Thursday, May 31, 2012

American Research and Records Course at SLIG

This post is the sixth in a series of articles by guest authors sharing their experience with courses offered at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy. Here is the perspective of Denise Spurlock on the American Research and Records course.

After you have researched your ancestor’s life through the census, vital records, and perhaps land and probate files, where do you go next to find information that will help you learn even more? To find out, you should attend the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy’s track on American Research and Records, coordinated by Paula Stuart Warren, CG.  The focus alternates between families and locations. In 2012, the focus was on families.

Paula, and the team of instructors she recruits, are among the most knowledgeable genealogists and popular lecturers in the country. Together they provided participants with a wealth of information about other resources such as:

  • Non-population and special census schedules
  • Institutional records
  • City directories
  • Church records
  • Passport applications
  • School records
  • Lesser-used federal records
  • Manuscript repositories and special collections
In addition, there were classes on strategies for planning your research, writing your family history, and making the most of online search tools.

A highlight of the week was a project in which the participants were divided into teams and given a snippet of a document to get them started on a research project. A primary purpose was to learn how to take clues from what you have and develop a research plan to learn even more. Each team developed a research focus and plan and reported their findings at the end of the week. It was a fun opportunity to get to know, and work with, other participants in the course. An added benefit was being able to research in records in a state with which I had limited experience.

There was ample time during the week to use the Family History Library to work on my personal research and on the research project. Being able to take what I learned in the morning and put it to use in the afternoon and evening helped me to internalize the concepts and ideas right away. Private consultations were also scheduled in which you could discuss a personal research question with Paula or another one of the instructors. Since Paula is from Minnesota, I was able to get advice from her on a research question I have with an ancestor who lived there.

In 2013, the track will focus on locations. I am confident the course will be equally helpful in learning about how to find and use resources based on the location in which your ancestors lived.

Denise Spurlock
Ancestral Trees Research
Lomita, California

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