Losing my GRIP: Days 4 and 5

The tower bells tolled high noon, cars were loaded, and GRIP 2012 came to an end. But what a whirlwind week it was.

All of us blogging from GRIP missed posting about Day 4, at least as far as I know. After a difficult homework assignment Wednesday night followed by the fourth full day of classes, Thursday was definitely the low tide of student energy. Up to that point, we bloggers had done a pretty good job of balancing the grueling schedule with our need to write and inform. As homework assignments mounted and available neurons became scarce, we gave in and decided not to post on Thursday night.

Lest you think I am complaining, I certainly am not. I loved the challenge, although I have to admit a certain amount of frustration at not being able to easily solve the problems with which we were presented. But you know what? At breakfast each morning we would gather and discuss the previous assignment and it became clear we all shared that common feeling of frustration. It would be one thing if only one or two of us were confused, but here we were, a group of experienced (and certified, in some cases) genealogists all in the same boat. We all doubted ourselves. None of us were completely sure we had the right answers. Then we came together, talked, and realized that we struggled largely because we were presented with truly difficult problems. There were no easy or obvious answers. There were no neat and clean resolutions – no smoking gun. That was the beauty of Tom Jones’ class.

Thursday night, we all needed a little break, which was conveniently provided by Cathi Becker Weist Desmarais and Noreen Alexander Manzella, who threw a release party celebrating the publication of their first NGSQ article1. Four articles appear in this issue, and the authors of three of them happened to be present (Tom Jones and Karen Maurer Green being the other two). Where else does this happen? Not too many places, I would guess. A couple hours later, everyone was off to their rooms to tackle more homework.

Friday was a mixed bag of emotions for me. Although my brain was about full, it was also the last day before returning to the real world. We reviewed the homework, and despite the fact I could only find one of the two documents we needed, I felt better about this assignment and glad I ended the homework on a positive note. I really enjoyed Friday’s first class: Identifying female ancestors and techniques for finding common poor folks were the first session. By the second session on Friday, we had actually caught up to Friday! This session was the highlight for me. We learned different methods of correlating information and evidence: using tables to compare evidence, making time lines to sort out identity, and creating ordered lists to make things more understandable to your readers. It really helped open my eyes to different approaches that will certainly improve some of my current projects.

To this point, I’ve not quoted any of the syllabus material in my recaps, but the final 20-minutes of the last session focused on continuing your education as a genealogist. It featured one of the biggest take-aways of the week for me. As someone who writes and is really self-critical, I would never think of submitting something for publication that I didn’t deem completely perfect. That idea is wrong. Instead, Dr Jones encourages: “Don’t expect yourself to produce work the quality of what you see in print. Few people can do that on their own – most articles result from the work of a team of editors and readers working with an author.”2.

And so it ended. I learned more than I can easily summarize. I benefited not only from the knowledge of our instructors (who were without rival), but also from conversations with classmates. There are so many personal research projects I want to revisit with my new genealogy smarts. Many of us are on the BCG clock, or will be soon. Our conversations, along with input from BCG trustees, really helped clarify how we are going to approach our portfolios. I made some potential connections that will likely bring some business. And best of all I got to know some really great people, and know them better than if we had met at a conference. While you can probably meet MORE people at conferences, the institute experiences really enables you to get to know people a little BETTER.

In short – I loved it. I don’t know what next summer will hold for me personally, but I do know that Elissa Powell and Deb Deal have really created something special here – something top-notch. Take a look at next year’s schedule (go to Stone House Research  – GRIP’s site is not yet updated), and trust that if any of the courses interest you, you will be in for one awesome week in the genealogical bubble.

Goodbye ’till next year!

  1. Cathi Becker Weist Desmarais and Noreen Alexander Manzella, “Who Fathered Jacob and William Northamer: Pennsylvania Tax Records Help Determine Kinship,” National Genealogical Society Quarterly 100 (June 2012): 123-132. []
  2. Thomas Jones. “Continued Advancement,” Advanced Research Methods, prepared for the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (July 2012): 3. []
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