Note: This is a condensed version of a recent post on The Family History Guide blog site. See the full-length article here: http://www.thefhguide.com/blog/presenting-the-family-history-guide-part-2/
There are many opportunities to present The Family History Guide in shorter time amounts, some of which you may not have thought about. Here is a recap of some of these presentations, arranged by approximate time to deliver:
Mini-classes: These can be from 15-30 minutes and are based on the Course Catalog (see the Trainers menu).
Meetings (10-30 minutes): These may be for church organizations, family history centers, genealogy societies, schools, libraries, family groups, etc.
In-home (10-20 minutes): In-home presentations about The Family History Guide are usually done by family history consultants but can also be done by friends, family, and neighbors.
Special topics (5-10 minutes): Presenting a special topic on your laptop or device can be done one-on-one, in a home, to a meeting group, etc. Knowing the specific family history needs of others is important in selecting a topic that will be helpful for them.
Quick intro (1-2 minutes): If you have just one or two minutes to present or share The Family History Guide with someone, use the "Show, Know, and Go" model: Show: If possible, show the Home page and a link or two; or have others access it on their devices. Know: Be able to share the mission statement of The Family History Guide in your own words, and why you enjoy the site. Go: Invite others to use the site and let you know if they have any questions. A pass-along card or brochure can be helpful as well.
This morning we had a class scheduled at our local family history center, "Virtual Grave Digging" (nice title). I realized that the instructor might have a problem making it to the class, and it was late to get a sub. So I thought I would go to The Family History Guide pantry and see what I could find there on short notice, in case I needed to fill in.
Long story short ... the instructor made it to the class, which was great. But the prep experience I had was definitely worth sharing, so here it is:
I decided to focus on Goals B5 and B6 in the United States page of The Family History Guide: Death & Obituaries, and Cemetery Records.
I reviewed the Choices and selected the ones I wanted to focus on.
I chose articles and videos for demo and instruction. For Goal A5, here's a list of Choice-Step and title (and your list may vary): * A-1: 5 Things to Learn from Death Records; * A-2 Video; * A-3 Online Death Records and Indexes; * E-1 Obituaries: More than Meets the Eye. For Goal A6, I chose A-1, A-4, etc.
I made notes of the key points in these articles and videos, for class discussion and instruction.
Was it elegant? Not really. Would it have been helpful and interesting to those attending? I think it definitely would have been, and I learned some great things in the hour or so of preparation I put in.
So, next time you need a quick training meal, remember The Family History Guide. And don't forget that you can use the Course Catalog to plan out your own training classes well in advance.
If you had 30 minutes to present The Family History Guide to a group or class, what would you do? What about 45 minutes to an hour?
For any of these, the great thing is that you don't have to prepare a set of slides and handouts; you can present The Family History Guide using the website itself.
That brings up the next point: what do I show? Here are some suggestions to consider, based on the amount of time you have. They are listed roughly in order of priority:
URL and social media links, so learners can find the site
Purpose of the site
Get Started and 15 Minutes a Day
Basic site navigation
Project navigation: Goals, Choices, steps and links
There are many more items in The Family History Guide, but an Overview presentation should focus on the basics, leaving the rest for specialized classes or presentations. The Family History Guide is a lifetime learning system, so be sure not to try to cover it all at once.
A good reference document for deciding what to include in Overviews is "Thirty Things to See in The Family History Guide" (https://www.thefhguide.com/30-Things-to-See.pdf).
Good luck with your presentations, and look for an in-depth blog post coming soon, about ideas for Overview training with The Family History Guide.
As we prepare our family history presentations, we often get wrapped up in the content details. Details are good, but there are some simple things to focus on that can be of great benefit as we present.
Last week I attended a presentation on U.S. Census records, taught by a former employee of FamilySearch. Yes, there were good tips and helpful slides on doing research with census records, but there were also a few simple things the instructor did that made the class even better:
Smile. This was not an "I'm supposed to smile, so here it is" thing; he was smiling because he genuinely connected with what he was teaching, and enjoyed being with us.
Don't rush. I'm not sure he got through everything on his agenda, but it didn't matter. The pace felt comfortable, so we enjoyed the ride.
Eye contact. There is an art to this. He made direct eye contact with the various attendees, not too long, and not too brief. It was personal but not overbearing.
Are there some simple things you enjoy in presentations from others, or that you use yourself? Let us know!
Here are some typical things that your learners may be thinking during family history presentations or mentoring, when they are about to lose their way or lose interest ... and what you can do about it.
"Can we please move on?" (You are over-explaining, or the learner is already familiar with the concepts.) Include discussion questions, interesting examples or insights, and practice opportunities. Also, avoid tangents in class discussions.
"What did you just do?" (You went too fast!) When showing online sites or software, make it clear where you are going and why, repeating the menu names, etc. if necessary. Learners who are computer-challenged may need a mentor to help them keep up.
"What does that mean?" (You used a term or technology without defining it.) Define your terms, and relate them to everyday or familiar concepts when possible.
"Why should I care?" (You introduced a topic without reinforcing its benefits.) Learners like to know why they are learning the current topic, and how it might help make family history easier, more efficient, and more enjoyable (the mission statement of The Family History Guide).
"How does this fit in?" (The order of your learning topics seems random.) Relate the current topic to the learning objectives you established, and make sure the topics are presented in an order that builds easily and successfully.
I have often mentioned the concept for trainers and consultants that they should think of themselves as the librarian, not the library. In other words, you don't need to have everything committed to memory (and who can do that?); you just need to know where to find the information. That's where The Family History Guide comes in handy: it's the knowledge library you need, at your command.
Especially if you are new to The Family History Guide (and even for us "old-timers"), here are the "go-to" tools on the website when you need to find that missing piece of information to answer a question:
Topics (https://www.thefhguide.com/topics.html) – an alphabetized list of what's in the site. Find it in the Intro menu.
Site Map (https://www.thefhguide.com/site.html) – the entire site at a glance. It's in the Intro menu.
Search – it's in the header area of most pages, and you can use it to find just about anything on the site.
All that said, the more familiar you are with The Family History Guide, the more often you can skip ahead and go right to the answers without looking them up. But having an awesome library behind you is a great feeling!
If you had just a few moments to tell a friend about The Family History Guide, what would you say?
A basic approach is to start with a simple sentence that shows what it is and why it would help them.
For example: "The Family History Guide is a free website that helps you do your family history faster and easier." Then focus on the learning and resource parts, such as: "You can learn FamilySearch (or Ancestry, MyHeritage, FIndmypast) step by step, and find the research tools you need, right when you need them."
The idea is to start simple and then drill into a few of the important specifics and benefits, keeping the "few moments" idea in mind. That's where your preparation is important: you should have a good high-level knowledge of the menus and features of the website, to answer questions.
If The Family History Guide has made a difference for you, be sure to let your friend know that. And look for the opportunity to show the website, on whatever device is handy.
There's a new one-page document on the Trainers Resources page of the website. "Spread The Guide" offers practical ways for people to share The Family History Guide, via social media, quick demos, and activities. You can also access it here: https://www.thefhguide.com/Spread-The-Guide.pdf
Also included are resources for Latter-day Saints and Temple & Family History Consultants to help spread the word about The Family History Guide. "Spread The Guide" can be a good follow-up to classes offered on The Family History Guide, where learners have a practical way to share what they learned with others.
The Training Resources page on The Family History Guide now has links to two new slide decks. One is for use in training local leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on how The Family History Guide may be implemented in wards and stakes. The other contains training on how Temple and Family History Consultants can use The Family History Consultants in their training and mentoring efforts.
These materials are produced by The Family History Guide Association. No endorsement from the Church is implied.
Some of you may be familiar with this document ... it's a collection of 100 questions that someone might ask about family history, and corresponding answers from The Family History Guide. The questions are arranged alphabetically by topic, from Adoption to Technology. Answers are linked to Goals on the website.
While the document may be useful for individuals, it can be especially helpful for consultants, especially those who work at family history centers. It's in Microsoft Word format so you can add more questions and answers as needed.
We've also made a few other changes to the Media page on the website. The 100 Questions and Answers document is here.
No, that's not about restaurant employees … it's about the new page on The Family History Guide website where you can find all the Training Tips posted in our Facebook Group, all in one place. It will be updated about once a month to add the latest tips (you'll still get them each Tuesday in the Facebook Group).
For a few learners, turning on the firehose of information is an exciting thing—but most aren't too thrilled about being flooded with knowledge at once. Genealogy and family history are amazingly broad and comprehensive: they include such topics as geography, history, cultures, research, religion, travel … and the list goes on. As we mentor those who are just starting or are less experienced in family history, we need to resist the temptation to dispense too much information, too quickly.
Here are a few tips to help you slow the flow and get better learning retention with those you mentor and train:
Ask questions to uncover what the learner would like to know. This can help you see what areas may need more time and focus, or less.
Define your terms, and don't skip steps. Some learners won't ask you to define or clarify information; they will just gradually fall behind and get lost.
Balance structure with flexibility. If a skill requires some building blocks, don't skip them; but let the learner choose paths wherever it makes sense to do so.
Watch for learning signals. Is the pace too fast, or too slow? Has the learner lost interest? Time to stop and ask a few questions to get back on track.
The Family History Guide is built on a controlled flow of information—there are a limited number of links per step, Choices per Goal, and Goals per Project, to group the information into layers for optimal learning.
In the Trainers menu of The Family History Guide, you'll see a Resources section that includes Quizzes. Click that item to open the Quizzes page.
The Quizzes are arranged by partner: FamilySearch, Ancestry, MyHeritage, and Findmypast. Each Quiz covers an entire Project in The Family History Guide, except for the Goal Quizzes, which cover one goal each.
To start a Quiz, click its picture or title. There's a link on the opening page of the Quiz that links to a Quiz Instructions page. The question types are multiple choice, multiple response, true/false, matching, and sequence. At the end of each Quiz, a results screen is displayed with the score; 80% correct is passing.
The Quizzes can be handy for assessing knowledge with those you are training in The Family History Guide topics, or you can take them yourself to brush up.
Enjoy The Family History Guide quizzes—more are on the way!
In group training, a good way to get people involved in learning is by asking questions. However, ineffective or inappropriate questions can also put the brakes on the learning experience. Here are 10 tips that can help you as you prepare questions to ask in group settings:
Ask questions that teach to the learners' level. Build on prior knowledge in small increments.
Avoid asking questions for questions' sake. They should be designed to stimulate discussion, not to lead to a narrow fact.
Tell learners your goal in asking questions.
Ask questions throughout the class, not just at the beginning or the end.
Emphasize important learning points. What are the need-to-know items?
Start with simpler questions and build toward those that are deeper or multi-layered. Open-ended questions often work best.
Generally, avoid yes/no questions, stacking up questions before an answer, and answering your own questions.
A pause of 5 to 10 seconds may be necessary to give learners a chance to think and respond. Longer pauses may indicate that you need to rephrase the question.
Show interest in all answers and stay engaged with the learner.
Generally, avoid interrupting responses from learners. There may be important insights that take a while to unfold.
When we give presentations or training on family history, it's all too easy to walk through a lot of talking points and consider the job done. No matter how interesting our points are (and sometimes they are more interesting to us than to others), we need to remember how effective it can be to "see the points" as well as hear them.
Presenting The Family History Guide website is a case in point. You could easily spend an hour just scrolling through the various screens and mentioning what's available. While that can be helpful to a degree, there's a point where too much new content and too many screens can lead to learning overload for those attending. Several things can help you with these challenges:
Having meaningful explanations and discussions about what you're showing
Limiting the scope so it can be absorbed better
Finding a few "visual gems" to present
Item 3 bears special mention. Some of the websites referenced by The Family History Guide present powerful visual models. Here are two examples:
The Puzzilla.org site (see FamilySearch Project 3, Goal 3). You can talk about descendancy research, but it's another thing to see an ancestral tree turned inside out into descendancy view, with your distant cousins appearing as "flower-tendril" nodes at the edge of a circle.
The Randy Majors site (see the United States page, Goal A2, Choice B). You can explain all about how county boundaries change over time, or you can actually show the process by selecting a state, clicking through decades, and watching the boundaries shift right before your eyes.
There many other hidden gems in The Family History Guide; some of them are great visual demonstrations, while others make their points without much in the way of graphics but with powerful analogies that create visual pictures in our minds.
I heard the above statement in two different settings over the past few weeks. The outcomes to both of these are interesting, so here's what happened:
In a recent training session on The Family History Guide for Temple & Family History Consultants, I asked, "How many of you have used the Country pages?" Nearly all the 20 consultants in the class had said they were "familiar" with The Family History Guide, but only two hands went up in regards to the Country pages. I was a bit surprised by that but went on with the training. Afterwards I invited the attendees to come to a Beginning U.S. Research class I was teaching the following week. Nearly all of them came, and I got quite a few comments about how amazing the United States page is in The Family History Guide.
This is from a trainer outside of Utah. She told me that she was doing some publicity for The Family History Guide, and one of the family history center directors told her, "Yes, we know about the website. It's free, so people can just visit it and get what they need." Then the trainer asked if anyone in the area had been trained on The Family History Guide. The answer was "no," so she proceeded to help the director understand the unique benefits of the site and why training was important. The director saw her point and asked what she could do to help get some training scheduled."
There's a big difference between "We know about the website" and "We are excited about this website!"—and the difference often happens when trainers show the possibilities of what can be done with it. Here are a few talking points to help people catch the vision, based on sections of The Family History Guide:
Country pages and QUIKLinks—Research becomes possible for the newbies and faster and easier for those with more experience.
Activities—Family history activities draw families and individuals together in fun and meaningful ways as they connect with their ancestors.
Time—Busy people can use the 15-Minute approach to make real progress with learning and involvement in family history.
You can add your own talking points as well. It's a great experience to watch the "light bulbs" go on as people catch the vision of what The Family History Guide really is.
With many of us acting as family history mentors to others, here are a few thoughts on building good mentoring relationships with our learners.
Establish a friendship along with the mentorship. Get to know the person and what drives them. You can sometimes learn as much or more from those you mentor, as they learn from you.
Avoid extremes. You don't want to be the sole source of their family history efforts, or doing on-call support 24x7. On the other hand, they need to know you're willing to be their teammate, anxious for their success.
Build other relationships as you mentor. The very nature of family history work is connective. Learners should be continually growing their circle of relationships, such as with fellow researchers, websites, social media communities, etc. In time, you'll transition to being a part of the learner's fabric of family history relationships, instead of their sole life-line to all things genealogical.
Use the CAP approach. C = Confidence, where you instill in the learner the belief that he or she can make realistic strides in family history, whether it's learning family tree navigation or basic research techniques. A = Appreciation, where you compliment a job well done or a concept learned, and you rejoice together in the "aha moments". P = Progress, where you keep track of skills learned and research lines and sources followed. The Family History Guide Tracker can be very helpful with monitoring progress, as can various research logs and templates.
As the learner gains confidence and skills, he or she can assume more of the workload, leaving you the time and energy to develop new mentoring relationships. Best wishes for success in your mentoring! And from one who is deeply invested in family history training, a sincere thanks for the great work you do!
The Sandy Granite center—where The Family History Guide originated—has introduced some interesting on-demand training options. They have a nice assortment of instructor-led classes for local attendees, with sessions in the mornings and evenings. The class schedule is posted on their website, where you can see a calendar with upcoming classes.
So far, this is fairly typical of what family history centers offer. But they have added some additional twists that raise the training bar:
Register online for a class—You can sign up ahead of time to be included in the class. For example, in the calendar click the Beginning U.S. Research link. Scroll down and you'll see a Bookings section where you can reserve a slot.
Join a class remotely—10 minutes before the class starts, you can click the link at the top of the Calendar page (Live-Streamed classes). This allows you to watch the class live, as a webinar. The Center uses Join.Me software to stream the video and audio to learners who are signed in.
See a previous class recording, on the Calendar page, click the links to see previous classes. These videos are hosted on YouTube and are available to watch any time.
Whether you're in the neighborhood or across the globe, the Sandy Granite family history center offers some great remote training options—be sure to check them out!
If you are a Temple and Family History Consultant, it's likely you will need to wear these four "hats" as you fulfill your responsibilities:
The Family History Guide can help you in each of these roles, as well as in the Discover, Gather Connect process. For the Librarian, you can guide others to answers, without having to know everything yourself. See TRAINING TIPS #7 for more details.
For Mentor, use the Consultant Planner on LDS.org to invite others and set goals for their family history work. Did you know that The Family History Guide can be a great asset in setting goals with the people you help? The Choices in the Projects for The Family History Guide lend themselves well to four basic types of things that learners may want to accomplish: navigation skills, gathering memories, research, and temple names. As you work with others, be sure to maintain a balance where the learner stays involved in the discovery process.
For Trainer, develop customized classes using the Course Catalog from The Family History Guide. You can use the website as the training material, with Exercises and links to article and video resources. In most cases, you won't even need to build slide decks to teach from. These classes can be used in small or larger settings as needed. For more help, see Training Tips in the Trainers menu of The Family History Guide.
For Recruiter, encourage others to become involved in family history. This task can be made much easier with The Family History Guide. You can show others the 15-Minute Approach on the Home page of the website, to help busy people fit family history into their lives. You can also point people to fun and engaging family history activities that bring families and individuals together, including youth and children.
One of the most common reasons people use for not getting involved in family history is "I don't have the time." Yet if you ask a busy person if they could spare 15 minutes a day or every other day for something very important, chances are they'd say "yes."
This is where the "15 Minutes" idea can be helpful, for those you'd like to get involved in doing family history. We recently added a "15 Minutes" button on the Home page of The Family History Guide. It goes to a newly revised "More Things to Do" page that is geared around doing family history tasks and activities in short spurts. Combined with The Family History Guide, this 15-minute approach could be the difference-maker in helping you get more people involved in family history.
Watch for a post on our Blog Page this weekend on these ideas. We'll be updating the "More Things to Do" page from time to time, to keep people inspired and motivated to be on the family history path and enjoy its life-changing benefits.
When we teach traditional family history computer classes, we typically set up the class with a presentation screen at the front and rows of computers filling the rest of the room.
That usually does the trick for group instruction in a computer lab, but what if you need to do individual mentoring with a group? Walking back and forth between aisles to help people can be a pain, not to mention bumping into chairs, people, and power strips.
Recently, the Sandy Granite family history center came up with an interesting solution. There are two rooms in the center: one is set up as a traditional computer lab, and the second, until a few weeks ago, was an overflow room with a few computer tables. The tech staff re-configured that room for mentoring, using an ingenious setup.
Starting from the middle of the room, there is a pod of four computers, 2 x 2, facing each other. Around the middle pod is a spacious walking aisle. The outer edge of the room has three banks of computer tables: one in front, one on the left, and one on the right. You can see this layout in this picture.
There are several mentoring advantages here: 1) Learners can get to any seat in the room easily; 2) the instructor can quickly get to any computer to provide mentoring help; and 3) learners can also walk around and see what others are doing, or get help from others.
When the instructor needs to address the entire group, seats can easily be swiveled to face the needed direction. The presentation screen is still at the front of the lab.
When people ask you questions about family history, you begin to realize how much there really is to learn. You may find yourself thinking, "I'm not a library—I don't know all the answers!" And that's totally OK. Stressing about the things you don't know is a sure way to not enjoy being a consultant or mentor.
So what's to do? One way to alleviate some of the knowledge burden is to think of yourself as the librarian, not the library. You can become very successful in helping others with family history if you know the basics, and then you know where to turn for additional answers.
For example, you should know how to access and do basic navigation in one or more platforms, such as FamilySearch or Ancestry, and perform simple record searches. (And you may already know much more than that, or not—depending on your experience.) But what about the many other aspects of family history that others may have questions about? That's where The Family History Guide can help you feel like a librarian, rather than a library.
For example, do you remember all the steps for uploading photos in FamilySearch? What about explaining the best strategies for descendancy research, or how to do research in archives and libraries? If you don't remember, but you know where to point someone in The Family History Guide, the answers will usually come fairly quickly. (Uploading photos? Project 2: Memories, Goal 6 ... Descendancy research strategies? Project 3: Descendants, Goal 1 ... Archives and libraries? Find the Goal in the Country or state page you want.)
I remember once when I was helping a guest at a family history center with a question, and someone else came up to wait for help. I could sense the second person's impatience, so I interrupted my conversation and asked what I could do for them. Normally that wouldn't be a great strategy, as the second person could take over the conversation, and the first person would feel abandoned. But I had something in mind. When the second person asked his question, I thought for a moment and said, "I want you to open The Family History Guide and go to (such and such) Project and Goal. Read the first Choice and then I'll be with you in a few minutes." When I got back to that person, he said, "Never mind—I found an article that answered my question ... thanks!"
Not all experiences will go as smoothly as that one, but it shows the power and potential of helping others find answers to their questions using The Family History Guide. When a person is at least partially involved in finding an answer, it does tend to stick with them pretty well, and you have the satisfaction of helping them progress.
Best wishes with your adventure of being a librarian instead of a library—it should prove to be a very rewarding experience!
When it's time to teach a new class on a family history topic, some of the first thoughts that may cross your mind are, "I'll need to build a slide deck for that" and "I'll need to come up with some class handouts." That's the process that trainers have used for a long, long time, and still do. But there's a new process in town ...
Because The Family History Guide is a self-contained online learning system, it means you can teach its family history topics right from the website. So instead of spending hours creating slide decks, or finding them form other people and adapting them, you can be ready to teach from The Family History Guide in a fraction of the time. Here are the basic preparation steps using the website:
Use the Course Catalog (Trainers > Course Catalog) to select the material you want to cover. You can also download an Instructor Guide for the topic there, for additional training tips and questions to discuss.
Study the selected Goals, Choices, and Steps in The Family History Guide.
Review the document and video links to see if you want to include any of them in the training.
Review the Exercises and decide how to implement them.
That's pretty much it. In addition to saving prep time, this approach enables trainers to teach family history topics that they had not considered before, since the material is there and ready to use. When the training is over, the Tracker provides a way for learners and trainers to continue monitoring progress.
So, about those handouts ... Although preparing detailed handouts for training with The Family History Guide is usually not necessary, there are a number of useful handouts in the Media section (Intro > Media). There are also brochures on that page you can print and use in training.
Enjoy the mind-shift of the future that's here today ... move from slide decks and handouts to The Family History Guide!
Hopefully, many of you have had the opportunity to present The Family History Guide to others, possibly in a computer lab setting such as a family history center. It's a rewarding experience to see the "lights go on" in people's eyes when they realize what a difference The Family History Guide can make in their own progress.
Here are a few tips for presenting the website in a computer lab setting, where the learners may be matching your navigation on their workstations:
Make sure all equipment is working properly beforehand, including your projection system and instructor's computer.
Clearly announce when you are changing screens, such as clicking a menu item. You're familiar with the menus, but those new to the site can get lost trying to catch up if your transitions are not clear.
Don't move too quickly between menus or screens, or scroll rapidly. This tends to disorient people who are watching. Remember to use the Goal links at the top of each Project you are showing.
Always have a reason in mind for *why* you are showing a particular feature in The Family History Guide. The purpose is not to "cover everything on the site" ... it's to help learners discover features they can really benefit from. (Watch for a future Facebook Training Tips post on this subject soon.)
When you show a video from The Family History Guide, suggest to learners that they watch the main screen rather than run the video themselves. Learners might not stop their own videos in a timely fashion, have navigation issues, or disturb others with sound. Keep the watch time short in videos you show.
Limit or avoid showing outside videos (ones that are not found in The Family History Guide). While there are many inspirational videos about family history on the Internet, remember that the purpose of the presentation is to highlight what The Family History Guide can do.
Ask meaningful questions every so often, to keep learners involved and avoid screen fatigue. (See item 4 above.)
That's a quick list—hope it helps in your next presentation. If you have tips on presenting in a computer lab setting, be sure to add your comments to this post. Good luck!
As trainers, we probably wish all our learners were eager and thoughtful. That would be such an easy training assignment, right? Perhaps, but the "easiness" of the way can also cause us to miss the mark. Let's take a look at each learning type and some ways we can better meet their needs.
The Eager Learner
Eager learners are typically ready to listen to whatever we have to say ... and that may actually be a problem. Why? Because we end up going too fast, trying to cram in too much new information in a training session. Or, we may stress "favorite" areas of family history that are enjoyable for us but not essential for those who are just getting started.
To counteract these tendencies, we should decide on the basic fundamentals we want to get across, and the level of detail for each. Resist the temptation to dive in too deep to a particular topic, even if the learner seems to want to know all about it. Instead, focus on a balance of topics to build a strong foundation. You can use the Tracker from The Family History Guide to pre-assess skills or set goals with your learner. Remember: you want to empower your learners to see where to go next, rather than cause them to be dependent on you for knowledge. The Family History Guide can be a great asset in accomplishing that.
The Thoughtful Learner
This is probably the ideal training situation, but it still has some important challenges. Here are a few basic tips:
Be sure to understand each question clearly before answering. That may seem obvious, but experience shows that we often go down the wrong paths because of what we "think" a learner said or wants to know. Ask clarifying questions whenever needed, to make sure you are both on the same page.
Put the question in its proper learning place. In other words, don't assume that you need to answer every question just because it was asked. If the answer would steer you away from the learning path you're on, then say, "That's a good question—we'll get to that a bit later" (and don't forget to do that); or answer the question briefly and then gently move back to the topic at hand.
Treat each question with kindness, or the thoughtful learner may stop asking them.
Enjoy training your eager and thoughtful family history learners. They are truly a gift!
This type of learner may be suspicious of trainers or have strong opinions about the way things should be done in family history. You may meet him or her in a classroom or in a one-on-one mentoring situation. Assuming the person really does want to learn, even if it's buried deep inside, here are a few do's and don'ts to keep in mind.
Acknowledge or compliment on the positive things he is doing or saying. When the learner feels like you're on his side, at least in some things, it will create a better relationship.
Find out what goals the learner is trying to achieve, and then offer some suggestions towards accomplishing them. This conversation may open the door to venturing into new areas of growth in family history.
Ask questions to find out where the learning strengths and gaps might be. For example, you can use a Tracker sheet from The Family History Guide to do a quick pre-assessment of what the learner already knows, and what would be new ground.
Set goals together, even if they are small ones, and invite feedback on progress. The goals should incorporate areas the learner is familiar with, as well as new areas.
Criticize a learner's approach or assumptions that you disagree with, right off the bat. Instead, focus on the benefits of your approaches, such as saving time, avoiding duplication, getting effective results, etc.
Think of the opinionated learner as your adversary; think of him as your teammate. This will help you move in a more positive direction.
Debate with an opinionated learner in a classroom setting. This takes time away from your objectives and can be frustrating to other class members. Instead, make your point, listen, and then go on.
As we strive to become good (and better) trainers, we must remember that it's just as important for us to be good learners. As you read the article below, ask yourself how well you are doing in each of the areas the author points out. Then as you work with learners, especially the "difficult" ones, picture them as having the potential to be good learners—and reward their efforts.
Reluctant learners will probably be thinking or saying:
I don't have time to be a genealogist.
My Aunt Clara does all our family history.
I don't know where to start.
It's too hard.
Here are some ideas that can help us get past our family history doubts and fears:
TIME—You don't need to become immersed in genealogy; you can enjoy it in pieces. The key is having brief, meaningful and enjoyable experiences, from 15 to 30 minutes at a time (or more, if the mood strikes). The Family History Guide is ideal for this: you can select a Project, Goal, and Choice and quickly find instructions, articles, and videos to get you going. Feeling like you've succeeded and learned something positive will keep your family history momentum going.
AUNT CLARA—The assumptions here are: 1) you have to be very skilled to be involved in family history; 2) it takes all your time; 3) it's more efficient if one person per family handles family history work. Simply put, all of these are false. Everyone can participate, no matter the skill level (even "Aunt Clara" started off as a beginner). It doesn't have to consume your life (see "Time" above). Do the math: more people working together can build family trees fuller and better. But the biggest advantage of not leaving it all to Aunt Clara is that we all need to experience the personal connections to our ancestors that family history brings—not just Aunt Clara.
WHERE TO START?—The usual answer here is "start with what you know" ... and that's good advice. Getting documents and photos organized and getting the first few generations in order are good goals for any genealogist. But what if more work has already been done on your family lines? Then it's time to reach out to family members and see what needs to be done next. The major family history sites—FamilySearch, Ancestry, MyHeritage, and Findmypast all have excellent collaboration tools, and The Family History Guide has an entire Project dedicated to help and collaboration.
TOO HARD—Imagine if you are trying to get back into physical shape after after a long layoff. Overdo it, and you may quickly give up on the fitness idea. With family history, you can plunge right into trying to crack that research brick wall in the 1600's ... or instead, you can check out articles and videos to help you get warmed up to research. The stronger your foundation, the better you'll be able to handle family history challenges when they arise. Remember that it's not all about finding that "new person"—there is plenty you can do for people already in your tree, such as finding stories and photos, or providing sources for their information.
IT'S BORING—If you're not into dates and places, and that's all that family history is supposed to be, then yes, it may seem boring. That's where the power of connections and discovery comes in. When we discover a photo of one of our ancestors for the first time or read an inspirational story about one of them, it's a whole new game—we start to discover who we are, as well as who they are. This is something vital for us, and it's vital that we pass it on to the next generation. Kids who know their family roots can build a stronger, more confident identity as they go forward in challenging times. The Family History Guide has a section dedicated to fun family history activities—they are anything but boring!
4 Family History Stages—https://www.thefhguide.com/Four_Family_History_Stages.pdf Family History Activities—https://www.thefhguide.com/act-families.html The Secrets of a Happy Family—http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/17/fashion/the-family-stories-that-bind-us-this-life.html
Imagine yourself seated next to someone who has asked you to help with his or her family history. (For LDS family history consultants, this is a pretty familiar scenario, and there are great suggestions in the Consultant Planner on LDS.org for this very thing.)
How would you get started?
Often, we focus on trying to pour information into the learner's head—especially information from our own area of genealogy expertise (record types, research tips, etc.). But that may not be what the learner really needs. If we "force-feed" an informational meal, even though it's delicious to us, it may kill another's appetite for learning.
Let's take a look at a few sample "learner profiles" of people you may have the opportunity to help with family history:
The reluctant learner. He may be there because of guilt, or peer pressure, or mild curiosity.
The "I know what I'm doing" learner. He may be suspicious of what you're trying to do, or have strong opinions about the way things should be done.
The eager learner. She is ready for anything you would want to share.
The thoughtful learner. She has already pondered what she wants to accomplish with her family history and has specific questions to ask.
As trainers or consultants, we need to be prepared for each type of learner and know how to help them succeed. Often, the first interaction you have with a learner will determine whether he or she disengages or engages with family history help. We certainly want and hope for the latter to happen, as it has the power to change lives for generations!
Next week's post: Helping Reluctant Learners Find the Joy of Family History