My First Genealogy Institute

From June 24-28, I attended my first genealogy institute! The one I chose was the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP) at La Roche College in Pittsburgh. I mostly selected it for two reasons: one was because it is the closest to where I live and secondly because Tom Jones, Ph.D., CG, CGL, FASG, FUGA, FNGS was teaching the course Mastering the Art of Genealogical Documentation.

I had heard that maybe Tom Jones was going to retire from speaking soon and I didn’t want to lose my chance to learn from him. Especially since he was speaking on a topic that I have been struggling with which is creating source citations. I know some people might find it strange that somebody would choose to spend money and a week of their time learning about citations, but I was excited about it.

I felt like I was able to keep up with the information the first day, and then I started to feel information overload. Luckily the handout was amazing and I can refer to that as I continue to process the information and start to put it into practice. When asked, I teased that we spent a whole morning talking about the semi-colon! Which we did, although we also talked about many other punctuation markings. I don’t think I ever knew there was such a thing as an en dash or em dash!

We were given pre-reading before the institute along with homework each night. The pre-reading was an article that Tom Jones wrote for the National Genealogical Society Quarterly (NGSQ) and it was of particular interest as it referenced a family that lived for a time in Niagara County. I mentioned to Tom during a break that I live in Niagara County and we got to talking over the course of the week. He mentioned there was somebody in my area that he was hoping to make a connection to as she was a DNA match to him and could help break a brick wall. It turns out that I knew the person he was talking about (she is a music teacher in Orleans County) and I reached out to her and helped them connect! What a small world! I felt really happy that I was able to help Tom in that small way as he has helped the genealogy community so much over the years.

I got the chance to talk to and thank the GRIP Co-Directors. It is hard to not “geek out” when meeting these well-known genealogists. I did approach Elissa Scalise Powell and personally thank her for her webinar that she gave to the Western New York Genealogical Society (WNYGS) titled Your Personal Education Plan: Sifting through the Options as it opened up my eyes to what level genealogist I was and what I needed to do to become a better researcher.

Elissa Scalise Powell, CG, CGL, Jeanette Sheliga, and Deborah Lichtner Deal

It was really neat to walk around during the breaks and hear bits of conversation. Everyone there was so nice and were “speaking my language.” You could feel comfortable sitting with strangers at a table during mealtime and have plenty to talk about. Three of the evenings, they had speakers give a lecture that you could optionally attend if you wanted to. Maia’s Books was also there and you could browse all of the books during the breaks. I *may* have bought a few books… like 5 of them, but I promise to read them!

Members of WNYGS with LaBrenda Garrett-Nelson, JD, LLM CG, CGL. WNYGS sponsored her Thursday evening lecture.

I really enjoyed my week at GRIP. It was a great opportunity to network, make friends, and learn from others. A few of us WNYGS members had carpooled together. I stayed in a hotel across the street from the campus which was very nice and I had paid for the campus meal plan which was delicious. I also took some time during the breaks to look at a few of the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) Portfolios that they had on display. I very much look forward to the next time that I can attend a course at GRIP!

Receiving my Certificate of Completion from Dr. Tom Jones