Posted by Michelle Ercanbrack on February 1, 2016 in Website

“Education is learning what you didn’t even know you didn’t know.” Daniel J. Boorstin

Whether brought on by frustration, desperation, or total lack of ideation, we all hit that point where we look in the mirror and wonder if we’ll ever really find Aunt Mary. If your brick wall begins to feel impossible to scale, I have some advice: to learn more about your ancestors, you might need to learn more about genealogy first.

After spending a week at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy with 12 other professional genealogists from Ancestry, the importance of continuing education has never rung more true. Again and again, I overheard others attending the institute saying, “I didn’t know what I didn’t know!”SLIG ACOM Staff

Regardless of the number of years you’ve been researching or the number of individuals you have in your family tree, continuing your education is vital. Below is a list of options and resources to take your learning, and by extension your research, to the next level.

Conferences: Conferences are a great place to get a wide sampling of class topics and instructors for beginners and experts alike. Classes are usually an hour long. Conferences are an excellent way to learn from and meet industry leaders, network and meet new people, and hand pick the class subjects that interest you. Below is a list of conferences across the United States that can do just that, and Ancestry will have a booth at each to answer questions!

  • RootsTech: February 3-6, Salt Lake City, Utah
  • National Genealogical Society: May 4-7, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
  • Southern California Genealogy Jamboree: June 3-5, Burbank, California
  • International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies: August 7-12, Seattle, Washington
  • Federation of Genealogical Societies: August 30-September 3, Springfield , Illinois

Institutes: Institutes have some key differences from conferences: namely, you pick a topic, which is the focus of a week-long series of classes taught by a few instructors. An institute provides much more in-depth exploration of a subject, where lectures build, layer, and connect. Institutes offer a level of detail that’s hard to get anywhere else. And for those of you looking to acquire professional credentialing or who want to work as a professional genealogist, this type of more intensive course work is a must.

Kathleen Boynton works for Ancestry’s Marketing Infrastructure team, but is also an avid genealogist. She said, “SLIG was a wonderful experience for me. As an Institute first-timer, I didn’t really know what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised. SLIG exceeded everything I had anticipated. It was a fun-filled week of courses, consultations and camaraderie.  I will definitely attend again.” Below is a list of Institutes that Ancestry employees have attended and enjoyed:

As both students and teachers, Ancestry employees who attended and/or taught at SLIG from left to right are: Michelle Ercanbrack, Laura Renda, Lisa Arnold, Lisa Elzey, Kellie Scherbel, Sabrina Petersen, Kathleen Boynton, Crista Cowan, Juliana Szucs, Paul Graham, Anne Gillespie Mitchell, Kathryn Moore, and Laura Prescott.

From experience, at Ancestry we’ve seen that the best researchers typically share this one characteristic. They continue to learn about their ancestors, history, and genealogy best practices as they go along.

Michelle Ercanbrack

Michelle has been a family historian at since 2010. She has worked on several globally-renown genealogy research projects, like Elle Fanning’s connection to Kate Middleton, and research behind the hit TV show “Who Do You Think You Are?” She loves helping people discover the stories that lead to them.


  1. Thanks for a great article! I wanted to give a heads-up that institutes courses are so popular that courses can sell out within minutes of opening registration. GRIP will open registration for its six June courses on Wednesday, Feb. 10 at noon eastern (9 a.m. Pacific) and for the seven July courses on Wednesday, March 2.
    There is a countdown timer to help facilitate taking registrants automatically to the registration system. Just watch it count-down and be ready with your first or second choice of course. Descriptions for the 18 sessions (75 minutes each!) are located on the website.

    Nothing like “Summer Camp for Genealogists”!

  2. Diane Barbour PLCGS

    Just a note to you about the British Institute. This year it is being held Oct. 9-14 2016 in Salt Lake City at the Plaza Hotel. This is a yearly event with four different tracks concentrating on the four British Countries. Check out the website:
    Just got back myself after taking Judy Russell’s class at SLIG. This year I will be going to all four Institutes.

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