Friday, August 13, 2010

My Excellent Newfoundland Adventure - Part 2

Note to anyone going to St. John's - bring your walking shoes! St. John's has steep hills and you will make good use of your shoes and get your cardio exercise in every day.

Signal Hill - Quite a hike up the hill but the views of St. John's Harbour are amazing!

Today, I wanted to share a bit about the NEHGS Newfoundland 2009 Seminar. The seminar was billed as a research tour with expert genealogists from NEHGS at several premier research facilities in St. John's. The seminar ran from Sunday afternoon (July 12) through Saturday afternoon (with a hotel departure the following Sunday morning (July 19). Most of the seminar participants stayed at the seminar hotel (the Sheraton located in downtown St. John's). The seminar leaders were listed as Marie Daly, David Allen Lambert and Judy Lucey, all employees of NEHGS. You could attend the seminar with the option of including the hotel accommodations (your room and breakfast included) or as a commuter (making your own accommodation and meal arrangements). For either scenario the cost included two dinners, one lunch, the Saturday City tour and Boat tour, all transportation between the Sheraton and the research facilities each day and research consultations.

The program's brochure provided a schedule listing two lectures early in the week (Monday evening and Tuesday morning) and each weekday from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm there would be personal research and consultations at the various research facilities.  A Sunday night welcome dinner and a Friday night wrap-up dinner both at the Sheraton were included in the cost of the seminar. Additionally on Saturday a day tour of St. John's City and Whale Watch and Puffin Island boat tour were scheduled. Prior to the seminar all attendees were encouraged to fill out a research interest sheet so that the experts could review our research goals and/or brick walls in order to provide us assistance during the week. We were also encouraged to bring printed pedigree charts and/or family group sheets to our consultations. During the welcome dinner both David Lambert and Judy Lucey told us of the amount of time and effort NEHGS put in to launching this first Newfoundland research seminar. Both David and Judy were enthusiastic and they were genuinely interested in the tour participants having a good experience in St. John's. The Archivists at the facilities where we conducted our research were incredibly helpful and gave us excellent orientations and handouts to assist us with our research. Last but not least, the drivers (from McCarthy's Tour Company) were friendly, helpful and provided interesting commentary and background regarding Newfoundland's history and people as well as great transportation service.

At the outset, I know that I would not have scheduled to trip to Newfoundland if I had not seen the NEHGS Research Seminar brochure and decided to just make the trip. I read the backgrounds of the three experts and thought that they would be able to assist me with both the process and my specific research goals. Filling out the research interest sheet helped me focus my research needs for my trip. That said, I must say I was disappointed with the seminar - simply put, I do not think there was a corresponding value for the cost incurred. Changes were made to the schedule by NEHGS and conveyed to us on Sunday evening - there were two rather than three experts assigned to the seminar (and no mention was made regarding this change), neither lecture was on the final schedule, we used two facilities (apparently they had not heard back from and therefore were unable to schedule time at the Family History Society offices) and no effort was made by either expert to actually schedule consultations with individuals and go over the research interest sheets. When I asked about scheduling my consultations the first day, I was given about ten minutes and it seemed that no review of the sheet had taken place in advance of the seminar. At first I thought it was because I had signed up rather late for the seminar, but as I talked with a few of the other participants I determined that they did not have consultations either. Perhaps I expected too much from the idea of consultations but I found that the librarians and archivists at each of the facilities were as much, if not more, assistance as our NEHGS experts.

Next time  ~ The Newfoundland Seminar Week.

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