19 November 2021


If you know what GRIP, SLIG, CGVRI, MAAGI or IGHR are then I am guessing you stay on top of your genealogical education.

  • GRIP is the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh
  • SLIG is the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy
  • MAAGI is the Midwest African American Genealogical Institute
  • IGHR is the Institute of Genealogical Historical Research

All of these are wonderful ways to expand your genealogical studies. They are weeklong intensive studies usually concentrating on one topic. Some are held virtually as the CGVRI one, and others are held in Pittsburgh, Salt Lake, or Atlanta. The COVID-19 pandemic allowed many genealogists to attend one of the institutes as they were all held virtually, and one could attend in their bunny slippers.


One of my genealogical goals has been to attend an institute. I attended my first institute, GRIP, in 2020. It was "Digging Deeper: Records, Tools, and Skills with Paula Stuart-Warren, Carla Cegielski, Karen Mauer Jones, and Debbie Mieszala. I wouldn't have been able to attend if it were held in Pittsburgh, but when I saw it was going to be virtual, I signed up.


I am a lifelong learner. I love to read, research, and study. GRIP was the perfect fit for me. It was a very intensive week, but the instructors did an excellent job of keeping things going, including breaks, homework, and groupwork that allowed attendees to apply what they learned that day. I learned so much during the week and I left with an excitement to use what I had learned in my own research. 


The Digging Deeper class covered the topics of Analyzing Documents, Manuscripts, Probate Records, WPA Records, Vital Records Substitutes, Sources, Legal Savvy, Court Records, Newspaper Research, Government Records, Institutional Records, and Post Military Service Records. You might look at this list and think you know about each one of these topics, you don't. I was amazed at the depth of each of these topics and how much I learned. This would be a good class for a beginner or intermediate learner. 


I enjoyed the class so much I decided to try to enroll in another GRIP class in 2021, which was virtual as well. This time I signed up for Research in the Great Lakes Region with Cari Taplin, Cyndi Ingle, Judy Russell, and Paula Stuart-Warren. The reason I signed up for this class was so I could further my knowledge of the region I live in. I have numerous ancestors in this area. Plus, I have been asked to speak on research in Michigan a few times.


This class was highly informative. No homework and not as much group work this time. I have to say the group work allows you to get to know your fellow attendees even when it is in a virtual environment. I don't even mind homework because it allows you to apply what you have learned. It reinforces the concepts presented. This would be a good class for all learners, especially if you do a lot of research in this area. 


Topics for this class were Geography, History, and Migration, Land Records, Census Records, Vital Records, Border Crossings, Shipping, Military, Law, Religion, French Canadian, Ontario, Newspapers, Naturalization and Citizenship, Archives and Libraries, and Mapping-all related to the Great Lakes Region of Canada, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan. I didn't feel as challenged in this class and I will be looking for a challenge the next time I take an institute class.


Again, I did enjoy spending a week learning about the Great Lakes region. So much so that I decided to sign up for another institute a few weeks after the Great Lakes one ended. I attended the CGVRI class, Researching Ontario and Quebec Ancestors, with Katherine Lake Hogan and Christine Woodcock. This was the inaugural year for this institute and what a good year it was. If you want to know anything about Ontario and Quebec, taught by Canadians, this is the class to take. It was so good that I used the information to discover my brick wall ancestor, Richard McGee, was born Richard Walmsley! I know I will be attending the 2022 CGVRI class as I won a door prize for free tuition!


Topics for this class included Early Settlers, Border Entry, Newspapers, Crown Land Records, Military, Maps, Ontario Vital Records, Notarial Records, Quebec Census and Church Records, Criminal Records, Seigniorial Land, Wills and Estates, and more. The best part of this course was learning about the Library and Archives of Canada website, which is a must use website for research.


I am still processing everything that I learned in this class. I can't wait to get into the Quebec online records to research the French-Canadian side of Kirk's family. The map sources were phenomenal. This was an excellent follow up course to the Great Lakes one.


Now that you know what an institute is all about, this is why you should attend one, either in person or virtually, First, the best of the best is hired for instructors. You get to spend a week with them. Next, you get to meet fellow genealogists who have the same interests as you. You might even connect with a cousin. You get to spend a week immersed in your favorite thing-genealogy. It brings a new excitement to your research. It is something everyone must try at least once.

I will admit it isn't the easiest thing to sign up for because of its popularity. You will want to have two or three choices in case your first choice is full when you go sign up. The first year I signed up I didn't have the full list to choose from because I had only registered after it was decided to go virtual. The second year I didn't get into my first choice, but I did get into my second. You need to sign up as soon as it is available. Waiting even a few hours will limit your choices. If you don't get into a class, sign up for the waiting list. Many people attended from being on the waiting list at GRIP. One last tip, go to the website of the institute you wish to attend and enter your personal information, it will save you time when the registration opens.


Did an institute make me a better researcher? You bet it did! No matter what course you take you will become a better researcher with the information you glean from an institute. I learned about new resources in the area I was researching and how to use these resources. I learned how to analyze sources to ensure I am only using the best quality ones. I learned where to find good quality sources. There is so much to be learned from attending an institute.

Institutes are for genealogists of all levels. If a class is for advanced researchers, it will state that in the course description. There are not many prerequisites for taking an institute and everything is laid out on the institute's website. 

If you are interested in attending an institute, check out the websites now and get on their mailing lists. You need to make note of the day and time that registration opens and explore what classes are offered. I highly recommend trying it at least once. See you there in 2022!


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