This whole week has been so action-packed that I’ve had a difficult time narrowing down topics to write about. I met so many people, made friends and important contacts, and learned at least a small something from each topic covered in the course I took. All that aside, I couldn’t wait to get home. This morning was a short one, and once certificates were handed out, goodbyes said, and the car packed, I gladly hit the road eastbound toward home.
Of all the things we covered this week, there were a few lessons I learned that had very little to do with Southern genealogy. Case in point: I’ve been invited to speak at the Rockdale County (GA) Genealogical Society this coming August. I hope to have a powerpoint presentation ready to illustrate various items in the lecture, and I know I’ll need to create a really outstanding handout as well. So, I spent a good deal of time studying the format of this week’s lectures, the various types of slides used, and comparing syllabus layouts with the needs of my target audience. I learned quite a bit about the process during this week, but I’m fairly certain our instructors didn’t have those lessons in mind when creating their lectures.
I know I’ve talked about Michael Hait a lot in the last couple of posts. While Michael and I have met online and even corresponded a time or two, we had never met in person. He introduced himself Tuesday, and we’ve had several conversations since then centered around, you guessed it, certification and records, in particular records pertaining to slave and/or African American research.
One of the hot topics amongst this week’s IGHR participants is certification. This comes up even in casual conversation, and because most of the genealogists here have a certain level of osity toward the subject, I doubt many realize how frequently it’s mentioned.
Tuesday night, Dr. Thomas W. Jones and Elissa Scalise Powell moderated a discussion about certification through the Board for Certification of Genealogists. This particular session deviated a little from the usual more formal format in that certified genealogists who were in the audience were invited to share their reasons for seeking certification. This was followed by a short conversation by Michael Hait and Harold Henderson on how not to submit an application for certification.
A few years ago, I attended the Federation of Genealogical Society’s national conference in Knoxville, Tennessee. I had never been to a national conference before and wasn’t sure what to expect. I kept looking around and thinking, is this it? I mean, don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed the conference, met some fantastic people, and learned a lot, but it wasn’t the kind of education I really needed. Although a growing number of lectures at national conferences are geared toward advanced topics and/or professional genealogists, most have the beginning or intermediate genealogist in mind. And since the lectures are short (generally 45 minutes in length with a ten or fifteen minute Q&A, although not always), the speakers don’t necessarily have time to give more than an overview of the subject being covered. A really good overview, but not generally the kind of in-depth discussion I was hoping for.
At IGHR, I’ve found that in-depth learning experience. The people here are absolutely amazing, from the institute’s staff to the course coordinators and teachers to the students. In between classes, everyone is in conversation, and most of it centers around genealogical issues. For those who are new to the institute (like me), some of that discussion revolves around getting to know researchers on a personal level, or meeting researchers in person with whom one has only ever corresponded before.
Today, I drove to Birmingham, Alabama, to participate in my first Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research (IGHR), held annually at Samford University. The campus is small but lovely, and everyone seems very nice. Classes start in the morning. I’m taking Course 3: Research in the South, Part 1, led by J. Mark Lowe, the course coordinator. We have a bevy of other good speakers for this course, namely Linda Woodward-Geiger, Deborah Abbott, and Michael Hait. I’m looking forward to hearing what these fine researchers have to say about the records, resources, and history of my native land.