July on Fire

One small bead of sweat worked its way down from my temple as I wheeled my lime green suitcase through the parking garage, the insulated cooler bag carefully balanced on top and my blue beaded work bag/purse digging into my shoulder under the weight of the laptop and my shiny new copy of Professional Genealogy. I haven’t been “home” in July in at least three years and I was quickly reminded why. It’s hot here. One of the perks of wandering about and not holding regular work nor having regular housing is the ability to NOT be in Georgia in July!

A quick walk across the alley and through the quirky revolving door and I was in the manufactured comfort of the University of Georgia Conference Center and Hotel. Yep. A college campus. Not the first time this summer I’ve been on a campus, either. As I lugged my luggage (funny how those words kinda match up, huh?) down the hallway I was more and more energized and excited. And it wasn’t just the A/C either. A vendor expo lined the hallway and lobby; tables filled with resources and information about local and national Genealogy societies, useful tools, and new software. I couldn’t wait to dump my stuff in the room, freshen up, and get to work. I had several hundred first impressions to make!

Last October, when I had that light bulb moment – actually described as a slow hum here and more clearly defined here, I laid out a plan to get smarter about my genealogy research with an expectation that I could professionalize and add these skills to my resume. After several conversations with a few professionals who were already doing the work, and who had taken some combination of many of the available continuing education resources, I settled on a plan for 2017. Six months of self-study, one regional conference, local society meetings, two research institutes and an online certificate course would be my test. If I got through all of it and still enjoyed research and still liked people, then I’d sort out a plan for 2018.

Institutes differ from conferences in a huge way. At any industry conference, you can expect a variety of panels and lectures to be offered to attendees of all skill levels and there is usually an expo hall filled with vendors, big dinners with key note speakers and more socializing and networking than anything else. Though, I’ve not been to a National Genealogy Society (NGS) National Conference, I’ve been told they are very much what I’ve described. Institutes, on the other hand, are week-long intensive learning opportunities. Attendees enroll in one class for the duration of the week with no hopping around to other lectures or “tracks”. Many offer evening programs and maybe a banquet dinner, but the emphasis is on intensive study in one area of interest.

The Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research (IGHR), formerly held at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, is what brought me to Athens, Georgia in hot muggy July. Even though I had already spent a week at Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP) in June, I was still nervous and uncertain if I was on the right path. I’ll save you all the growing pains of the week (for now), but after an intense week at IGHR in Elissa Scalise Powell’s “Genealogy as a Profession” course #9, I am certain I am doing the right things and have a solid plan for going forward. With encouragement and insightful feedback from my classmates, I even decided on a name for the business. Or, rather, I figured out a direction and mission that fits into Where to Now.

I was also reminded that just as my fitness trainer keeps telling me, “it’s a marathon, not a race”, and as excited as I am about all the possibilities, it will take patience and pacing. After all, I’m still traveling! But, as the title says….


Image of feet propped on edge of enclosed fire pit
Hold my feet to the fire!

Stay tuned for posts about my experience at both institutes! In the meantime, stay cool. I’m heading UP!

Are ya coming with me?

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