26 January 2018

SLIG Day 4: Reflections

Tomorrow is the last day of my #SLIGExperience for #SLIG2018.  I find it difficult to believe that the week is nearly over already; it seems as though I only just arrived yet here I am, a mere 34 hours from flying home from a happy week spent in expanding my genealogical education, in hanging out with friends and colleagues, and in near-daily trips to the FHL while it’s readily available.

We have experienced the highs of discovery, both in terms of finding new resources (at least in my case) for hunting down recalcitrant relatives in England and in the unadulterated joy of finally laying eyes on a vital record which was previously nothing but an FHL number hidden within the bowels of the FamilySearch catalogue.  We have also experienced the lows of long lunch lines on Monday and the chorus of coughing permeating each room in the Hilton as colleagues struggle to work around colds, bronchitis, or the flu.

Regardless, I think it is safe to say that we will all come away from our SLIG experience as better people and better genealogists who are more knowledgeable than when we started, and no doubt more inspired to continue our personal quests, whether those consist of continuing education, ancestor sleuthing, or finally gaining the courage to take the leap into professional genealogy.

As I left this evening for my daily pilgrimage to the FHL, I was slapped in the face by a snow flurry of big flakes; it made for a long, damp walk.  On the way home, however, I was struck once again by the beauty of the local landscape, from the blue lights festooning trees lining the streets to the backdrop of soaring mountains in the near distance.  It struck me that perhaps this experience too served as a metaphor for SLIG 2018; the snow blasting me in the face represents the sheer volume of information being thrown at us all week, the processing of which becomes an uphill climb at times.  But at the end of things, the snow has stopped falling, leaving us with clear, crisp skies as our classes begin to sink in and to provide clarity. Finally, the bright lights entwined in the trees reflect all the little sparks ignited in us during the week, some of which will ultimately enable us to further scale the trees of our ancestry and those of others.

I can’t think of a better image on which to end such an enjoyable and evocative week of glorious genealogy here in the U.S. home of genealogy research.

Many thanks to the SLIG staff for making this such a wonderful week. Safe travels home, everyone!

25 January 2018

SLIG Day Three: Crimes and Misdemeanors

My morning started with yet another rushed start for me because I am a night owl who struggles to get up for morning lark classes. Or, if you prefer, I put the “pro” in “procrastinate” because I value those extra ten minutes of sleep more than my life and consider any morning which starts before 10 am a crime against nature. I may need to work on that.

Today’s class began with a fascinating talk by Diane Loosle on Crime and Punishment, during which we learned about the different levels of the English Court system and the types of records each produced; of particular note to me was a discussion on transported prisoners because I have one in my family tree—he was transported from England to the colonies after being arrested for larceny, so feel free insert any relevant puns about “stealing away” to America here.

Paul Milner, teaching on English probate records.

The afternoon sessions were run by the delightful Dr. Ronald Hill, who spoke to us about English Chancery records (more crime!) and later about deciphering Elizabethan script, which extensively uses contractions, abbreviations, and simply drops letters.  In fact, one of my classmates, Rosanne Ricks, even referred to it as “Medieval texting.” Well-played, Rosanne!

The evening was spent once again at the Family History Library (because how can any genealogist worth his or her…Salt…be near Genealogy Mecca and not take full advantage? While there I took a course with Julie Stoddard, who provided several helpful resources for researching early American ancestors, then I spent a few minutes playing with the Library’s iPad docking stations, where I quickly learned that I am distantly related to several presidents (including George Washington), Thomas Edison, Elvis Presley, and Emily Dickinson. Turns out I’m even related to a couple other SLIG attendees, include my 11th cousin Sara Cochran! I have to confess, I found it all very entertaining.  I don’t know how accurate the linkages are (have they followed the Genealogical Proof Standard in determining these connections???), but really, isn’t this joy of discovery what we as genealogists are all about?  Doesn’t matter whether we’re discovering in a class, or in a set of records in some dusty archive, or even in an interactive display in Salt Lake City.  It’s all about the hunt, and the gratification of discovery. #SLIGExperience

On the way home, my SLIG buddies and I joked about cutting class to spend more time at the FHL, though of course we wouldn’t.  Time in class is just as valuable as time at the Library.  I never did decide whether skiving off would count as a crime or a misdemeanor, though…I’ll have to check with Diane tomorrow. ;)

24 January 2018

SLIG Day 2: Discovery

The second day of my #SLIGExperience began in a bit of a rush as I hurried to collect a hot chocolate and a muffin for breakfast before my class on English research.  Once there, we were treated to a fascinating discussion on paleography by Diane Loosle, which included several increasingly difficult examples for us to decipher.  I discovered I’m actually not too bad at it and have been inspired to work on transcriptions for FamilySearch and other websites as a result.  I guess grading all those freshman compositions years ago were advantageous after all!

The rest of the day passed in a bit of a blur, with the rat-a-tat-tat of English resources coming at us fast and furiously like a genealogical fusillade over the SOM (that’s short for “Somerset,” not the “Somme,” thank you very much). Not surprisingly, most of my class left at 4 pm excited but a little shell-shocked as we all tried to process the sheer volume of information given to us. Thanks to the encyclopedic knowledge of our instructors Paul Milner and Diane, we discovered (among many other things) that England’s Parish Chests and court Quarter Sessions are rich resources rife with all sorts of interesting (and occasionally obscure) lists and documents, including everything from lists of jurors, felons, tradesmen, and members of the military to records on witchcraft and bastardy.  Who knew the Quart Sessions and Parish Chest were such incredible treasure troves??

Speaking of treasure troves, I also spent far too much time and money exploring Maia’s bookstore and discovering all the little gems she had stashed away.

Mistakes were made.

After class, I met up with some friends for appetizers at Fat Jack’s across the street, where we discovered the wonder of “funeral potatoes,” which are based on Mormon Funeral Potatoes, a casserole dish traditionally served during funerals. Fat Jack’s version were large hush-puppy-style croquettes of potato, cheese, sour cream, scallions, and bacon grease crusted in crushed cornflakes. They were sinfully delicious, and clearly one of the main reasons for the “Fat” in “Fat Jack’s.”

After dinner, my companions and I hoofed it down to the Family History Library (FHL), where we spent a joyous evening geeking out over the extensive collection of microfilm housed there and digitally copying as many records as our grubby little mitts could grab. While there, I discovered marriage registers for my birth grandparents, great-grandparents, and a great-great-grandfather’s second marriage. It was difficult not to squee with maniacal delight over each new acquisition, and we left wondering whether or not the staff would mind if we brought in pillows and sleeping bags to camp out there indefinitely. (Something tells me they would.)

Photo Credit by Abby Peart-Camarato 

All in all, it was a wonderful day of many fine discoveries, and I can’t wait to see what the rest of the week brings.  It’s already passing far too quickly.