I attended my very first SLIG conference January 12-17, 2020. It definitely won’t be my last. It blew my mind.
What is SLIG?
Before I list off my Top 10, first let me tell you a bit about SLIG. People described it as being like going back to school. It really was. Hosted by the Utah Genealogical Association,
SLIG offers high-intermediate to advanced education and includes courses on methodology, standards, regional or ethnic group research, and research tools like DNA. All courses assume a working knowledge at an intermediate level or above. Course descriptions, outlines, and prerequisites will help determine if the course is taught at the right level for you.
There were 16 courses at SLIG this month. Eight of them were USA-focused, seven more looked interesting enough to consider, and one was a slam-dunk, can’t miss, must-see: Course 8: Chinese Ancestry: Research Methods and Sources, sponsored by FamilySearch.
A course on Chinese genealogy? Take my money!!!
No. 10 – SLIG is fabulously well organized
If you’ve never contemplated organizing a multi-day convention, let me tell you it’s a daunting prospect. Every possible need of guests and instructors must be anticipated, met, managed and/or mitigated. It’s more complicated than a wedding, and we know how long those take to organize.
This was SLIG’s 25th anniversary, there were about 450 people involved, and from my perspective, it was as smooth as buttah. Each day was planned with courses during the day and options for the evening. There was a shuttle running continuously from the hotel to The Library (see below) and back. There were networking events and a grand finale gala. There was a genealogy book store, and booths with reps from all the societies: the Utah Genealogical Association, the International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists, the Board for Certification of Genealogists, and the Association of Professional Genealogists.
A shout out to Peg Ivanyo and her team for orchestrating the two weeks that are the SLIG marathon: SLIG, then SLIG Academy. (I didn’t attend Academy, so I’ll stick to talking about SLIG in this post.) Well done, everyone.
No. 9 – SLIG uses tech
I was impressed with SLIG’s use of technology and social media.
Before I even began packing, I knew what to bring, thanks to SLIG’s private Facebook group for attendees. Administered by J. Paul Hawthorne, Peg Ivanyo and Nicole Dyer, this group asked and answered questions such as: What’s the weather like? What should I wear? What should I bring? What restaurants are nearby? How late is The Library open? How do I keep from catching SLIG CRUD? (More on that below.) For a first timer to SLIG, and one not from the States, this group was invaluable in getting ready for the conference.
We also had our own private Facebook group for our class – a great way to share photos and tips as the course proceeded, and a stellar way to stay in touch after the conference ended.
SLIG used Sync.com to share updated course materials. No more worries about mass emailing – everything was on Sync. I waited to get home to download everything – 850+Mb worth of materials. Imagine if I’d had to carry all that in printed form?
I should have realized SLIG would be fairly tech-savvy back in November. Conference attendees booked everything on the SLIG website: courses, options and meals. There was enough information on every course I felt comfortable (and excited) knowing what I was signing up for, who would be presenting, and what to expect. Questions about booking details were handled in the Facebook group. That is great event planning.
No. 8 – there’s never enough time in Salt Lake City
I think I’d been at the conference about two days when I realized I wasn’t giving myself enough time to attend the conference AND take advantage of all that the city had to offer. There was a time when I could go to school all day and then research & socialize to midnight every night, but those days are GONE. Like everything else in my life, I had to be strategic with my time. Network over lunch with new friends OR get outside for fresh air and exercise? Join the group going on a tour OR hit the library for focused research? Stay up late OR go to bed at a reasonable hour?
When should I tackle the homework?!?!?
In the end, I’m happy with the choices I made. Getting to bed by 10:00 pm every night meant I was sharp for class every day, and hitting the gym probably kept me healthier than I’d otherwise have been. My one regret was missing most of the Wednesday Social event because I fell asleep – I mean, passed out cold – right after class and nearly slept through it. In more ways than one, SLIG really is like going back to school.
I never did get to go shopping. At Canada Customs, I declared a paltry $75 – the lowest amount I’ve ever declared for a week-long visit to the States in my whole life.
No. 7 – SLIG CRUD is real
Put ~450 people together in a conference for a week in January and you’ve got the ideal conditions to catch something. I never did figure out if “CRUD” was an acronym or simply a highly descriptive term for the cough/cold/flu but the CRUD stalked the conference like a true viral predator. The organizers handed out hand sanitizer in our welcome packages and provided masks for CRUD victims. Despite staying at the hotel, I managed to avoid catching the CRUD by:
- the usual things: frequent hand washing, never touching my face, and (sadly) avoiding even hugs
- daily exercise and lots of rest
- NeilMed Sinus Rinse (I swear this is my secret weapon in wintertime)
No. 6 – Salt Lake City in January is really not very cold
Sorry, my friends. It may feel like winter to you, but SLC in January ranged from -6 to +7 deg C. We who live in the Canadian Prairies call that a nice day. While I was enjoying the milder temperatures, Saskatoon had the coldest week this winter: -38.9 deg C. If you want to add windchill, Saskatoon was -49.6 deg C (that’s -57.2 F).
Meanwhile, I spotted some folk in SLC walking around in shorts. Please.
Here are some shots from my week.
No. 5 – The Family History Library is worth a week’s visit all on its own
The Family History Library, aka the “FHL,” or simply “The Library,” (like Sherlock Holmes’s “The Woman”) is the world’s largest genealogical library. During our week with Chinese Ancestry, we got a personal tour from expert Tony King, who taught us how to navigate the Index to Family Names by stroke # (in Chinese).
This being my first visit to the FHL, I spent my time getting familiar with what was available for Canada, China, the Philippines, Japan, and Indonesia. I am not normally a jealous person, but it was hard not to be jealous of the resources at the fingertips of the residents of Salt Lake City. In addition, the Library is staffed with helpful and knowledgeable people who can read the confused look on any first-timer’s face instantly. Resources AND friendly, knowledgeable asssistance. Win/win.
No. 4 – Genealogy buffs are pretty lovely people
OK, I knew this before, but it is worth repeating: the people you meet in genealogy are simply fantastic: smart, generous with their time and knowledge, enthusiastic and engaged. There wasn’t one person at the conference, in my class or outside it, instructors or students (and sometime both), who wasn’t warm and approachable.
No. 3 – You don’t have to know a lot about Chinese genealogy to take this course
I was surprised by the range of skills in our class of 10. We had the gamut from professionals in genealogy to absolute newbies. We had fluent Chinese speakers and non-Chinese speakers. Credit goes to Kelly Summers, whose course design clearly took nothing for granted.
We had an amazing group in Course 8 – we may have met as strangers but we left as friends. Missing from the photo are instructors Anthony King, Eric Leach, Stefani Evans, Marisa Louie Lee, and Melvin P. Thatcher.
The class of Course 8: Chinese Ancestry hams it up for Chinese New Year. From left to right: Alice, Greg, Kim, Linda, Melinda, Ying Chin, Melissa, Tung Ha, Karina, Linda, Jerry, and Kelly. SLIG, Hilton Center, Salt Lake City, UT. January 2020.
No. 2 – More Chinese genealogy tools
The Chinese Ancestry tools I learned in this course were unbelievable. I so wish I could have taken this course about 10 years ago, but the next best time is now. For someone who doesn’t read or speak Chinese, we learned:
- How to read Chinese grave markers
- How to interpret Chinese calendars
- How to read a jiapu (Chinese family tree), and how to distinguish the various styles of jiapu
- How to plan a trip to your ancestral village
- How to locate a Chinese genealogy online
- The key words to interpreting a Chinese family tree
- What records are available for Chinese Ancestry and where they are in the USA, Canada, Australia and the former Kingdom of Hawaii
- The best apps to hurdle the Chinese language barrier
- How to build a resources list
- and about 100 more things besides.
There are pivotal times in life when you learn something that will change the way you think about things ever after. This course was challenging, brain-busting, and fatiguing and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ll be talking a lot about what I learned in the coming months. Probably years.
No. 1 – More SLIG courses!
Now that I’m a SLIG alum, I’m looking forward to my next course. You can too. Don’t be fooled into thinking that SLIG is only for the advanced, or only for professionals, or even only for Americans (although quite a few attendees fit all three of those categories). The thing is, we’re all newbies if we step outside our areas of expertise. And SLIG is doing something fantastic for Fall – virtual SLIG. If you can’t get to Salt Lake City, you can still enjoy some world class learning from the comfort of your own home. For real. Even Chinese Ancestry. (And if you’re really lucky, you’ll have Kelly Summers, AG and President of the Utah Genealogical Association as your Course Coordinator.)
I learned about SLIG from Marisa Louie Lee, who reached out to me to talk about Chinese resources in Canada. Thank you, Marisa. If it hadn’t been for you, I might never have decided to attend, and that would have been a big mistake.
Salt Lake City is just two hours from Calgary. I’ll definitely be back.