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Speaking Topics

My sessions are hands-on, full of stories, and include useful tools and handouts. Most topics can be adapted to be as short as an hour to half-day long interactive workshops.

"Excellent presentation! Excellent handout. Well prepared slides & examples teamed with inspiring teaching. I no longer feel hopeless!"
"Karen's classes are sheer perfection!"

Storytelling 101: Write + share your (short) family stories



Digging Deep: The Power of Place

A one-place study sheds light on our ancestors' lived experiences and can highlight patterns, reveal relationships, and topple brick walls. Karen will discuss the benefits of challenges of conducting a one-place study, offer tips for delving into one-place research, and share poignant stories that she uncovered while researching and writing about her great-grandfather's village in the Shetland Islands, the subject of her recently published book, Voices from the Past: Stories of North Roe.

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Ancestors in Context: Putting the History in your Family History

Expand your family history research beyond names and dates! Placing your ancestors in historical context will not only provide clues for future research paths but will help you create a sketch of your ancestors' daily lives and better understand the decisions they made as a result of what was happening around them. In this session you will learn where to find helpful social and historical resources - particularly those available online - and how to analyze and glean fragments of information from documents so that you can piece together the rich lives your ancestors had.

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Census Research 101

Census records are a key jumping off place to start in the search for your ancestors. Generally taken every ten years, these records can help you determine names, ages, birthplaces, immigration details, occupations, religion and residences of family members. In this session you will learn practical tips to locate, analyze and interpret census records (no matter what country you are researching in) and you will use census data to solve a real family history mystery!


Nosey Neighbours: Using newspapers in family research

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Video Editing Timeline

Tactical Timelines: Your Research and Storytelling Tool

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From Researcher to Writer (Part I): Preparing Your Ancestor's Story

You've compiled years' worth of charts, folders, files and binders. But what will happen to them after you're gone? Now is the time to shape your ancestral research into compelling stories. By the end of the session, you will be able to choose which ancestor's story to tell, prepare your research for storytelling, and identify historical context methods to fill gaps in your ancestor's story. 

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From Researcher to Writer (Part II): Writing Your Ancestor's Story

You've compiled years' worth of charts, folders, files and binders. But what will happen to them after you're gone? Now is the time to shape your ancestral research into compelling family stories. By the end of the session, you will be able to portray your ancestor as a real person, identify a theme, and tell your ancestor's story using creative non-fiction techniques.

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A Story a Day: Capturing your Family Memories on-the-go

It's the stories that make family history come alive. Storytelling connects, teaches and creates a sense of belonging for future generations. Not sure where to start or how to fit family storytelling writing into your daily routine? This session will inspire, motivate and give you practical ideas and steps on how you can capture, write and share your personal and family memories - as you live your life.

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Storytelling 101: Write + Share Your (short) family stories

Family history is more than just tracing names and dates; it's finding, preserving and sharing the personal stories that go along with each person on your family tree. Feel overwhelmed by the thought of writing an entire book or not sure that you have enough material? Come and be inspired by examples, tips and ideas for writing and sharing short family vignettes and essays. If you are your family's storykeeper and are worried these stories might be lost, then this class is for you!

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Tabletop Stories: Food and Your Family History

Whatever your family background, chances are you can find dozens of stories around food: struggling to find it during times of hardship, hunting, fishing and gardening, canning and preserving, cooking and baking with passed-down recipes, and eating together at family gatherings. Since so much family history is created around food, these stories and recipes are worth preserving. Get inspired by some of my family food memories, and learn how you can write and share your own family's tabletop stories through short vignettes, essays or published books.

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Write Now!: How to write and share a compelling family history

One of the best ways to share your research and create a lasting family treasure is to write the story of your ancestor's life. Learn how to transform basic facts into an interesting narrative that the whole family will want to read. This session includes practical ideas on getting organized, accessing creative sources, writing methods, and publishing options.

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Talk to Me: Techniques for conducting successful oral history interviews

Interviewing relatives and strangers can be a rewarding way to gather genealogical clues and make your family history come alive. Avoid frustration and pitfalls by knowing which tools to use, how to prepare in advance, which questions to ask (or avoid), and how to share the interview with others. This hands-on session will give you the tools and confidence to conduct your own oral history interviews.

Antique Pocket Watch

Objects with tales to tell: Preserving family stories through heirlooms

Family heirlooms give us insight into the lives of our ancestors and help us better understand our family's history. Learn how to create an heirloom inventory as well as document and preserve the accompanying stories that give these treasures meaning. This session includes inspirational ideas for displaying family objects in our homes and creative projects for sharing these heirlooms with family members.

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Snapshot Stories: Using photos to tell your family history

A picture is worth a thousand words - but which words? Learn how photos and their narratives can add depth and dimension to your written family history. In this session we will discuss extracting insightful story clues from family photos, writing photo captions, finding alternate images in the absence of family photos, and practical tips for organizing, selecting, scanning and placing photos in your published family history.

Poppy Wall

WWI: The Stories Around Us

Karen will present a compelling narrative on how seeking out or distant WWI family stories is critical to understanding both our ancestors who served in the conflict and those who remained at home. The session will cover her own personal journey discovering nearly-forgotten family tales, researching a small Vancouver Island town, Duncan, BC, through the Great War years and her attempts to discover why this is still so relevant today. Attendees will leave the session with a deeper appreciation of the decisions and sacrifices made 100 years ago and inspiration to pursue their own family research. This session demonstrates how digging deeper into our family locations can help us understand our ancestors better.

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'A cruel maister, da sea'

Shetlanders relied on the sea for their livelihood: fishermen, whalers, merchant seamen, and the women and children who stayed at home to run the crofts. Listen to true stories of tragedy and resilience as author Karen Inkster Vance shares excerpts from her 2nd edition of Voices from the Past: Stories of North Roe.

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