Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Advanced Genealogical Methods course at SLIG

This is the second in a series of posts by guest authors on the courses at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy. This one is by Susan Michaels, CG on the Advanced Genealogical Methods course. If you are interested in taking this course in January of 2013 registration will open on June 2nd and it will probably fill in the first day as it is a very popular course.

Course 9: Advanced Genealogical Methods

The primary instructor and course coordinator was Thomas W. Jones, Ph.D., CG, CGL, FAGS, FUGA, FNGS. The guest instructors were Claire Bettag, CG, CGL and Rick Sayre, CG.

I have always enjoyed Tom’s conference lectures, so I chose this course for my first experience attending SLIG. He was an excellent teacher. It was a completely different environment from his lectures. It was very much an instructional versus lecture atmosphere. The syllabus was very complete. I took very few notes mostly to highlight extremely points or the references that he recommended. The syllabus has been a great reference to refer to after returning home from the institute. It was practically worth the price of admission alone. The course material was densely packed. The first two days were spent mostly on the first two modules: “Developing an Evidence Orientation” and “Developing Research Questions and Hypotheses; Planning an Exhaustive Search.” Tom spends a lot of time on these building block fundamental topics. By the end of Tuesday it appears that there is no way that everything in the syllabus can possibly be covered by the end of Friday; however, by the end of Thursday he has caught up with the printed schedule.

After thoroughly covering the foundations of developing an evidence orientation to reconstruct relationships and identities, the rest of the modules demonstrate using these techniques with various major record types including census, probate, tax lists, and local land records. He also discusses three “special problems” including: “Identifying Landless, Enslaved, Peasant, and Other Impoverished Ancestors,” “Finding Immigrant and Migrant Origins,” and “Identifying Female Ancestors.” He finishes the week explaining how to resolve conflicting evidence and solve genealogical problems by correlating sources, information, and evidence. He uses real-life examples from his personal and client research to demonstrate the techniques. As a class and in small groups, the students use the evidence provided on slides and in the workbooks in the syllabus to resolve these real-life problems themselves. I always learn best what I have to figure out for myself, so this was a terrific process to me.

Claire Bettag taught three modules covering how to research U.S. government records: “Archival Research,” “Federal Research: Government Documents,” and “Federal Land Records: Analysis, Interpretation, and Correlation.” She knew her topics inside out and was a very engaging and informative instructor. The first homework assignment was assigned by Claire on government documents. I learned a lot from this assignment and from all of Claire’s lectures.

Rick Sayre was the instructor for “Military and Pension Records Strategies: Analysis, Interpretation, and Correlation” and “Rural and Urban Map Strategies: Analysis, Interpretation, and Correlation.”  I have listened to Rick discuss maps before and no one knows/loves maps as much as he does and he loves to encourage others to use more maps in their research. I was unaware of his interest in military records but I learned a lot from him on using military/pension records to further my research.

I had a terrific experience in this course and I would highly recommend it to every researcher who aspires to performing at a professional level and for breaking down those brick walls that all of us have developed. This is definitely not a beginner course. There is optional homework but not of an onerous nature. For those who may have already taken “Course 4: Advanced Methodology and Evidence Analysis” instructed by Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL at IGHR, I recommend that you take this course at SLIG also. Tom and Elizabeth cover a similar topic from very different directions and teaching styles. The two courses are more complimentary than redundant. Since I had already taken Course 4 at IGHR, I was not sure about how much more I would learn from SLIG’s Course 9; but I am REALLY glad that I took both courses.

This was my first attendance at SLIG, but it definitely will not be my last. I am already anxiously waiting for June 2nd so I can register for SLIG 2013. I hope I see you there.

Susan Michael, CG(SM)
SKM Genealogical Research, LLC
Monroe, NC

CG or Certified Genealogist is a service mark of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, used under license by Board-certified genealogists after periodic evaluation, and the board name is registered in the US Patent & Trademark Office.

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