipment available.

That said, most well-staffed FHCs have volunteers with expertise in many areas, and in many cases all the patron need do is ask if any volunteers are expert in their area of need. Failing that, most FHC directors (to whom all volunteers have access) have extensive contacts in the local area who are willing or eager to help any patron.

My experience is that the LDS members who volunteer at FHCs are less skilled and able to help general researchers; they are fulfulling a volunteer commitment of necessity rather than interest. Their interest is in qualifying people for LDS ordinances. My personal luck has been better with the non-LDS volunteers, who are more interested in genealogy and less interested in the Mormon rituals.

Please tell your correspondents to ask for people in their area of need and for non-Mormons if necessary.

Please also recommend that they ask for a local genealogy society, which may have experts who can help them.


THANKS for your suggestion about the local genealogy society, where indeed one may find a cache of experienced researchers, particularly those who understand a wide variety of resources in a given locality.

It takes a lot of "behind the scenes" folks to keep a LDS Family History Center (FHC)going.

Owing for differences in personality and such, I think visiting a Family History Center is positive experience for most family historians regardless of church affiliation.

It is too bad that you have found the experience at your local LDS Family History Center to be so negative as to say that the LDS Church members who work as FHC staffers are simply there to fulfill a volunteer commitment. Volunteers make the world a richer experience in practically any endeavor. Perhaps there is confusion over clerical and mechanical orientations (such as the need to "unlock the door" provided by some workers) with the marvelous ability you have to work with a patron as an experienced researcher. Indeed LDS FHC volunteers are specifically trained to help LDS patrons prepare family names for temple work. That just stands to reason.

I remember fondly a dear friend, Ron Inman, who has since passed away. When called by the local LDS Church bishop to work at the Bradenton, FL FHC, Ron didn't know beans about how to do research and never really got the hang of computers. In fact, he learned a lot on the job from other staffers who enjoyed working through Ron's family history. However, Ron was wonderful at the “front desk" helping people order microfilm, and keeping track of the payments for photocopies. He cheerfully answered the phone and kept things running, so that research-oriented volunteers could work with specific patrons uninterrupted. Contrast that with Ol' Myrt here who could take in $14 during a 4-hour shift and still come up short 39 cents when balancing the books at the end of the day. Thank heavens for Barb Schultz, a retired government CPA, who worked my shift – she could manage the books AND help patrons with Revolutionary War and early Virginia ancestry.

Hon, I am confused by your original request to distinguish the difference between "user comment" and my response in the column located at:

Ol' Myrt states in the opening paragraph that the comments quoted are mine, as posted on a private genealogy mailing list. I think sometimes it is easier to "read" a column in the original blog format, than in the stripped-down versions that some RSS feed readers provide. Anyway, I could not quote anyone else in my column, because the mailing list I belong to in this case is "closed" and available only to members of that list. Being the originator of the text, Ol' Myrt can freely quote her posting.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
Your friend in genealogy.

(c) 2007 Pat Richley All Rights Reserved.

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