Friday, August 01, 2008

Genealogy courses & cruises

NOTE: Click to listen to the podcast version of this blog entry.

I was back on your blog this morning and read Back in the Saddle Again about you being on a cruise. And I read that you took genealogy classes while there.

I am writing a short article on genealogy courses for a magazine, and I would like to ask you a couple of questions on genealogical courses.

  1. Why have you taken genealogy courses?
  2. How long have you taken the courses?
  3. What makes it so interesting to take a course while on a cruise?
  4. Would you suggest that other people take genealogy courses? Why or why not?
  5. Will you be going back to sea again to take more courses?

I was once interviewed by yourself on your radio show about 5 years ago. At that time, we were talking about the column I still have at GenealogyToday. It is called Canadian Connections.

Thank you very much.
Elizabeth Lapointe

Dear Elizabeth,
Thanks for thinking of me and our conversation 5 years ago. You’ve got a great memory. I met with Genealogy Today publisher Illya D’Addezio while attending the retirement dinner honoring Family Chronicle (et al) publisher Halvor Moorshead at the 2008 National Genealogical Society Conference this past May in Kansas City. Good luck with your magazine article. Thank-you for letting Ol' Myrt here post responses to your query in blog format.

As to your questions, I participated in the recent genealogy cruise as an instructor. My personal goal was also to build an esprit de corps among participants.

This was the first time I’ve participated in Legacy’s annual cruise. In previous years, Legacy has sponsored genealogy cruises to Hawaii, Alaska and other interesting ports of call. There are indeed other genealogy cruises, such as those offered by Roots Magic, The Genealogy Guys, and Wholly Genes (The Master Genealogist). These are not to be confused with genealogy research trips and retreats where on-site research is the key.

During our cruise, Legacy’s Geoff Rasmussen spoke about how to use various options of the newly released Legacy Family Tree 7.0 genealogy management software and we all took copious notes. Ol’ Myrt here spoke about the genealogy basics -- how to do research. Geoff took care to schedule our various topics so each flowed into the next.

While a few of the 200+ Legacy participants had attended previous Legacy cruises, most were like me, sailing on a genealogy cruise for the first time. There were about 2,200 total guests on the Norwegian Jewell. Perhaps eight or ten of the non-Legacy cruisers overheard us talking about the classes and joined in with happy enthusiasm. Two non-Legacy cruisers on board were taking personal genealogy research trips -- one lady to search records in the greater London area, and another to visit her ancestor's country of Sweden. Genealogy's Megan Smolenyak also happened to be on the same cruise, with many of her family members on a retreat honoring her mother and their Estonian ancestry.

I’ve been taking genealogy courses online and offline on a consistent basis since 1984, attending the National Genealogical Society and Federation of Genealogical Society annual conferences whenever my real-life teaching job didn’t interfere. (The great thing about being a retired teacher is that I have more time to travel and attend conferences.)

Taking every course I can helps me learn about new tools and record groups, and how to fine-tune research skills. I am planning to attend the APG (Association of Professional Genealogists) Professional Management Conference this September held just prior to the FGS Conference in Philadelphia. I wish more time learning from those offering genealogy services to others. In particular, I’d like to learn more about time management.

Taking genealogy classes on a cruise, such as we took from London to various ports on the Baltic Sea, is a great way to make use of the “at sea” days where most people would be gathering around the ship’s pool, shuffleboards or gaming tables. Why not use that time to discuss our favorite topic (genealogy) with other family historians? An added bonus is the opportunity for touring historic places with new-found friends from the class sessions.

Ol’ Myrt here intends to participate in genealogy cruises more frequently because of the opportunity to have follow-up conversations with people at lunch and dinner. The time together is fun and allows me to clarify things I’ve talked about during the previous class session. I believe when people get a chance to talk about their research, they’re more likely to do something about it. Such lunches and dinners (and waiting in line in the rain at The Heritage in St. Petersburg, Russia) offer an extension of the learning experience.

Learning is a two-way street. These conversations also provide meat for restructuring a class next time I present it, based on participant feedback. Experienced seminar instructors will tell you this hardly ever happens because we typically fly to a distant area, spend a sleepless night wondering about luggage, get up and provide three to four classes the next day and then are whisked off for a brief dinner followed by a mad dash to the airport. Quite a contrast to a leisurely 12-day cruise.

Does this mean Ol’ Myrt here felt she had to be “always on”? No indeed. The only thing better than taking a genealogy cruise it is to be locked up over night with the 3 million rolls of microfilm at the Family History Library.

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

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