Genealogy Surgery: A Service to Family History Buffs


I spotted a notice in a British genealogical publication that some noted professional genealogist was holding a surgery at a certain time or place. I smiled. My English cousins speak as peculiar a language as my American nieces and nephews, just not the same language. A surgery is an event where you can visit a specialist and discuss a problem or issue. In North American English we often use the term “clinic” the same way.

So what is a Genealogy Clinic and how could it be used?

A clinic is one way to follow up a lecture by providing individual consultations on individual research problems. Let’s say that I am coming to your community to do a one-day workshop. We might set up a clinic for the evening or the following day. At the clinic I would do one-on-one consultations by appointment. I usually do 25 minute sessions. I ask the client to come prepared with a clear statement of the problem and what has been done to date. This boils down to,

  • who are you researching- one person?
  • what do you already know about him?
  • what precisely do you want to learn?
  • what have you looked at so far?
  • what did these sources tell you?

The client brings along any, but only, documents, pedigree charts, family group sheets, research logs pertaining to the subject of the search.

I then review the problem, ask clarification questions and make suggestions of sources, strategies, etc. the client might use.

If the clinic is properly promoted folks won’t show up with questions on Norwegian research for the specialist in Louisiana and Alabama research.

For the local society, here is a way to assist members to get specialist help. For the specialist, its a way to meet potential clients for research.

Sell the consultations in advance, booking the appointments. It helps if the specialist can obtain the problems in advance.

There are many varients of this clinic idea. I see it as an important service a speaker could offer. I see it also as a special feature that could be offered to those who attend a conference a day early.

What has been your experience? What do you think of the idea? What would you pay for a professional to look at your problem with fresh insights? Share your comments here.

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