I wasn’t sure what to expect from IGHR or Elizabeth Shown Mills’ Advanced Methodology Course. I heard a lot of rumors about how hard it was. When people would find out which course I was taking they’d say “Ooooh. Gosh, be ready for a lot of homework.” Of course then I begin to second guess myself. “What if I’m not at the level needed to take this course? What if I’ve overestimated my abilities?” It turned out to be at just the right level and pace for me. I was familiar with almost all of the topics covered, with the exception of the government documents (gov docs for short) section. I’ve listened to lectures about gov docs before but never had the opportunity to use them. Everyone has a unique brain and therefore a different way of doing things and I thoroughly enjoyed learning how someone of Elizabeth Shown Mills’ caliber approaches a problem, what interpretations she makes from any given record and where she goes from there.
I think the biggest lessons I learned from the course are:
- There’s always something more.
- Citations are an art not a science.
- Research the neighbors.
Of course there were many lessons to learn. I definitely have a new way of approaching my research problems! And there was a fair amount of homework. I spent about 4 hours per night, but I found myself going off on tangents. (Anyone else have that problem?) I did not attend any of the evening events except the banquet, because I wanted to do the homework to my satisfaction, and I wanted sleep. Craig R. Scott taught a lecture or two in our course and my favorite thing he said was “A good genealogist needs sleep.” I still didn’t get enough sleep, but an adequate amount. (I hope Elizabeth takes the yawns as a sign of hard work and not as commentary on her lecturing!)
I was surprised when I received a gold star on my certificate. I was doubly surprised when I got home and received an email from Elizabeth letting me know that I had won the Walter Lee Sheppard Jr. Prize. This is from the press release:
Cari Taplin of Longmont, Colorado, has been named the 2013 recipient of the Walter Lee Sheppard Jr. Prize, bestowed annually upon one or more genealogists who demonstrate sound practices and exceptional potential. Candidates for the award are drawn from the Advanced Research Methodology and Evidence Analysis track at Samford University’s Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research. The stipend awarded to each recipient covers the preliminary and final application fees for pursuing certification by the Board for Certification of Genealogists.
Past recipients of the prize include Debbie Hooper, CG, of Millsboro, Delaware; Judy Russell, CG, of Avenel, New Jersey; David Ouimette, AG, CG, of Highland Utah; Phil Burnett Adderly, CG, of Shreveport, Louisiana; and Teri Tillman, CG, of Natchez, Mississippi.
The Samford University IGHR and the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) were both founded in 1964 by a cadre of genealogical educators seeking to advance quality and professionalism within the field. Across the decades, BCG has co-sponsored the IGHR; and a significant number of Board-certified genealogists have been its course coordinators and instructors.
The prize itself memorializes the late Walter Lee Sheppard Jr., one of the twentieth-century’s leading genealogical scholars whose example strongly promoted sound reasoning and careful analysis in all genealogical specialties. As a mentor, his discerning eye could be counted upon to identify a missed source or clue in family reconstructions, thereby strengthening a colleague’s conclusions. A founder and president of BCG, Lee was also a fellow and president of the American Society of Genealogists, the National Genealogical Society, the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania, and other bodies. In 2007, he was elected to the National Genealogy Hall of Fame.
The Sheppard Prize is privately funded by an IGHR Track 4 graduate, for whom Lee acted as mentor and patron. The prize has no affiliation with the Board for Certification of Genealogists itself.
The Walter Lee Sheppard Jr. Prize is funded by a private person who was mentored by Lee. This is serendipitous because having had an awesome mentor is the only reason I am here (in the genealogy world) today. My dear friend and mentor Birdie Holsclaw told me I could be, she told me I could do this, that I had potential, that what I was doing was fun and interesting and that people would want to hear about it. So I began speaking and writing articles. We would sit up until Buffalo Wild Wings kicked us out (around 2am) talking about my work and she’d just impart her wisdom on me, freely
and with such patience and grace. Then she and some other friends invited me to a small group of people who were thinking about becoming certified. And I’ve been on that path slowly ever since. Well, now, it’s not going to be slow anymore.
The next 18 months is going to fly by and I hope to do Birdie proud! And I hope to be able to pay forward the mentoring gift someday. All in all, that is not a bad first time at IGHR!