In January 2017 I took Thomas W. Jones’s “Advanced Genealogical Methods” course at SLIG. In his last session, “Continued Advancement,” he presented options and suggestions for continuing education. The final half-page of the syllabus material for that presentation was a big blank space beneath the words, “Your Plan for Continued Advancement for 2017, 2018, and 2019.” It was a call to action - what are you going to do, Mary Roddy, to become a better genealogist?!
When I enrolled in Tom’s course, I had no intention of becoming certified. I’m already a Certified Public Accountant – what did I need another certification for? But after a week of inspiration, I came away thinking, “Hmmm, I do that… I do that… I do that… I don’t do that, but I could. I might just have certification in my future.“ The seed was planted.
So how did I do on my list? Numbers 3, 8 and 10 – I probably didn’t quite make this goal of 12 new talks, but I do have several completed and some in the works, so I feel OK about that one.
Items 4 and 7 – Check. Jill’s Certification Discussion Group (I guess I didn’t even know what it was called when I made my original list), watered the seed Tom planted. She demystified the process and made me feel certification was a goal I probably had the skills to achieve, and her structure gave me a plan. I did work in 2018 (and 2019) on my portfolio. What is noticeably absent from my plan is actually submitting a portfolio. But you know what? I did it anyway, and I passed! I submitted my portfolio in May 2019 and got the good word in July.
Item 6 – I have a couple more SLIGs and a GRIP under my belt. And more SLIGs to come. Obviously I think institutes are an integral part of my genealogical improvement plan. Item 9 – I continue to submit to national and state conferences and I was lucky enough to be selected to speak at the NGS conference in 2019. I had a great time, and learned so much.
Item 5 – Submitting to the NGSQ. This is the one I’m super excited about. I was taught how to string words together many years ago, and I really enjoy the process of writing. But until I took Tom’s course, I never thought about submitting to a peer-reviewed journal. In his five days of teaching, and picking apart several NGSQ articles, I realized, yeah, I could probably do something like that. A couple of colleagues encouraged me to submit my ProGen case study, and luckily the editors were interested!
The editorial process was lengthy – first I had to address comments from three peer reviewers. There were holes in my research I needed to fill, but their suggestions served me well as I tackled other genealogical problems, and they ultimately gave me a stronger foundation when it came time to submit my portfolio. The opportunity to get expert opinions on my work was priceless! (And free! Get professional critiques for free - that’s a win in my book!)
And then I waited, and waited, and waited. And finally, the editor contacted me to make more changes, corrections, and clarification, but he had space for the article in the upcoming issue. And this morning, the latest issue of the NGSQ with my article, “John C. Ahern a.k.a. John Lockren of Sonoma and Alameda Counties, California: Who Were His Parents?” arrived in my mailbox. I think I did pretty well accomplishing those 10 plans I made in January 2017.
Tom Jones gave me a call to action, and I’d like to pass that on to institute instructors and students alike. Teachers, as you’re wrapping things up in the last session of class, give your students five minutes to think about how they’re going to apply their new-found knowledge. And students – even if your instructor doesn’t formally encourage you to make a plan, I’m pretty sure the inside cover of the back of your syllabus is blank and is the perfect place to set down your goals. Do it!
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Disclaimer – The Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy has provided me a discount on my SLIG 2020 tuition for my participation as a SLIG ambassador.. The opinions expressed are my own.
Mary Kircher Roddy is a genealogist, writer and lecturer, always looking for the story. Her blog is a combination of the stories she has found and the tools she used to find them.