There are far too many ways to make puns on this new Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh or GRIP or GRIPitt’s name. That’s not a complaint, a compliment really. Not much you can do with IGHR (pronounced “eye-ger”) or SLIG (pronounced, well, “slig”). Don’t take that as a criticism of those other institutes. I’ve never been to one. GRIP is the first week-long institute I’ve ever attended. I’ve had “attend an institute” on my genealogical to-do list for quite some time and I probably wouldn’t have attended this one if it weren’t for some awesome genea-buddies who enticed me with a free room and splitting other costs 3-ways.
As a result, I think I will forever be attending institutes when it comes to advancing my genealogical education. It was so awesome to be focused on one topic for the entire week rather than taking part in a smorgasbord of topics all day long for several days until your head is spinning. I’ll still attend conferences but I feel those would be more for the social aspects of networking and re-connecting with genealogical friends face-to-face rather than via email or Facebook.
I had the great honor of taking Joshua Taylor’s “Beneath the Homepage: Problem-Solving with Online Repositories.” Honestly, I went to hear Joshua speak more than the topic at hand. I had worried that the program would be a little too “beginner” for me (I mean, I have been using the Internet since Al Gore invented it and Google finds most of that stuff on the internet anyway, right?) but I have admired Joshua’s work since I first met him when he came to Denver several years ago and spoke at the Colorado Genealogical Society’s Annual Seminar. I was delighted to find another “young” person who is maybe even more in love with genealogy than I am. I mean no offense to those of you who are “older” because all I mean by this is that it seems many genealogists come by the occupation of genealogy around retirement age and not when you are 4 years old and having your grandmother teach you all about your family OR in high school when you are assigned a family tree project and you realize that your branch of the family stems from the “black sheep” as it were and you really know very little about that branch of the tree. Most of us don’t have those experiences and then stick with it as an actual profession. Most of my genealogical friends have been consistently at least 20 years older than me (with a few exceptions, you know who you are) and it has only been recently that genealogists close to my age group have begun to join the ranks.
Well, I learned that Google doesn’t find “everything” on the internet and sometimes you have to dig for it. So shovels in hand we spent a week digging through website after website after website. I only managed to “delicious” a fraction of them but the class was so enlightening on many levels. I have a new appreciation for phrases such as “digital collections,” “digital archives,” “virtual gallery,” and so forth. I learned far more than I wanted to know about Dublin Core, EAD, MARC and Library of Congress Authorities. Mainly we just dove right into those repositories’ sites. Think of a place. Most likely it has within driving distance (although on the internet this isn’t an issue) a local public library, a college or university, a state repository such as a state historical society, library or archive, and they all have governmental entities. I was surprised at how many of these entities have begun putting up digital collections of actual records on their websites. And if they didn’t have the actual records online, many many many had awesome finding aids that describe what they do have on location. Even then, if you know anything about an archival repository, you know that something like only 60% of their collection has been processed and cataloged. So while many, many records are going online everyday, STILL we need to visit these repositories. I think we would be really cutting ourselves and our research short if we rely solely on the Internet for our sources.
I could go on about this class, but really you should find a time to take it yourself. Joshua was an excellent teacher. Very patient with those of us with technology handicaps, very patient when we asked him to “go back” and show us again, very patient with those of us in the end stages of pneumonia so we coughed a little more than normal and were possibly disruptive. He was very pleasant to ask questions to; every question was met with “That is an excellent question…” It was great to be in a smaller classroom with 20 other people rather than in a huge conference room with 200 other people, for a change.
My traveling companions and I stayed off-campus since one of us had a free hotel stay (bargain!) and we bought “community” food and packed our lunches everyday. (I will be ok if I never eat a PB&J again.) We found the LaRoche College Student Community Room to be quite comfy with couches and tables where we congregated for breaks and lunch and to compare notes about our sessions. Probably by far my favorite pun from this institute’s name was the fact that my genea-buddies and I began to refer to ourselves as “GRIPpies” and we got quite silly about it. But only in private. NEVER in the public eye. Well, almost never. (Except that time we told Joshua Taylor at NGS in Cincinnati that we were his “GRIPpies” and couldn’t wait for July. Pish posh, I bet he doesn’t even remember that.)
Thank you GRIP organizers for a great institute experience, thank you Joshua Taylor for an awesome class and thank you genea-buds for bringing me along. Next year the room is “on me” … well, I found us a free room I mean.