This week I’ve been teaching at GRIP, the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh. I am coordinating a Social History course but other courses are available that range from DNA, land records, forensic genealogy, and research methodology.
Students interested in taking institute courses devote an entire week, 4-5 lectures a day, to a specific focused genealogical topic. Obviously, as students choose what they will register for, they study the lists of courses and lectures to determine which one they will invest their time and money.
One of the speakers in my course mentioned that her research project has taken her in directions she never would have guessed. The means she has had to learn about genealogical research that is different than what she typically focuses on for her Jewish research. This made me think about the benefits of attending presentation topics that are not your research focus whether you are attending an hour lecture at a genealogy society, an online webinar, a conference, or an institute.
Should you attend presentations that appear to have no connection to your ancestors or the research you are currently conducting?
If a lecture focuses on American Quakers and your family isn’t Quaker, does it hold value for you? If it’s a course focusing on Eastern European research, and your family came from England, should you attend?
This question may seem to have an obvious answer but we really need to reconsider how we look at our genealogical education. One of the GRIP attendees I talked to attended a course about researching a country that none of his ancestors are from. So why was he in the course? The teacher is one of his favorites and he feels that there is value in being in the course because of that teacher.
Why else might you choose a lecture or course that seemingly has nothing to do with your research?
If you’re a professional or hoping to become a professional, your clients will present all kinds of research opportunities. Knowing about other types of research and resources can be of benefit. You might find that by learning more about a specific type of research, you can expand your work opportunities. Even if your intent is to help others through volunteering, learning more about a wide scope of research can be helpful.
Genealogists understand that researching an ancestor’s FAN Club can be crucial to understanding our family’s life. But we need to remember that those who make up our
ancestor’s FAN Club may be very different than our ancestors. Our ancestor’s FAN Club may include immigrants from a different country, members of a different church or religion, or part of a different occupation. Knowing more about other groups can benefit your overall research. I purposely choose to attend lectures on topics that are different from my research because listening to other research experiences and resources can ultimately benefit my own research and skills.
The Legacy Webinars library provides you with the same opportunity. You can focus on your specific research location or ethnicity but you also have access to everything else, including topics that might not seem directly relevant to you.
Do you choose educational opportunities that differ from your own familiar research? What are your reasons? How has that helped you with your genealogy?