From a How–To Article to a Case Study Lecture

Ken Aitken profile

Have you ever read a how-to article in a genealogical society publication that was stripped down, economical of language and so clear you wanted to do that search? I recently read an article like that in the National Genealogical Society Newsmagazine that got me thinking. I like lectures that are illustrated with a case study showing how one problem was solved, but doing so with suffiicient information that the listener could use the same process with his or her problem. Here's what I'm talking about.

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Many years ago I read a great step by step article on tracing a civil war ancestor that included how to obtain service records, pension records, regimental histories and unit accounts of battles. I decided to trace a certain English immigrant, Richard Theodore Hambrook following the steps.  I had  great success, even finding Richard's own account of his part in the Battle of Chaplin hHills, as well as the official one. So I prepared a lecture telling of my research, and illustrated with my findings, and comments on my less succesful searches. For these latter  I used examples from other soldiers so my listeners could see examples. However, the presentation worked because it was real: a real search with real successes and failures. Of course my handout reference list included a reference to that original step-by-step article.

There is a lesson here :a good speaker can take a list of step-by-step instructions and turn them into an original illustrated lecture or lesson. Give it a try. Your comments are welcome


One response to “From a How–To Article to a Case Study Lecture

  1. Ken,

    An excellent suggestion (you are really good at those…(BG)).

    With a small society like mine, I know everybody at the meetings and often ask them what they like and don’t like in terms of speakers and programs. They like stories on social history (e.g., people in character), stories about pursuing an ancestor (e.g., like your example), and they like a bit of humor washed into the presentation. They don’t like a dry lecture with no overheads, or a presentation with too many overheads with too many words on them. They are often enthralled by a PowerPoint presentation, but always wonder if they should have listened to the words rather than watched the flash. There is a happy medium in there somewhere, where the most people end up enlightened and pleased with the presentation. Of course, our group is well seasoned, like most societies.

    We had a special Saturday meeting today (we use 3 5th Saturdays each year to try to pull in some younger, working people, on a day when no other group meets). The talk today on “Forensic Genealogy” by Colleen Fitzpatrick worked because she had some humor, created some suspense in telling of the research chase and told some research stories. She even sold some books.

    Cheers — Randy (still blogging lonesomely at

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