A Question from a Reader

Slide1A reader recently asked a very interesting question about the Advanced Practicum:

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?

This question got me thinking about why I, a person who does almost all my personal research in the 19th century Midwest or overseas, would find Advanced Practicum helpful or even interesting.

The same question came up recently in the January Seattle Genealogical Society Board meeting.  We were discussing the spring seminar where we have invited C. Lynn Andersen to speak.  She is an accredited genealogist with ICAPGen with a specialty in Mid-South States.  If one has no one in their ancestral path that is associated with any of the Mid-South States (VA, WV, KY, TN, MO, SC, NC), why should they attend the seminar?

I believe they should but here are some thoughts.

Just as a refresher, the Advanced Practicum is a class taught at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG) from which I returned in mid-January.  We received a different genealogy problem each day for five days to solve.

The problems varied:

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

So, …

  • none of the families were “mine”
  • only one was in a geographic area where I regularly work

But, each problem…

  • represented a universal genealogical problem
  • improved my analytical skills , as none of them relied solely on direct evidence
  • exposed me to record sets that otherwise I would not come in contact with.
  • provided interesting “puzzles to solve” which I did with varying success
  • represented a time frame within which I work–19th or 20th centuries
  • and some day I may work in these areas.

I posed the question of why should one attend the SGS Seminar if they did not have people in the Mid-South states to Lynn, our speaker and her answer was not surprising–to learn transferable skills.  And, as she noted, you never know when you will be asked by a friend or a relative to look at their line and find that they came through these states.

So, besides having the fun of solving of puzzles, I recommend attending both the Advanced Practicum and educational events outside your focus area–not because you will find record sets that answer your problems or ethnic groups with which you are familiar but because –you won’t!  But, you will learn problem solving skills and get exposed to other record sets. The skills learned might be the  ones that break your own brick walls.  Oh, and as you work these unrelated problems you might find yourself being able to dispassionately view your own work and identify similar problems in your own family history.

So, if improving your skills is not enough of an incentive, perhaps learning about new records set is or perhaps you have an inquiring mind and just want to know.  All are great reasons to attend seminars outside your research focus or to attend the Advanced Practicum.

But, then again you might find yourself making a different decision, which is OK too.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting:  I recovered from the “SLIG Sickness”–it was an insidious thing.  I have agreed to speak twice at Skagit Valley–a one hour session and an all-day presentation in September.  I have been madly working on two presentations which are incredible time consumers–House Histories (60 hours?) and Scandinavian Research (40+ hours?).  While I love them both, they are both very complex–more so then I was expecting. I also have helped a friend put together her first presentation.  It is interesting the tips you forget that a newbie brings to the surface.


6 comments on “A Question from a Reader

  1. ztnoble says:

    I couldn’t concur more, Jill. In the fall, I attended a one-day session on finding slave ancestors, but as a WASP, I do not have slave ancestors. In fact, some of my ancestors owned slaves. However, this conference showed me many resources for researching some of my own brick walls, plus it was a fascinating lesson in proving ancestry from indirect evidence.

    • Jill Morelli says:

      Zola, That is a great example. We may not be of the ethnic group but we probably have some of that gorup in our FAN club. I recently gave a presentation on “An Overview of Ostfriesen Culture” to the Stillaquamish Genealogical Society. The group of 40 included 10 Ostfriesens (probably all in the entire Puget Sound region!) but I am sure the other 30 enjoyed learning about this little known area of Germany.
      I enjoyed the challenge of discovering the identity of a freedman/slave. Not something I had done in my own research or that of clients.
      Hope you are feeling better.

  2. Nan Bailey says:

    This is an excellent post. Thank you for bring the subject up

  3. Jade says:

    I loved your observation, “Oh, and as you work these unrelated problems you might find yourself being able to dispassionately view your own work and identify similar problems in your own family history.”

    Or to put it slightly differently, having to focus on unfamiliar problems through unfamiliar records can wake up some part of the brain for an out-of-the-box view of techniques to apply to future research.

    All told, that would be the underlying purpose of the Advanced Practicum 🙂

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