Post-SLIG Observations

I am back from Salt Lake City and have some observations about the experience.

I enjoyed the experience of my class, the Advanced Practicum, organized by Angela McGhie and Kimberly Powell.   Advanced Practicum is one of several classes offered for one week at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG).

Each afternoon a new problem is presented by an advanced genealogist.  Class members work on the problem until the next afternoon at which time they submit a short explanation of the solution.  We then attend the class, hear a presentation by the advanced genealogist about the problem while sharing out findings and solutions.  Since there are usually multiple research questions, rarely does anyone “get it all right.” The goal is to learn new tools, new locales, gain exposure to new records sets and improve one’s analytical skills.  The problems varied but address some common genealogical problems:

  1. identifying multiple generations of women in the south (North Carolina)
  2. sorting out multiple families when the heads of household have the same name (Poland)
  3. identifying slave ownership (South Carolina)
  4. identifying the father who abandoned his family and then had multiple marriages. (Pennsylvania)
  5. identifying 3 generations of maternal line of an immigrant family in the Midwest (Iowa, Germany)

I did the best with the last problem using some interesting tools to work out options.  Of course, it was in a locale where I am very familiar.  I did the worst with the finding the father in Pennsylvania where I just replaced one family story with another…humbling.

But with each of the problems I learned something.

In a previous post, I noted that I wanted to research more efficiently and to develop a research plan for each problem.  I was definitely more efficient working the problems but still  lost focus on occasions.  I did develop a research plan for every problem but in almost every case I needed to revisit the  plan and revise at the midpoint or when I lost focus.

Problem #1:  I learned I needed to write as I go.  The writing of the summary of findings was crammed in at the end of this day.  If I wrote as I researched the writing would be almost completed at the end of the day with just some general editing.  I also needed to rework/revisit my research plan about every 3 hours or so.  The given information by the advanced genealogist usually makes the answers to the first research question fairly obvious.  As one proceeds with the problem and loses focus, rebuilding the research plan might be reasonable to do. Subsequent days I wrote while researching.  I did not however, revisit my research plan which I should have done.

Problem #2: In this problem the genealogist presented a huge spreadsheet of parish events in a village in Poland.  The assignment was to separate out the families of individuals who had the same name.  I enjoyed this problem, probably because it was very similar to work I do with my Swedish and Ostfriesen ancestors.  There were over 3000 entries over an 80 year time span in the database so this was no light exercise.  One had to use the births, marriages and death records to sort out the families.  I needed to know more about Excel to do this problem most successfully.  I will be taking some tutorials to add making pivot tables to my Excel skills.

Problem #3: This was an extremely complex problem with a lot of information to analyze.  The slave identification was very difficult due to another “contender.”  To be successful one had to work backwards and forwards.  First, one had to trace the “person of interest” from freedom back to slavery and then trace the slave “contenders” from likely families forward to see if  they aligned.  The researcher could get distracted and at any time go down the genealogical “rabbit hole.”

Problem #4: This was a case of trying to find the father of an abandoned mother and child in the Northeast.  I should have gotten further with this problem.  I learned some tricks for getting to online information more quickly. Due to some other work (personal and otherwise) I only spent five hours on this problem (excuse) but I doubt if I had spent more time, I would have done much better.  The best strategy would have been to start over again after working on it for 5 hours.  I did, however, record my findings in the report as I went along.  And while the report “looked good” that did not make up for the fact the findings were extremely weak.  This was a humbling experience for me.

Problem #5: The problem was to identify ancestors of immigrant (German) family on maternal side.  The day before I had done some personal work in the library and actually used some of the German resources (new to me) provided by the genealogist. That helped.  I did well enough on this problem that I  could challenge the genealogist on his conclusions on the final research question.

As with all of the problems the discussion at the end of the day was most interesting because each classmate approached the problem differently.  Previous attendees of the class noted that this year’s cohort was particularly collaborative, sharing strategies and successful approaches.

One of the highlights of any conference or institute is meeting new people and connecting with old friends. Our ProGen group (4 attendees) got together for breakfast– Rorey, Zola, Lynn and me.  It was great fun to catch up with everyone.

The class will be offered next year; perhaps you should take it.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since my last posting:  tried to recover from the “SLIG Sickness” that rolled through then entire population of SLIG.  I caught it starting on Tuesday; by Thursday I was wasted.  I recovered a bit by the middle of the week but did not attend the banquet so I had energy to pack and get to the airport the next morning


5 comments on “Post-SLIG Observations

  1. Jody Clark Jones says:

    Your honesty and candor are so refreshing and much appreciated. I’m enrolled in BU’s Certificate in Genealogical Research course, which starts today, and I’m sitting here wondering whether I can handle the workload and level of challenge. On top of that, I’m warming up my fingers to enter the IGHR registration race and trying to decide between the risk-fraught course or a much safer one. The fear of failure or looking stupid has been a limiting factor in choices that I’ve made (or not made); your posts about SLIG and your Certification Journey, and your willingness to share “humbling” experiences are helpful. Thank you!

    • Jill Morelli says:

      Thanks for the compliment! I have never found that trying to be more than I am has any “return” – it is just not me. Genealogy classes (SLIG, ProGen etc. ) ask you to do your best–it doesn’t ask you to be perfect or even to get it “right”. (I got none of the Advanced Practicum research questions all right.) If you adopt the philosophy of doing your best work you will get the maximum from the course and have much more fun. Good luck!

  2. Jade says:

    Nice insights, Jill. We all have to be self-critical enough to learn from experience.

  3. Jill, I’m wondering (other than sharpening skills) how a class like this with Polish, German, and a slave research would help me learn better research skills for my emphasis of 17th, 18th & 19th century US records? I know in the BU program, I also got frustrated with the 20th C immigration from Europe as I will never work on that particular specialty. I work mostly on migrations from East to West with lineage society research. SLIG classes like Josh Taylor’s “Bridging the Gap” and Mark Lowe’s “southern records” were most helpful to me. I wonder if they would ever organize an advanced practicum with US records only?

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