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GRIP: Final Thoughts

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After a weekend to decompress from GRIP, I wanted to put my thoughts in order.Are Institutes Worth the Cost and Time:  Beyond a doubt.  In fact, I can’t wait to go back next year and am contemplating adding SLIG to my January plans.  Institutes are a great way to look in depth at a topic that a typical lecture cannot do.  Cost-wise, GRIP is an amazing deal.  For under $700, I received one week of lectures, syllabus, room, board and an awesome polo shirt.  This is probably one of the best values available in genealogical education. The Best Part of GRIP:  The people, just like at conferences.  I met so many interesting people in class, at meals and as a roommate.  The coursework is great, but the people you meet are even better. What to do Next: Write research plans, order FHL microfilm and search the German newspapers of Buffalo.  I also want to practice reading Gothic Script. Adding on a Research Trip: Always a great idea if you can do it.  Since I was driving past Eden, NY, where my…

GRIP Day 5: Back to Reality

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My brain was pretty done after 12 hours of lectures and talking and learning yesterday.  It is amazing how much information I have learned in such a short time.  Today (Friday) I woke up ready to take in as much as possible on my last day here, which was a good thing, as the records discussed today should lead to much genealogical success.  Our first lesson today was on the German records held at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland.  These records, the Rasse und Siedlungs Hauptamt (RuSHA), were created in Germany by the SS in the 1930s and are full of Ahnentafel charts and other genealogical information.  These charts can go back to the 1600s in some cases, but always until ancestors born by 1800.  If you can find an ancestor or collateral relative, they will be tremendously useful to you.I do not normally quote syllabus materials, as they are under copyright and one of the ways genealogists are able to make a living, but I feel that the following sentence about the SS rec…

GRIP Day 4: So Many Sources, So Little Time

Today (Thursday) John said that genealogists have 3 jobs:To identify sourcesTo find the information about your family in those sourcesWrite up our findings (they are of no use in a notebook)He made sure to give a multitude of sources for us to look for.  Whether church records from the seventeenth century, compilations, maps or online databases, I now have dozens of items to look for while looking for my ancestors across the pond.We began the day looking at maps and gazetteers.  In German research, the Meyers Orts- und Verkehrs-Lexikon des Deutschen Reichs is the most important gazetteer in German research.  There is a “how to” book by Wendy K. Uncapher that is very useful.Our second session was on sources of information in Germany.  Published sources from Germany are much more accessible than archives in Germany.  It is important to look for civil records (especially family registers for those from Württemberg), land records, and house books, among others.After lunch we discussed how…

GRIP Day 3: The Center of the Labyrinth

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‘Wednesday means we are halfway through the Institute, which is pretty hard to believe.  Our morning session was on the Pennsylvania Germans.  Although I do not have Pennsylvania ancestry, many of the records discussed would be useful to any research.  In the end, it is all about the research strategies and methodologies you use.  The second session continued this theme with case studies of immigrants to the area.After some excellent discussion at lunch (where I met Karen of Karen’s Genealogy Oasis blog), we came back to “Finding Places of Origin in Germany.”  Although I have a few ancestral villages, I do not have them for most of my German immigrant ancestors.  John reiterated that whole family genealogy (aka cluster genealogy or FAN research) is tremendously important in these cases.  Newspapers, particularly German language newspapers, can be very useful in this.  Even if you have the obituary from an English language newspaper, which is often just a short death notice, find the o…

GRIP: Day 2

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Another early start today (Tuesday) for breakfast and catching up online.  Our first session today was on German church records.  John discussed how church records brought the common man out of obscurity.  Prior to these, you can only research nobility or the winners of history.  With local parish records, every person has a name and a spot in the past.  These are the records that will help you put together families and the joining of families (through marriage).  They are the most important record group for German research.After our church record introduction it was time to learn to read said records.  The Germans used Gothic script, which is what has kept me from ordering parish records from the villages I have identified as my ancestral home.  After a couple hours of reading words and paragraphs with his Gothic script font, I was a parish reading rock star.  Then came the copies of actual parish registers after lunch and it was like I had never seen these characters before.  As wit…

Get a GRIP on German Genealogy: Days 0-1

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I arrived at the La Roche College campus Sunday afternoon for the inaugural Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburg where I am taking the German Genealogical Research track with John T. Humphrey.After registration (where we received our course notebook and GRIP polo shirt) and unloading my car, we had a simple buffet dinner and a welcome to the institute.  Then it was back to the room to begin reading Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff, followed by an early bedtime.Monday began with an early breakfast and then off to class.  We began with participant introductions and it was interesting to hear the variety of reasons people were taking the course.  We were then given an introduction of the course and a background of Germans in the US.  My biggest takeaways from the morning sessions was that genealogy is local, both in the US and in Germany and to find a document that your ancestor has signed, as it will give you their German surname.  This is a tactic that I imagine would work for…