Back in Pittsburgh for another week-long genealogy institute! My third. This time it’s Thomas W. Jones’ course of Advanced Research Methodology.
The instructors here are at the top of the field; experts in a variety of specialties. I learned so much from Rick and Pam Sayre on Land Records in 2013, and from Judy Russell on the Law in 2014 Although only one day in, I know this year will be no different. My introduction to Dr. Tom Jones and the world of genealogy scholarship was at the Boston University Genealogical Research course in 2011. What a profound eye opener! I had no idea how little I knew! During that course, I realized my approach to genealogical research would have to change from one focused on the haphazard gathering of information and as many names in my family tree as possible, to one which was evidence based and adhered to the Genealogical Proof Standard. The single best thing I did in an effort to do that, was to start reading the National Genealogical Society Quarterly religiously. Studying its case studies. The next best thing was to set a goal of attending two educational conferences/classes per year.
What’s particularly nice about this institute, apart from it being close enough that I can get to it without flying, is that so many of my friends attend.
I remember my ProGen13 study mate, the wonderfully redoubtable Melinda Henningfield, telling me the best way to develop excellent genealogy practises, build a network of colleagues, and cultivate friendships with those colleagues, is at an institute. She was so right! Genealogists never get tired of talking about genealogy. Being surrounded by people who don’t get that glazed over look in their eyes at the mere mention of a courthouse, Ancestry, or cemetery, is such a delight!
Classes today dealt with developing an evidence orientation to our research, determining a good research question, and creating a focused research plan. Tom is a great teacher, and one of the things I particularly like about this course is that it’s not just a series of lectures. He walked us through some specific examples, and it was very interactive. I find it incredibly helpful to see how he approaches his problems. Later in the day, Rick Sayre gave a talk on Federal Records, with emphasis on the records available online at the Library of Congress’s Century of Lawmaking site: American State Papers, House and Senate journals, and the Congressional Serial Set, etc. These are wonderful, accessible, yet underused record sets, rich with details about the lives of our ancestors who for one reason or another had personal interactions with the federal government. The link to the site is here.
We had homework related to Rick’s part of the day, and there was an evening lecture on researching German origins of immigrants. All in all a tiring day but worth every minute 🙂