Wednesday, January 15, 2020
Moving From Possibility to Practice
The gift of learning comes with the promise of moving from the realm of possibilities—"can I find my second great-grandfather?"—to the domain of regularly putting a tool or skill into practice. Bridging the (sometimes very wide) gap between the two positions may require a great deal of determination. However, as I sit in the first few days of my selected course at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy—the course on colonial Virginia research—the mental haze lifts so imperceptibly that I hardly realize I've stepped into a new position. I can see more clearly, now.
Overviews can be simultaneously breathtaking—"slow down, you move too fast!"—and tedious. There is so much to cover on the basics of record sets for this specialized area of research. But once we've covered the overview of resources, I'm beginning to gain a new sense that my several research challenges are yielding to the force of those new-to-me record collections. As long as I can access the records we discussed over the past two days—and as long as they include some reference to the counties and surnames I'm targeting—I may see many more mystery ancestors gain new identities.
Last night, I tried my hand at putting these new resources through their paces. In seeking my second great-grandfather, William Alexander Boothe, I took my cue from some family lore: widower Alex, it seemed, beat a hasty exit from his home territory—the now-nonexistent Nansemond County in Virginia—to move to nearby Tennessee on account of some overwhelming debts. What better place to look for his trail, back in his former Virginia home, than financial and property records?
While many such record sets need to be accessed through Virginia repositories—including the online resources at the Library of Virginia—it did turn out that some of the very documents I needed to review were also available at the Family History Library, only a couple blocks away from where I am staying for SLIG. Conveniently, SLIG provides a shuttle bus for attendees, a good thing in tonight's snow flurry. I grabbed the first bus out of the hotel and wandered through the Nansemond County tax records, pinpointing the years that Alex Boothe was still listed in the state.
Meanwhile, I realized how I could put some of these new approaches to work on many of my other early Virginia lines, so I will be regrouping after class today to formulate some new research plans. After all, I have a couple more opportunities to spend the evening at the Family History Library. If I can line up the exact resources I need before I return for my next research session, I can hit the ground running again.
It's incredible to think I'm moving from standing stock still to running through these records at full speed, but that is exactly what's happening. I'm not sure I'll ever get over that breathless-at-first yet bogged-down feeling on the first day of learning new realms of information, but at least there's that confidence that the initial daze of the data dump does give way to the solid ground of practice and experience.
Disclaimer: While I am certainly honored to be designated as an Ambassador for the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy 2020—and have shared about their impressive offerings for several years now—this year's designation comes to me with receipt of a modest discount to the registration fee. Nevertheless, my focus is on objectively sharing what aspects of the Institute readers at A Family Tapestry would likely find helpful, and I welcome the opportunity to continue serving as eyes and ears on site during this event for the benefit of my readers.