27 January 2011

Growing Through Learning

As a rebellious teenager I was not an enthusiastic student. The run-of-the-mill curriculum in Texas was boring even all those decades before the war between science and religion in schools. As an adult taking evening classes after a full workday I came to appreciate formal education. I take pleasure in learning from great teachers in a classroom environment.

The importance of learning advanced and efficient techniques from an experienced practitioner cannot be overstated. Rapid advances in computer technology meant spending much of my previous career in training classes. My genealogical experience has been much the same. Newly discovered records, access methods, and evolving standards and research techniques have led to great progress in genealogical research. Trying to keep up through magazine articles and blogs is practically impossible when client projects and volunteer activities need our attention. But good professionals and advanced researchers understand the importance of allocating time and money for education.

This month I attended the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG) sponsored by the Utah Genealogical Association. I took the "Advanced Methodology" course coordinated by Thomas W. Jones, Ph.D., CG, CGL, FASG, FUGA. Some sessions were presented by Rick Sayre, CG, and Claire Bettag, CG. These are all top-tier speakers in the genealogical community. No one in the class was disappointed. Even sessions on topics I had attended before had updated material that I would have never known about if I didn't place such a high priority on continuing to educate myself. Practical hands-on exercises helped cement the concepts being taught.

For my money, institutes are a much better investment than conferences. Conferences are great for networking and getting an introduction to a topic. Institutes give in-depth exposure in a cohesive, coordinated group of sessions. In 2003 I took the "Advanced Methodology" course taught by Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, at the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research (IGHR). Although the two courses have the same name and cover some of the same topics, any serious genealogist should consider taking both courses. Mills and Jones are both highly-respected researchers using advanced techniques. But different examples and different viewpoints expose us to more ideas. We learn not everyone works the same way. We see things that will improve our work procedures and some things that may not work so well for us. We can synthesize all we learn and come up with a procedure perfect for our own situation.

So, do you prefer the icy conditions at Salt Lake City's SLIG in January with the bonus of having the Family History Center a block away? Or the hot, humid atmosphere of Birmingham's IGHR in June with the bonus of a great university and law library? Or a third option, Washington, D.C.'s National Institute of Genealogical Research (NIGR) in July with access to the National Archives? There are "bonus points" for achieving a trifecta and attending all three institutes in one year. IGHR and SLIG both offer classes for researchers at all levels from beginner to advanced and professional. NIGR is designed for experienced researchers.

CG, Certified Genealogist, and CGL, Certified Genealogical Lecturer are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists® (BCG), used under license by professionals who pass periodic competency evaluations by the Board.

© 2011, Debbie Parker Wayne, All Rights Reserved

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