What I learned at SLIG 2013: Ponder and Mull. Sorting Saturday.

Salt Lake City January 2013

Salt Lake City January 2013

So this past week I have been at SLIG 2013 taking the Advanced Practicum class.  What a great experience it was!

The Advanced Practicum is not your usual week long course where you sit in class.  Every afternoon, we were given a genealogy problem that our instructor had already solved and we then tried our hand at it.  My instructors were Tom Jones, Stefani Evans, William Litchman, Mark Lowe and Jay Fonkert and the coordinators were Angela McGhie and Kimberly Powell

I’m not allowed to discuss the individual cases as they may publish their research or use the cases again.  Fair enough, but I did learn some stuff that is worth remembering:

  1. Start with a written question. What problem are you trying to solve.  Don’t randomly collect records.  Think about what are you trying to do?
  2. Plan!  What do you need to look at to answer the question?  What are the resources that you need; what is available?
  3. Analyze, think, write and repeat as necessary.

You here this all the time, I know.  You read it in blogs.  In classes and conferences.  But boy, when you work through some challenging projects in 24 hours it really makes a difference.


  1. People must be studied in context.  Don’t just search for names, search in context based on who they are and where they are.  If you don’t understand what they did, where and when they lived it is way to easy to pick  the wrong person or miss something.
  2. Location, location, location.  When you find a person in a location, you must explore that location for records and other people.
  3. Examine all resources.  Sure Ancestry Member Trees and Find A Grave have errors.  But you never know where the next clue will be found.  Make a list of sources.
  4. Keep a research log.  It doesn’t have to be brilliant or well written, but leave notes to yourself so you can pick up where you left off.

And finally, to paraphrase the ever wonderful Mark Lowe, genealogy is all about pondering and mulling.  Back away and think.  🙂

7 thoughts on “What I learned at SLIG 2013: Ponder and Mull. Sorting Saturday.

    1. Anne Gillespie Mitchell Post author

      Thank you Jay! And let me say again, how much I enjoyed the class and your case study. I wish I had done better to start with on it, but I learned a lot. I feel better prepared to go back and tackle my own research again.

  1. Kimberly

    Wonderful post Anne! What I think is so special about the Practicum (although I’m admittedly biased) is that everyone learns so much from each other (students, teachers, and coordinators) and about themselves. “Mull and ponder” is a great take-away for all of us (thanks Mark Lowe!).

  2. Catherine Desmarais, CG

    I sometimes get stuck in the “mull and ponder” stage. But it often is fruitful, in the end. Now if I could just bill for all the mull and ponder time I spend on client projects. Wonder how that would look on an invoice? 🙂

  3. Doug

    Thanks for sharing about your experience at SLIG – I’m hoping to attend in 2014!
    Re: your point #1 above about studying people in context: I just discovered via Ancestry.com’s Recent Member Connect Activity that another Ancestry.com member took my grandfather’s family in the 1910 US Census and added all 5 of the children in the family, then subsequently deleted all but my grandfather’s brother from their tree. Seems they think that grandpa’s brother Walter, who was 5 years old in Western New York in 1910, MUST be their Walter who was born 5 years previously in Central NY and then is back in Central NY by 1915, but the rest of the siblings just couldn’t be any relation of theirs! Both of our Walter’s apparently have a father by the name of John, but theirs is in 3 different 1910 census records, two in Central NY, and one in Western New York. Perhaps they might want to consider the location as well as the context!

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