Thursday, October 4, 2012

Research in the South: An Unparalleled Week of Learning

As a part of my ongoing series featuring guest authors' reviews of genealogical institute courses, my good friend Debra Hoffman shares her experiences at last June's Institute of Genealogical and Historical Research.

Research in the South: An Unparalleled Week of Learning
By Debra Hoffman

The new year is approaching fast and with it registration for the Institute of Genealogical and Historical Research (IGHR) held each year at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. With ten courses to choose from, there is something to appeal to everyone. I was lucky enough to be one of the first to register last year for Course 3, Research in the South, Part 1. J. Mark Lowe was the coordinator of this redesigned course and it was a great educational opportunity. With his teaching team of Michael Hait, Linda Geiger, and Deborah Abbott, this course provided an unparalleled week of learning.

With an emphasis on the records rather than methodology, the course covered overall topics pertinent to southern research such as migrations and slavery. As noted in the title, this course is broken up into two parts in order to provide comprehensive coverage of the southern states. This first part covered North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, and Maryland. (The running joke in the course was that yes, Maryland is a southern state; however, not everyone agreed with that.) Coverage of the states included repositories and notable sources. Overall coverage of the south included discussions on Federal records, colonial and territorial records, military records, land and agricultural records, religious records, manuscripts and oral histories, and online resources. Although the emphasis was on the records, methodology was included in some of the lectures as well to guide researchers in strategies for researching southern families.

The knowledge and experience of the teaching team was evident in their extensive and informational handouts as well as their engaging and informative lectures. In fact, I'm still processing all the information I learned that week. One of the most interesting discoveries for me was the Digital Library on American Slavery located at The description from Deborah Abbott's handout described it as the "[p]ublic interface to data collected by the Race and Slavery Petitions Project at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. It is designed to provide detailed personal information about slaves, slaveholders, and free people of color. The documents span from the end of the American Revolution to the end of the Civil War and represent fifteen slave holding states and the District of Columbia." These petitions include a wealth of information and can provide insight into family situations. For instance, one woman petitioned to protect her slaves from being sold by her husband who had run off with another woman and was living nearby. At least one classmate located his family in these petitions. Coverage of these types of unique record sources is one thing that makes this course invaluable.

I would highly recommend attending IGHR. Not only for the incomparable learning experience it provides, but also for the chance to devote yourself to a course of intense study surrounded by some of the most knowledgeable genealogy experts in the field. The camaraderie is inspiring and the experience unmatched. Registration opens January 22, 2013. You can sign up for the mailing list to keep abreast of updates at Take the opportunity to increase your genealogical knowledge and skills in 2013!

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