Sunday, January 29, 2012

WOW, just WOW. The Week of SLIG.

Congratulations to everyone who helped create a wonderful Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy this year. Christy Fillerup, Peg Ivanyo, Sherry Stevens, Luana Darby, Jill Woodbury, Kimberly Powell, and Carrie Keele all worked hard and the hard work paid off beautifully. The level of instruction for SLIG this year was better than ever--the most exceptional genealogy instruction you can get anywhere.

Salt Lake Institute is different than any other conference I get to go to. And get to have a birds-eye view because I'm president of the Utah Genealogical Association who sponsors it. There are typically 10 to 12 tracks and each student takes 20-25 hours of instruction in one of the subject specific tracks. The instruction is on a more advanced level, and with 20 hours of focused instruction you get to go really in depth into the subject matter you are studying. It is a super-charged week that blows your mind. It is absolutely amazing what these instructors and students can find in someone's family history. Most people's brick walls simply fall over in the presence of the knowledge here. I love the brilliant, invigorating, scholarly atmosphere at this conference.

I took the Swedish track this year, taught by Geoffrey Froberg Morris and Wilma Larson, both librarians at the Nordic Desk in the Family History Library. I thought I knew a little bit about Swedish genealogy, but I found out just how very little I knew. The first day we worked on Gothic script and they had me believing I could actually learn to read it well--and maybe even teach my teenagers to as well. We were given pages and pages of vocabulary lists specific to different record types and databases. And I learned about several databases and CDroms that I didn't know existed. As the week progressed, they walked us through court records and tax records and the full scope of Swedish church records, not only blowing my mind, but showing us how to stretch our lines back 100 years past where we thought they could go. I'm especially excited about the classes on Military Records and everything I learned about how to trace Kim's great, great Grandfather's soldier records. There is so much there to fill out the details of their lives.

I also got to help run audio visual for the week. We had the most fun virtually bringing in instructors from Wales for the Welsh course through our online meeting system. The transmission wasn't perfect, it depends not only on our internet connections and computers, but also on theirs. But everyone said the content was completely worth it. We had a Welsh specialist on emigration talk about the people who left Wales--he brought in a whole new twist on the subject. And the person who helped build the index to newspapers talked about Welsh newspapers that are unavailable online. Darris Williams did a fantastic job of getting the hang of the system. Kudos to him for being willing to give that new aspect of SLIG a try.

Tom Jones gave the keynote lecture on Monday night entitled "The Genealogical Proof Standard: What It Is and What It Is Not." I honestly could listen to that man read fairy tales and still learn something. He is so brilliant. The way he presents genealogy theory makes it all come clear. I got some time later in the week to talk to him about the class he taught for the Advanced Genealogy Practicum Course. He gave them a problem that the students had to work out and then they discussed it in class. The problem was about a man who lived under an assumed name across several states, with four wives and twelve children. He actually figured out how to track him through documents with completely different names. What a challenge it was for those practicum students. And what I love best about Tom is that he is so generous and respectful to me and everyone else who is so undeserving in his presence. Again, he is one of those instructors that makes you believe you could do it yourself.

And then one of the highlights of the week was to sit by and get to listen to our banquet speaker--Lou Szucs. She is such a legend in the genealogy community, and again so generous and kind to work with. I especially loved listening to her stories about getting her children involved--how her kids were lucky enough to be the only ones with their own microfilm reader--and they knew how to use it! She said her daughter Julianna talks about "trolling for ancestors through the streets of New York" in the New York Census while other kids were out getting into trouble. She made me feel better when she said that she paid her kids $.25 per ancestor and that it wasn't bribery but "economic advantage." I want to grow up to be Lou in every way. What a generous, sweet woman.

So if you want to learn to be a REAL genealogist, plan to come to SLIG next year. My only problem now is deciding which course to take.

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