When you register for a course at one of the institutes such as the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG), plan ahead. Think about what you will do before and after to make the most of the education. If you plan ahead, you can prepare your mind to have as many hooks as possible on which to hang your new learning. And if you make in a point to schedule some follow-up on the course, you’ll go a long way toward cementing that knowledge in your brain.
As an example, I once took a course in genealogical documentation. In the months before the course, I worked on writing up an article, a case study with many examples of conflicting evidence. I had over a hundred source citations. I knew which types I could do pretty well with, those I struggled with, and too many where I had absolutely no idea what to do or how to do it. When I arrived at the institute my mind was primed with questions. With everything the instructor said I had at least some idea of how I could apply it. There were several “Oh, that’s how you do that!” kind of moments where I learned solutions to fix the problems in my case study. My preparation, writing my article, installed hooks in my brain to which I could attach my new-found knowledge.
With another institute course, “Gothic Script and Fraktur,” at SLIG 2019, I also prepared a bit. I made myself some flash cards and word-lists. But I also planned on some follow-up learning. I was lucky enough to return to Salt Lake City for research a few weeks later and I focused my research efforts almost exclusively on working on my German ancestors. Practicing over and over what Herr Bittner had taught us with my own family helped to make that education stick. I also attended the International German Genealogy Conference five months after that SLIG course. Though the conference sessions covered much more than script records, the examples in presentations I attended provided continuing practice for my new SLIG skills.
When you sign up for your next institute course or attend a conference, think about what you will do both before and after to maximize the value of that education.
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(1) - Evangelishe Kirche, Diözese Nordhausen, “Verzeichniss der Aufgebotene und Getrauten in der evangelischen Gemeine St. Blasii im Nordhausen im Jahre 1820” [List of the banns and marriages in the protestant community of St. Blasii in Nordhausen for the year 1820], p. 71, no. 2, marriage of Kircher and Schönemann, 30 July 1820; filmed at Staatsarchiv, Weimar; digital images, “Kirchenbuchduplikat, 1805-1874,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/catalog/149328 : accessed 26 February 2019) > Taufen, Heiraten, Tote 1808 (St. Blasii) Taufen, Heiraten, Tote 1810-1812 (St. Blasii) > image 56 of 815. Note, the FamilySearch description of the date coverage on the film is incomplete.
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.