Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Summer of Learning

I can't believe it has been since April that we posted something.  Shame on us! 

This summer has been a summer of genealogy learning fun for me personally.  First, I attended the FEEFHS workshop (Federation of Eastern European Family History Societies), held in SLC in the Plaza Hotel right next to the Family History Library.  I spent three wonderful days listening to expert speakers on  topics related to Eastern European research and all afternoon and evening researching.  Part of the charm of this particular conference is that one of the experts spends an hour in consultation with you on your subject of interest.  This was my second year of what I hope will be many to come as I will be the "conference planner" of sorts for next year (simply applying previous skills to an area of interest).  So, if your ancestors came from the old Russian Empire, Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, or parts of Germany, there might be something there for you next year.  Watch for updates and announcements, or mark your calendars for July 12-14, 2012.

My next adventure was to attend the BYU Genealogy and Family History Conference, four wonderful days in their conference center, listening to excellent speakers on various topics.  I specifically chose to focus much of my attention to the tracks on British Research since I plan to take a course on British Research present-day to 1700s this fall.  My second focus was taking my technological skills to a higher level.  As such I attended several presentations, as well as an afternoon lab taught by Jill Crandell, Director of the BYU Center for Family History and Genealogy, on utilizing database tools like Excel and Access to enhance the research process. 

Finally, I attended the UGA (Utah Genealogical Association) conference the past two days.  Also a great experience--good speakers, great topics, and a lot of fun meeting old friends.  I even ran into someone who attended the FEEFHS conference from Arizona.  Again, I selected a couple of areas to focus on--first, classes taught by the wonderful Lisa Alzo, an Eastern European researcher, who I hadn't had the pleasure of hearing previously, and second, classes on enhancing my skills as a professional researcher taught by Tristan Tolman, first Vice-Chair of the Board of ICAP-Gen, an accreditation organization.  Of course I hoped I would win one of the two laptops in the final vendor giveaway; alas, they went to two other deserving people instead!

So why am I writing all of this?  I believe there has been a common theme applied this summer as I've attended these conferences, one that has made them much more productive for me than conferences have been in the past.  And that theme is Focus.  Focus is obviously one of the first things we teach beginning researchers--often making trite statements like "make a plan and stick with it" or "don't jump all over the place".   Quite simply, we have found that successful research is usually the result of a focused effort rather than a sporadic, random attack.  That same skill, applied to conference participation through preliminary planning and strategic selection of presentations, makes for a more successful experience there as well.  Therefore, my very specific efforts this summer to focus on a handful of topics at these conferences, rather than attempt to enjoy the smorgasbord of information available in random fashion, has clearly enhanced my level of learning as well as my enjoyment.

I've finally learned that I don't need to bemoan missing the class in the other room that also seemed interesting....I will eventually have another opportunity to hear that topic presented I'm sure.  Which brings me to the second "re-learned" lesson of the summer...something good bears repeating, or repetition builds understanding, or something like that.  These weren't the first sessions on British research or professional skills ever attended.  But hearing them from a different presenter, in perhaps a slightly different format, and after practicing or first utilizing some of things previously learned, I was able to build a clearer understanding, ask more specific questions, and clearly learn at a much higher level than I did the first time around.

Well, that's been my summer.  That and taking care of my 98-year-old mother.  I'm looking forward to harvesting the rewards of my educational efforts as I continue my research and prepare for fall classes.  I truly am a gluten for punishment, as I will be taking both British Research to the 1700s and Latin for Genealogists.  At my age, just one of those would normally be quite sufficient to keep me busy!