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12 January 2016

Try-it Tuesday: SLIG Problem Solving

Try-it Tuesday: SLIG Problem Solving
The title of this post may not be the most informative to all of you. Hopefully "Problem Solving" got your attention. SLIG is the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy. It's going on this week which has prompted me to make this "try-it" suggestion. You can get a little general information about SLIG in my "Institutes" post over on my J.P. Dondero Genealogy blog. You can learn more on the Utah Genealogical Association (UGA) website.

Do You Need a Genealogy Vacation?

"Problem Solving" is one of the courses offered at SLIG. Of course, I don't know if it will be held at future institutes as the schedule for next year has not been released. Traditionally it has been an option every year. A few years ago I was so fortunate as to win my registration to SLIG. Since this was a prize, SLIG registration had started two or three months earlier and the advanced courses I was most interested in were already full. I decided instead to give myself a genealogy vacation and take "Problem Solving." It was a great vacation!


How is Problem Solving Different?

The coordinator for Problem Solving has changed since I attended so I don't know the specifics, but it still generally works in the same way. You should check the SLIG information on the UGA website for details. Unlike other courses, you have some pre-institute homework. The point of Problem Solving is to bring your own genealogy problem, preferably something you have worked on and need help or considerably more time on. The homework is preparing your problem to submit completely but concisely to your course coordinator(s). One family group sheet won't cut it but don't send inches worth of paper, either. You are NOT expected to provide a "report" or something formal, although that would be perfectly acceptable. I submitted a few family group sheets with sources cited (I don't remember how many but not more than two generations), a description of my problem (about a page?), and a research log of all items related to this problem (my log is in Excel so I just pulled out the relevant items and created a new file for the coordinators). There may have been one other narrative item, I believe we were given a list of the types of things to submit. It appears this is one of the things that has changed which is why I'm giving you details.

Do Your Homework, Even If You Don't Have To

Preparing this material was a great help. One "try-it" suggestion is to set aside some time as if you were going to research and create the same type of documents. Create them as if you were going to share them. You could even plan to share with some genealogist friends. Taking a course like this gives you the extra push to do this on a deadline and actually complete it. The nice part is this is not for publication so you don't have perfect everything, in particular, your citations. That can be extremely time consuming. You do need to include citations, gathering and reviewing them is one of the big advantages; you don't have to format them formally or perfectly. You will get feedback from your coordinator(s) before you begin researching in Salt Lake.

Class or Research Trip?

So what happens once you're in Salt Lake and how is it any better than just taking a research trip yourself? You will meet with your group (fellow class mates and coordinators) every morning for about two hours. The group takes some time to discuss everyone's problem and progress each day. That means you don't spend a long time discussing your own problem but you participate on everyone's problem. This makes you think differently and gives you feedback from people that each think differently. The coordinators will help you think about potential problems you may be setting yourself up to have as well as the traditional suggestions of sources to check.

After you finish meeting you head to the Family History Library to research. You research just as if you were on your own (i.e. not as a group) but your coordinator(s) will roam the library so they can give you minor help while you work. Some coordinators may have lectures to give to other SLIG courses so "roam" is probably the best description of how this works. I really think having the small group is much better than even having a professional to hold your hand the entire time you research. Everyone's brain works differently. You need some feedback from people who think like you and some from people who think differently. A small group is helpful without being overwhelming. Thinking about other people's genealogy problems really helps you develop your own skills, too.


Double Up on Research Plus Learning

I've included this as a try-it for occasional genealogists (OGs) because the Problem Solving course is a good use of your time as far as accomplishing research and developing your skills. I was already a professional genealogist when I attended and I still found it extremely helpful. What I learned wasn't about new records or how to use a record but I saw different approaches to the same problem. It really was about problem solving. No matter your experience level, you will benefit from discussing your problem and other's problems in a group setting. If you're looking for a genealogy vacation and can afford the time and money, think about "Problem Sovling" at SLIG, try-it.

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