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    In every family, someone ends up with “the stuff.” It is the goal of The Family Curator to inspire, enlighten, and encourage other family curators in their efforts to preserve and share their own family treasures.

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    Entries in GRIP (6)


    Mastering Genealogical Proof and Texas Fried Chicken

    Last Days of Summer: "Two New Things" I Learned This Summer

    Labor Day has come and gone. Summer is over, except for the official First Day of Fall this Sunday, 22 September. When life is no longer measured by school calendars, and you live in a temperate climate, one season tends to run into the next. I started off this summer with the goal that I would Make Time to Learn "One New Thing," (blog post here.)

    Actually, I wanted to learn Two New Things: more about the Genealogical Proof Standard, and how to make my step-mother's fantastic fried chicken. (Note I did not set out to "master" the GPS, although I am working toward that objective).

    Fried Chicken Attempt  2

    Fried Chicken Attempt #2 -- Looks Good, Tastes Bad



    Tom Jones and Denise Levenick at GRIP 2013,
    Determining Kinship Reliably with the GPS

    Goal GPS -- I was determined that this summer I would shift my genealogy into gear and get into the nitty-gritty of the Genealogical Proof Standard. I spent a week at the Genealogical Institute of Pittsburgh in Dr. Tom Jones course, Determining Kinship Reliably with the GPS, and came home energized to apply the principles to my research. I'm now participating in an online study group to be a leader for future Mastering Genealogical Proof study groups.

    The classroom and online discussions are a great way to learn and really work with this material. I think my biggest "One New Thing" from the course is that using the GPS enables genealogists to reach logical conclusions with targeted research, not merely "collect" information with the hope of finding that straightforward and direct answer to a research question. AND, using the GPS is not some mystical or impossible skill. Any genealogist with time and interest can study and practice the steps outlined in Tom Jones' Mastering Genealogical Proof, and work toward mastering the concepts of the GPS.

    I also pursued some of my wayward FANS at the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne; transcribed land and probate records from my last trip to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City; and sifted, sorted, and organized more boxes of family keepsakes. With family activities, a huge remodeling project, and summer birthdays, that was about as much genealogy as I could manage.

    Fried Chicken Attempt  1

    Fried Chicken Attempt #1 -- Could Look Better, Tastes Great

    Goal Fried Chicken -- Of my two summer goals, Mastering Polly's Fried Chicken was the more difficult. There was no written guide, only the briefest of verbal instructions: Soak the cut-up bird in salty water while the oil heats in a cast iron frying pan. Coat bird in flour. Fry in hot oil. 

    My first attempt would qualify as Very Good. I followed Polly's directions. 

    My second attempt was not good at all. I used a recipe from a food magazine that called to soak the chicken pieces overnight in salted water. We were in the mountains and I thought it would be smart to fry the bird outdoors in an electric skillet. However, the pan wasn't very deep and it was made of thin aluminum so the heat dropped considerably when the meat was added. The chicken took forever to cook, and the texture was rubbery. The flour coating didn't stick at all. Overall it was a disaster. Yech. 

    What went wrong? I know that poultry doesn't benefit from long marinading and that the meat breaks down when salted. I also know that cast iron holds heat better than aluminum. And I know that high altitude is a game-changer all round. So, why didn't add my own knowledge to the recipe and tweak it to make wonderful fried chicken? I tried too hard to follow the written instructions, thinking my own knowledge was worth less. Maybe it is a good recipe at sea level with a different kind of bird in a different kind of pan, but it wasn't good for my purposes.

    Instead, I really should have remembered Dr. Jones advice when it comes to deciding one thing or another: "It depends."



    The GRIP Report Vol. 2 No. 1: Hit the Ground Running

    Angela Packer McGhie, evening presenter at GRIP

    Jet-lag just "doesn't work" here at the Genealogical Institute of Pittsburgh. Attendees converged at La Roche College Sunday afternoon and were in the classrooms early Monday morning for the first sessions. I wasn't the only one who traveled across time zones to get here. The daily conference newsletter reported that genealogists came from 34 states and one foreign country:

    • Pennsylvania: 38
    • Ohio: 15
    • New Jersey: 10
    • Maryland: 9
    • Virginia, Indiana: 8 each
    • Colorado, Massachusetts, New York: 7 each
    • Washington: 7
    • Michigan: 5
    • Texas: 4
    • Delaware, Georgia, Ilinois, Minnesota, West Virginia: 3 each
    • Arizona, California, Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Missouri, South Carolina, Wisconsin: 2 each
    • Italy, Arkansas, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina, NewHampshire, Tennessee, Vermont: 1 each

    The institute sessions this year include six courses taught by a roster of outstanding genealogy educators. I'm taking Dr. Tom Jones inagural course based on his new book, Mastering Genealogical Proof. 

    Genealogy Camp

    I've heard a few people refer to GRIP as Genealogy Camp, and it does have a bit of the Camp atmosphere because of the small group setting with 150 students. The classrooms, dorms, and cafeteria are all situated together at LaRoche -- convenient and congenial. But the atmosphere is more like graduate school, with "focus and discipline" (as Dr. Jones notes) as the goal.

    That is, except for MOVIE NIGHT! I remember those much-anticipated evenings at summer camp, and Tuesday evening, GRIP directors Elissa Scalise Powell and Deborah Lichtner Deal arranged a special showing of the season premier of Who Do You Think You Are? following the evening genealogy presentation by Angela Packer McGhie.

    It was great fun to follow Kelly Clarkson on her family history journey and watch her reaction to learning about her ancestors. But, the biggest round of applause was reserved for GRIP instructor and WDYTYA researcher Josh Taylor. You don't always get to go to camp with a movie star!


    Getting a GRIP on the 2012 Inaugural Session of the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh 

    IMG 0293

    IMG 0294

    If success of a venture can be measured in "repeat business" GRIP has found a place as a valuable resource for genealogical education with the inaugural session at La Roche College in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Hopefully, Institute Directors Debbie Deal and Elissa Scalise Powell are enjoying a bit of R&R after a week of classes, lectures, and full-time "directing" to make sure that everything ran smoothly.

    In my Intermediate Course with Paula Stuart-Warren, more than a few people were asking for "preferred" registration status for next year's six-course lineup. Don't worry, according to Elissa, that won't happen and everyone will get the same opportunity to sign up when registration opens, but the enthusiasm of the first attendees is a good indication of GRIP's achievement.

    Each of the four courses offered an outstanding instructor and a curriculum of targeted lectures and hands-on exercises. The classrooms were comfortable and well-equipped, the evening lectures were varied and interesting, and the dorm accommodations were convenient and economical. The cafeteria food was an unexpected highlight featuring local fresh ingredients in a changing daily menu. 

    I shouldn't really be writing all this because now it's going to be tougher for me to get a spot next year! 

    My Personal Take-away from GRIP

    I learned so much about becoming a better, more effective researcher, from the instructors as well as from my classmates. I learned that collaboration is a good thing. Although I've attended several conferences and seminars, I often spend most of my social time with geneabloggers where conversation tends to move towards social networking, marketing, and the technology of blogging. I met several bloggers at GRIP, but the emphasis for all of us was on learning how to be better genealogists, rather than on how to be more effective bloggers.

    Reading posts from some of the other bloggers in attendance emphasizes the week's focus. I enjoyed meeting Christy Webb, Karen Blackmore, Michelle Chubenko, Chris Staats, Shelley Bishop, and Cathy Desmarias for the first time and catching up with old friend Becky Wiseman, but we were all at GRIP intent on the same purpose, to become better genealogists. 

    Would I go again? In a flash. But, I'd pack away a six-pack of Diet Coke; La Roche is dedicated Pepsi Country, and that can make for some tough study sessions.


    GRIP Day Two: Getting Into the Groove

    It sounds rather dull to say we are setting into a routine here at GRIP, so instead I'll suggest that we are moving toward Genealogy Zen. We wake, we eat, we listen, talk, and think genealogy. We move from dorm room, to classroom, to cafeteria, back and forth and KGEN plays continually on the radio without interruption.  

    Today the Intermediate class heard sessions on citing sources and finding information through NUCMUC, NARA, and JSTOR, with a two-hour after-dinner presentation on using Google Earth and map overlays for genealogy projects. Paula and Josh have so many tips and tricks for effective searches and little-known repositories that I'm keeping a running ToDo List for my own research.

    Collaboration is clearly a keyword this week, and hearing ideas from classmates points out the experience and expertise of so many researchers. The trick is connecting and sharing so we can help one another. Paula made a good case in class for enlisting help and hiring local researchers to expedite a project or as guides to help you become acclimated in a new repository or locality. I had never thought about it before, but it really makes a lot of sense to seek out an expert at times.

    Genealogy bloggers tend to read about each others interests and specialities on their blogs making it fairly easy to connect online, but it takes just a bit of conversation to figure out the same information in person. 

    The Getting a GRIP daily newsletter listed attendees from 28 states and Italy. Just imagine the wealth of experience --

    Pennsylvania: 26

    Ohio: 17

    Maryland: 10

    Virginia: 7

    New York: 6

    New Jersey, West Virginia: 5 each

    California: 4

    Colorado, Minnesota, Washington: 3 each

    Maine, Michigan: 2 each

    One each from: Italy, Arkansas, Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Vermont, Wisconsin

    Tomorrow the Intermediate course moves on to Land and Tax Records, Court Records, Military Records, and Research in "New" Localities. It promises to be a long and interesting day concluding after dinner with a two hour session on Pennsylvania Research. 

    Time for Lights Out!


    GRIP Pittsburgh Day One Recap

    We aren't in California anymore!

    After a full day of travel that began in the wee hours of the morning, I finally arrived at La Roche College in Pittsburgh for the inaugural session of the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP). And, if the student and faculty buzz is any indication, GRIP will become a popular annual event along with long-established programs IGHR (Samford) and SLIG (Salt Lake City).

    The program opened Sunday evening with dinner and a short orientation. Course booklets distributed along with dorm assignments and keys gave a glimpse into the week's program. Some notebooks were noticeably heavy -- in particular, those books for Tom Jones' Advanced Methodology Course.

    Four courses were offered this year --

    Intermediate Genealogy with Paula Stuart-Warren

    Advance Research Methods with Thomas W. Jones

    Beneath the Home Page with D. Joshua Taylor

    German Genealogical Research Research with John T. Humphrey

    I knew I wanted to attend GRIP when I first heard about the program. It was scheduled during a "slow season" for genealogical events, and the program offerings were all great.

    My only dilemma was deciding what course to attend. Ultimately, I chose Intermediate Genealogy because my personal research has been in a bit of a slump for the past few years, and I was pretty sure Paula Stuart-Warren's enthusiasm would give it a real boost of energy. I was also interested in the sessions that would be taught by Josh Taylor throughout the week.

    Dawn Comes Early

    Although I had been "in training" for the past few days, waking up earlier each morning, my alarm went off way too soon this morning. There's no room service in Bold Hall Dorm, so I made my way to the cafeteria for a hot breakfast and a few cups of coffee before class. 

    The morning session began promptly at 8:30 with Paula on "Analyzing Documents: Self-Judging Your Expertise," followed in the afternoon with Josh Taylor on "20th Century Compiled Genealogies" and Paula on "Vital Records and Substitutes." Five hours of solid genealogy instruction followed by dinner, Maia's Books sale, and the evening talk presented by Pamela Stone Eagleson on writing a family narrative. 

    Now that it's evening I've caught a second wind and that California inner clock is ticking loud and strong. In fact, it feels like late afternoon. I've got time for a few more hours of online research. . .

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