Monday, November 24, 2008

Planning a seminar?


I have just recently become a Family History Center Director in Port Angeles, Washington and we have been approved by our Stake to have a Jamboree next year. HELP. I listen to your podcasts, read your blog and have followed you through your family ups and downs.

I greatly value your ideas and hope you could help me out with this very LARGE undertaking. I would like to get some outside speakers to do some classes but have no money in the budget to pay. Ugh. Do you know of anyone in Washington who would come and volunteer their time and talent for this. Do you have any suggestions or help in how I organize this? As you can see I need all the help I can get.

Pat as a member of the church can you guide me to someone in the Church who would be willing to come to our Jamboree and talk. Would the Family History Library in Salt Lake do that? Thanks for any thoughts or ideas. Keep up the great work that you do.

Dear Kathy,
First, I think it is wonderful that you wish to expand your service as a FHC Director by holding a jamboree next year. Go for it!

Confirm that your date does not interfere with other genealogy & historical society events in your area, the islands, Seattle. Consider the Washington State Genealogical Society. Not only will you lose attendees, but you will cut down the speaker list since folks are committed to a previously scheduled event. It is also not realistic to have another organization advertise your special event if it is held on the same day as that organization’s annual fund-raiser event.

Most genealogy societies have their calendar set in stone at least a year in advance, if not two.
The LDS community has always been known (unfortunately) for:
  1. Planning too late (This isn’t a 60-day sprint to the finish, more like a 12-18 month planning process.)
  2. Not coordinating with the genealogy community’s calendar. (If you want family history work to be done in your area, look beyond the members, and reach out in this non-threatening way to the non-LDS in your region.)

Consider the microfilm your FHCenter patrons are ordering to understand their research challenges. Try to take them a step farther along the path to finding surviving documents that prove family relationships.

At least two of the classrooms should have live high-speed internet access. I recommend that one is the Chapel, using the existing projection equipment.

Plan for a variety of beginning and intermediate topics that might include:

  • The research process (migration patterns, evaluating evidence)
  • New FamilySearch
  • FamilySearch Certified Software (This is a new topic, and a new page at will soon list them with hyperlinks. It’s about interfacing with new FamilySearch. PAF simply cannot do this.)
  • FamilySearchIndexing (make this a demo in the cultural hall, rather than a class.)
  • Public vital records (birth, marriage, death)
  • Secondary sources (newspapers, city directories, tombstone inscription books, etc.)
  • Church records (christening, marriage, burial, vestry minutes, Quaker-admissions, etc.)
  • Courthouse records (marriage registers, wills, probate files, tax lists, land records)
  • US Federal records (census, military, BLM, customs passenger lists, post Sept-1906 naturalization.)
  • Locality-specific topics (what’s at NARA Seattle including Washington Donation Land Claims, Canadian Border Crossings, Acadians to Louisiana, Germans to America as examples.)
  • Ethnic-specific topics (Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest, Irish Famine Immigrants, Jewish research, Volga Germans, Quakers in Colonial Pennsylvania as examples.)

Since your event will of necessity be held sometime in the fall of 2009, plan to include a class (repeated at least once) on the new Family History Catalog expected to be released in February 2009 as a joint effort of and This will revolutionize how researchers locate images of original documents from throughout the world and the internet and via microfilm.

Each of your 4 classrooms should be equipped with a computer projector and a smooth wall or large projection screen, as each presenter should have a laptop with a PowerPoint or demo of software as part of his/her presentation. Failing that, one classroom might have an overhead transparency projector with screen shots of pertinent websites (such as, etc.)

I recommend you contact Bonnie Jean MacDonald from the Association of Professional Genealogists local Seattle chapter. She and members of her group are experienced genealogy instructors with a variety of presentations that might meet your content requirements. There are two gals I can think of in Bonnie’s Seattle Chapter of APG who are specialists on record collections on the Olympic Peninsula.

For assistance from FamilySearch, contact Paul Nauta, to see what he can suggest. They may be able to assist using GoToMeeting, as I have recently done as well. See below.

The new thing is to appear “virtually” using the interface of . This means the speaker stays home, and connects via high speed internet access with a computer in the meeting hall. The speaker calls the meeting place and also sends an email invitation to the technician who is setting up the GoToMeeting Interface. It takes about 2 minutes to set it up, so that what is seen on the meeting room screen is whatever is on the desktop of the speaker’s computer. We could talk about this more at a later date. Ol' Myrt here would love to appear virtually if our dates don’t interfere with my existing contracts to speak.

Speaker-side GoToMeeting requirements:

  • High Speed Internet
  • Computer
  • PowerPoint SlidesTelephone
  • A GoToMeeting account

Meeting Room requirements:

  • High Speed Internet
  • Computer
  • Computer projector
  • Large projection screen
  • Telephone with speakerphone
  • Microphone pointed at the telephone
  • Email Invitation from Speaker with GoToMeeting Log-in info

This will probably be your biggest expense. It's nearly impossible to judge how many copies to make. Even when you take advance registrations, there will always be walk-ins. Most national conferences are going for the syllabus materials on CD in .pdf format. Here is an estimate of the number of pages required for a small family history event:

1 keynote address
8 classes (morning)
+4 classes (afternoon)
13 TOTAL classes
x 4 pages per class
52 pages
+1 title page
+1 map of building page
+1 schedule page
55 page syllabus

The cost at 6 cents a page = $3.30 per syllabus.

It is cheaper to have the syllabus on CDs that cost you less than $1 each, and limit your handout to 2 pages (printed front/back) with a map of the building on one side, and the schedule of classes on the reverse.

Since a FHCenter cannot now have its own website, I recommend asking the local genealogy society to post the .pdf pages of your syllabus on their website, for those who arrive after you’ve run out of CDs. Alternately, you can ask the county coordinator at to create a page to post info about your event and include links to your syllabus materials.

As to organization, I have only put on three family history seminars., but here are some of our best ideas from Bradenton, Florida:

  1. Get the Scouts to set up the chairs and tables as a service project.
  2. Have the YW make $4.50 box lunches to raise money for Girl’s Camp.
  3. Make a display area available in ½ of the cultural hall.
  4. Since your area is remote and will likely draw a smaller crowd than a national conference, expect to hold only 3-4 classes per hour.
  5. Use the chapel, the Primary Room, the Relief Society Room and one other larger room for classes.
  6. You’ll need to get your IT guy in the stake on board with your plans for internet access, running electrical and such.
  7. Since this is held in an LDS building, there can be no book sales. Do allow vendors, societies and lineage organizations to have booths and distribute flyers.

My suggestion is that you reach the non-LDS genealogy community by:

  1. Asking for one speaker from each society.
  2. Distributing flyers during the three months prior to the event at the local FHCenters on the peninsula, get mentions in the regional society newsletters, NARA Seattle, Seattle Public Library.
  3. Placing 1/2 page ads in the regional society newsletters during the six months prior to the event.


  • Realize that most attendees will likely NOT have ancestors from the Washington Peninsula, and if they do, it will more than likely be the easier to locate post-1900 generations. You’ll want to focus on pre-1900 research challenges that are more difficult to conquer that a trip to the local courthouse.
  • Don’t forget the Islands. I used to go to Vashon Island to escape for a few days and rejuvenate my spirit while caring for my elderly parents. There is a very active FHC at the chapel on Vashon.
  • We don’t need classes on WHY do genealogy – but on HOW to do genealogy. I feel a larger Jamboree is not the time to have one of the (usually non-genealogist) High Priests discuss the importance of temple ordinances. That is a sacred topic, and can be discussed in a smaller LDS-only group, such as a follow-up stake fireside later in the month. Even so, at this meeting, the process for clearing names for temple work using new FamilySearch should be the focus, with an inspirational beginning and ending. Members already know why they should do family history and temple work, they need to know HOW to do it and your Jamboree can help tremendously.

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

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