Posted by on January 25, 2014 in Research

When people first become interested in family history it is easy, especially in this day and age, to do a few online searches, start building a family tree and develop the confidence that they are an expert. When they hit their first brick wall, they often go looking for assistance in the way of tutorials or articles. Some will even attend a genealogy conference or buy a book or two. This is all a very natural progression of the learning curve with most new hobbies or skills.

 

Ancestry.com employees are genealogists – some of us by profession, the rest by avocation. Some of us have been doing this for decades. And, a few of us do genealogy research every single day. The more time we spend doing this the more we come to understand – we don’t know what we don’t know.

 

Last week six Ancestry.com employees and several of our colleagues from ProGenealogists attended the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy. This week-long program is different from a traditional genealogy conference. Participants select one course of study and, together with 30 or 40 other students, spend all week long with the same two or three instructors learning about a very specialized topic. There are often homework assignments that allow us to spend the evening applying what we have spent the day learning. We begin the next day reviewing our results before diving into another full day of learning.

 

Ancestry.com Employees at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy 2014

                             Ancestry.com Employees at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy 2014.                                 Back Row LtoR: Juliana Szucs Smith, Sabrina Peterson, Lisa Elzey. Front Row LtoR: Crista Cowan, Michelle Ercanbrack, Anne Gillespie Mitchell. 

Michelle Ercanbrack, a member of our Corporate PR Research team attended Producing a Quality Family Narrative. The course coordinator, principal instructor and master storyteller, John Philip Coletta, used a passenger list and a picture of a pocket watch to weave a story about one of his ancestors. Michelle learned more about the importance of studying the social history of the times and places our ancestors lived. We can then use that information, in concert with the information we have gleaned from the records we’ve uncovered, to better tell the stories of our ancestors’ lives.

 

Juliana Szucs Smith, genealogist and researcher for our Social Media team, took Karen Mauer Green’s course, Researching New York: Resources and Strategies. Juliana was reminded of the importance of knowing the history of the places where your ancestor lived. An important thing to remember about early New York City was the fact that Dutch was the dominant culture. It influenced the way records were kept—and sometimes how names were spelled. Juliana was prompted to relook at some of the records for her Irish ancestors who came to New York and she found an Irish immigrant in the 1850 census who could be her ancestor William Dennis. He was enumerated with the Dutch spelling of Denyse, but lists his birthplace as Ireland. Other insights she gained was a better understanding of the New York court system, and a much better appreciation of the intricacies of land and other records in both upstate New York and New York City.

 

Sabrina Peterson (Digital Imaging Director), Anne Mitchell (Ancestry Library Edition Product Manager, aka Ancestry Anne) and Lisa Elzey (Corporate PR Research team) all attended Mark Lowe’s class, Research in the South. When I asked Lisa what she learned, she told me, “Farmers aren’t boring!” The terrain of the land they lived on can help you determine where they may have come from. So, get those maps out! Lisa also learned about family members who “make noise.” We all have them – those relatives who leave more records because they get in more trouble or do more good. Follow them and they will often lead you to the rest of the family.

 

I took Advanced Genealogical Methods with Dr. Thomas Jones. He used examples to show us how people don’t appear in records together at random. We need to determine how everyone named in that marriage record, deed, will or land transaction are related, because they usually are. I also learned to track every piece of land my ancestors ever owned. Who did it come from and where did it go? “Blood often follows land.” I was reminded that I need to use spreadsheets more often to compare and correlate the information I find BEFORE I put it into my family tree.

 

Several of the 350+ attendees at this event tweeted little gems throughout the week. Be sure to check them out for more tidbits of genealogical knowledge. And, if you are interested in attending the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG), check out the complete course offerings to see the excellent topics and instructors they have lined up for 2015.

 

Until next time – Have fun climbing your family tree!

 

About Crista Cowan

Crista has been doing genealogy since she was a child. She has been employed at Ancestry.com since 2004. Around here she's known as The Barefoot Genealogist.Google Twitter

8 Comments

Laci 

I love the comments the other peopole did and the story.

January 25, 2014 at 12:57 pm
Annie 

Great! Now teach your support people HOW to use the Ancestry site. Many times I have to go through how the site works before I can get to my problem. But I will give them “A” for effort! Always polite and patient even when they don’t know much about the site. They usually don’t give up. They get help from others, (hence being put on hold) and come back with some kind of answer.

January 25, 2014 at 10:16 pm
Elizabeth 

I am unable to locate any records of any family members. I can not locate my grandparents on either side of my family. I can not locate my parents. I can not even locate any records of myself. I do not know what I am doing incorrectly. But perhaps someone can provide me with a list of genealogists particularly who work in the NY/NJ area who I could pay to find information for me.

January 26, 2014 at 12:15 am
Christy Fillerup 

Crista,

It was a pleasure to host you and your colleagues at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy this year! We hope to see you in the future, too. There’s more information on future courses, etc., at http://www.slig.ugagenealogy.org.

Christy Fillerup
Director, Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy

January 26, 2014 at 12:18 pm
Andy Hatchett 

Too bad they didn’t label the ladies in the photo so we could put a face with a name.

January 27, 2014 at 8:44 am
Kristie Wells 

Hi Andy, we just added their names to the photo caption.

January 27, 2014 at 12:17 pm
virgie martin 

The first lesson learned from your web site was that the spelling of our ancestor’s names could be spelled in many different ways. After learning to use other spellings in my searches, I began to have enormous success.
Thank you for your efforts to include the most insignificant records in your database. Geneology research is a wonderful experience.

January 28, 2014 at 4:35 pm
Karen 

I have been trying to get information about 2 of my great grandparents, one on my dads and one on my moms. Who should I contact to get more information?

April 4, 2014 at 3:41 pm