23 January 2018

SLIG 2018--Day One

What do Samoan Fire Dancers, long lunch lines, mountains, English research, Italian immigrants, berry and passionfruit sorbet, Boston University, and genetic genealogy all have in common? Together they form the tapestry that comprised the first 24 hours of my 2018 #SLIGExperience and together they serve as a metaphor for the passion and pitfalls we all encounter in our quests for ancestral illumination.

Before SLIG’s Sunday night Welcome Reception, I had a chance to meet up a fellow classmate from the freshly-completed OL25 group of the Boston University Genealogical Research Program. We continued our reunion at the reception, where we enjoyed the performances of some (seemingly incongruous for Salt Lake City) Samoan Fire Dancers, who were forced to dance sans fire because of city fire regulations; we wasted no time having our pictures taken with them afterwards. The next morning I awoke bright and early to prepare for my course in English research with the charming Paul Milner. Outside my hotel room window the streetlights were still glowing in the dim, pre-dawn light, punctuated brightly by strands of blue lights encircling the trees lining the streets. Off in the distance was an absolutely stunning view of snow-covered mountains soaring over the city’s skyline.

In class I met a gentleman who told me of a British Institute being offered by a historical society near my home. I later schlepped through long and slow-moving lunch lines, ending up in SLIG Central chatting about my recent DNA discoveries with members of the genetic genealogy class. Finally, in a weird moment of serendipity, I went to dinner at an Italian restaurant with my BU friend and her roommate, where we enjoyed a lovely fruit sorbet at the end of our meal before returning for an engaging presentation on tapestries by Rick Venezia.

As I thought about my first-ever day at SLIG, it occurred to me that the scenic mountains beyond my window could represent the hurdles we all must scale in order to conquer our research questions, while the tedious lines at lunch exemplify our inevitable frustrations and the crucial need for both patience and understanding as we slog through research that doesn’t always move along at a pace we’d like. The BU alums who met last night after the reception (and other groups like them) embody our determination to continually improve ourselves by honing our genealogical skills and by advancing our knowledge so that we may better recreate all the family histories deserving to be told. The sweet taste of my sorbet resembles the sweetness that comes when we finally locate that long-lost ancestor or record for which we’ve been endlessly searching. The Fire Dancers and the Italian immigrant origins of the plenary speaker Rick Venezia serve to remind us that, no matter how disparate our individual origins, we are all bound by the different experiences we weave together at institutes such as at SLIG and elsewhere and by the stories we share there with each other. 

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