by Helen Smith

One of the great pluses of the Unlock the Past cruises is the scheduled Research Help Zones (RHZ). These are wonderful opportunities to get help in your research from experts in their field. There are formal scheduled sessions where an expert will be available to answer questions. This may be one on one sessions or perhaps in a small group.


Chris Paton offering advice


Jan Gow with a small group







I have had the pleasure of helping people with their brick wall problems for a number of Cruises and Expos now and it is great fun and there have been a number of happy dances performed! One thing I have noticed though, is that a number of people are not getting the maximum benefit from their consultations. This is perhaps because they did not realise the Research Help Zone existed and did not come prepared. They came and mentioned they have a problem but couldn’t remember a date or who married whom, which is easy to do, particularly when you have a few generations with the same or similar names. This makes it very difficult to provide the appropriate answers that would work to explode that brick wall.

Jill Ball within enquirer

Jill Ball with an enquirer


Carol Baxter with a small group







So how do you prepare for maximum success?
To get the most out of the RHZ you need to be prepared well ahead of time. In fact now is the time to start!

  1. First work out what the problem is: perhaps a marriage you can’t find, an ancestor that has disappeared, you can’t pinpoint where they originated etc  It is important to write down the problem.
  2. Then determine what information you already have and where you found it and write that down.
  3. Determine what documentary evidence you have, a birth certificate, a marriage certificate etc but please, only bring legible photocopies of your original records. Do not bring your originals, leave them safely at home. Bringing a USB with scans may also help.
  4. Determine where you have already looked, what you found including negative findings as this helps give the background and saves duplication of effort.
  5. Remember to bring a printed family group sheet and pedigree chart for the people in question. You know the ins and outs of your ancestor, but it may not be as clear to others.
  6. Writing down this information and putting it together so that all the information is available when you ask your question of the person at the Research Help Zone means you will get the maximum benefit and hopefully then we will be doing Genealogy Happy Dances with you!

Apart from the formal sessions there are also opportunities for informal sessions where there may be a group of interested people researching an area who get together to talk about successes or problems in that area. This may be a scheduled session with someone well versed in that area or a group of attendees interested in the area.

RHZ cruise 1 Eric

Eric Kopittke with a small group

RHZ cruise 2 3 experts

3 experts onto one case!







Research Help Zone questionnaire
If you have questions to put to a cruise expert click here to download a questionnaire that will prompt you with information to bring. You may bring your question with you, but it is recommended that you submit this in advance of the cruise. This will give you a priority session with an expert. It may also help the expert prepare to help you.

Research Help Zone schedule
A schedule will be made available online in advance of each cruise. This will list

  • experts available and the minimum sessions they have committed to for the cruise
  • areas of expertise they can advise on
RHZ cruise 2

Several experts in action on the 2nd cruise, with other people waiting for an appointment