Tuesday, November 15, 2011

SLIG Series--Advanced Research Tools: Land Records

Thanks to Pam Sayre for her great guest blog post!
I gave my husband Rick a new iMac for his birthday recently. As a Mac convert, I cannot stop proselytizing about Apple products and their ease of use. Still, there was a learning curve for me, and Rick is now experiencing a totally different way of doing things. So we did what new and experienced genealogists alike should do—we took a class. We went into a very busy Apple store staffed by enthusiastic knowledgeable people. With equipment and questions in hand, we grilled them for the entire scheduled hour and a half. Rick learned his way around the new interface and how to access some fairly complicated tools that lie buried. I learned easier ways to do things I had been doing the hard way.
Genealogy is a lot like this. We struggle along on our own and spend inordinate amounts of time gathering materials. We measure our experience in years, not in what we actually know. I once heard someone say she had been doing genealogy for twenty years, and in the next sentence she marveled at learning that she didn’t have to search every single deed in a book—if she used the index instead.
SLIG is to genealogists what the Apple Store is to Mac users: a place to come and sit down and feel comfortable watching the experts and geniuses show you how easy something is, or how a difficult problem might be resolved. It’s a friendly place where you’ll talk to the person next to you and commiserate over brick walls. It’s a happy place where you’ll make new friends and quickly find someone to share lunch or dinner with and maybe even a hotel room at next year’s institute. Every single course at SLIG will teach you something you didn’t even know you needed, and you’ll go home each night with your head full of new knowledge and possibilities for how you can rethink your research projects.
Who among us couldn’t benefit by learning some intermediate skills from a master like Paula Warren and her extraordinary instructors? And who could resist the wit and wisdom of John Colletta, a joyful collaboration of a course where students will learn to work with original records beyond those found in a library. There are still a few openings in the above courses and Kory Meyerink’s Midwestern United States course or Welsh Research with Darris Williams or Swedish Research with Geoffrey Morris. Come snow or shine, we’ll be absorbing knowledge all day from top-notch instructors. Toward the end of the day, just as we are beginning to tire, we’ll be freed from class to dash right over to the Family History Library. No matter how tired a genealogist is, when given the opportunity to go on a treasure hunt in the records the exhaustion evaporates and he somehow finds the endurance to close down the library.
Like that Apple store, there’s an excitement and a sense of urgency and just plain fun at Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy. The youthful demographic is represented ably by Josh Taylor, coordinator of the New England course. Apple’s Genius Bar concept is present at SLIG, too, in Judith Hansen’s Problem Solving course where students work on their own research issues. For those with more experience who are ready to really dig in, advanced courses such as Tom Jones’s Advanced Genealogical Methods, Angela McGhie’s Advanced Evidence Analysis Practicum, and Rick and Pam Sayre’s Land Records offer in-depth knowledge.
You’ll learn a lot at SLIG, and you’ll leave with a happy satisfaction and excitement at the prospect of using your new tools. And if you missed the course you wanted this year because it sold out early, get ready to register for the 2013 institute as soon as registration opens. See you at SLIG!

Monday, November 7, 2011

SLIG: A Unique and Rewarding Experience (Josh Taylor)

With the multitude of educational opportunities available for genealogists it can be difficult to choose which to attend. While webinars, conferences, and seminars each provide essential elements to your genealogical education, an institute, such as the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG) offers a rich and unique experience for every genealogist.

First, the ability to spend an entire week immersed in a particular subject provides untold benefits, as it enables us to focus on our research as we learn techniques and skills from some of the world's leading instructors. Like a college "short-course" week, SLIG provides an in-depth look a variety of subjects, from Technology to Advanced Methodology. In addition, SLIG offers evening courses in case you wanted to explore a topic not covered in your chosen course. With courses for genealogists of all levels, SLIG can be a solid foundation for beginning genealogists or an added skillset for advanced researchers.

Second, the consistency of highly-skilled instructors in your throughout the week. Not only do you truly get to know your course coordinator, most courses include a set number of instructors that will be with you throughout the week. This provides an opportunity to develop deeper questions, and in some cases can literally tailor the course to your own research needs. Instructors will provide their own personal knowledge to the course, enriching your experience. Hearing one or two approaches to the same topic can provide you with a deeper level of understanding and more ideas. SLIG is truly a place to learn and expand your genealogical knowledge. 

Third, the small course sizes (usually around 30) provide an incredible opportunity to network with your fellow classmates. Take time to learn about their research and experience, as they might even have some advice for you, or you for them. SLIG certainly offers the ability to collaborate and learn from another other, a unique offering in genealogical education. Most meals are unscheduled, offering the chance to spend a few moments alone or join some of your classmates for a quick bite. Ensure you make the most of this networking opportunity; you might meet a few cousins as well as some lifelong friends. 

Fourth, an added benefit of SLIG is its location - only a few blocks from the Family History Library. This means you have an immediate opportunity to practice what you have been learning in the classroom. The ability for this "hands-on" element of your week in Salt Lake City often helps in retaining the information you are learning each day. Within a few moments after each day ends you can easily find yourself wrapped up in the sources and methods you discovered only moments ago in class.

Finally, SLIG can often solidify your research goals for the New Year. After spending a week engrossed in family history it is difficult to loose the momentum when you return home. SLIG provides the perfect setting to create your genealogical goals for the year. Many participants leave SLIG with their "to-do" lists ready and can quickly jump into their research when they return home.

While it might seem a bit overwhelming, SLIG is a week not to be missed for any genealogist. With constant learning and innovative new research ideas, opportunities to network with others, and hands-on research in the Family History Library, SLIG might well be considered heaven for genealogists!

~ D. Joshua Taylor