Monday, May 14, 2012

Paula Stuart-Warren, SLIG Coordinator Extraordinaire

Why would you recommend a student attend SLIG in general?

That’s an easy question but it has multiple answers. Let me list some of those: camaraderie, knowledge, networking, sharing, the other students, the experience, fun, and advancing our own family research. It’s almost like learning in the midst of an enlarged family who truly understands you. Best of all, this is the one Institute that gives us such close proximity to the fabulous Family History Library so we can put our knowledge to research use immediately. 

Will you tell us a little bit about what makes your SLIG course unique among genealogical education offerings.

This is an intermediate course that takes the students beyond the basic census and vital records and focuses on 19th and 20th century United States resources. It offers a look at resources that are often not included in beginning genealogy guides. It brings together wonderful instructors who are unselfish in their sharing and who have brains that continually amaze me with their depth of knowledge and understanding. The class has a research project for the week that helps with analysis, research planning, the research and the networking that can solve research issues. Then there are the one-on-one consultations onsite in the Family History Library so that you can bring your own family research for a look by someone who hasn’t seen it before and who may give you some new research insights that you can research right there! It’s actually a two-part course that has different classes in the two year rotation that make up the full course. It offers more than the usual twenty hours for a SLIG course.
When did you first start researching your family history? Was there a moment when you knew you were “hooked?”

It all began with my oldest son’s school project. I was actually hooked two times. First was when my late father-in-law kept insisting his mother’s maiden name was Warren. I would say that’s her married name. He would insist it was her maiden name too. He was correct. His parents were first cousins, once removed. Then I took a history course about St. Paul, Minnesota. I learned about tracing business histories. Checking for the regular and business listings of my maiden great grandaunts in the city directory I saw that two men lived at the same address. Who were they? I wanted to know. I asked my maternal grandmother and she acted like I should have known who they were – her uncle and grandfather. I wanted to learn more about all these people and haven’t stopped yet.

Do you have a pet ancestor? Can you tell us a little bit about what makes this person so special to you as a researcher?

I really sat and thought about who would be my pet ancestor. There are many due to their stories or the stories I am trying to figure out. I have two who continually confound me. One is Georgiana Margaretta Reinhardt. She apparently died sometime between 1878 and 1885 in either the province of Quebec, or Wisconsin, or some point in-between. I cannot find her and the family in the 1880 Wisconsin census or the 1881 Canadian census. She is not buried with her husband or son in Superior, Wisconsin nor is there a burial record in the church where her last children were baptized in Montreal or the family church in Rawdon, Quebec, Canada. The other pet person is her mother Clarinda Copping Reinhardt Jones. She is said to have had a beautiful singing voice (not inherited by me) and I want to know why her father wrote in his journal in 1836 where they lived in Rawdon: “This is a fine day and I and some of the children were at Church and behold I saw my Daughter which surprised me that she should have a face to be in Church where she is known and knows the state she lives in.” I really want to know the story behind that statement. I need to research onsite in Canada to continue the quest on these ladies.

What record set do you believe is the most under-utilized? What advice would you give students in using this record set?

Many people ignore manuscript collections that are in libraries, historical societies, and archives all around the United States. The personal, business, and organizational papers hold family history details that are often not found since most are not online. Some personal papers include extensive genealogical research done by others, vital records, family relationships, and so much more. Learn how to access any indexes and finding aids and if you can, visit the place where some family details are held in the millions of manuscript collection that are waiting for us eager researchers.

What books and periodicals would you recommend for intermediate to advanced researchers? Are there any lesser-known texts you advise?

I suggest reading as many back issues of genealogy periodicals as you can for all your ancestral locations. The information found in these may not be described anywhere else. The cemetery or newspaper index may not be online or anywhere else. The first-hand account of researching in a specific library might only appear there. As for texts that are helpful I make great use of my guides to various repositories, the online guide to the National Archives (, and guides that were published even ten or twenty years ago. The helpful information in these makes for good reading during breaks from research. I read several of the scholarly genealogical journals to be reminded of the research process in tough cases, of methodology to solve burning issues, and to gain insight into the minds of the authors. The footnotes often lead me to some exciting resource discoveries.

What is the most rewarding thing about being a genealogical educator? What advice would you give for those who would follow in your footsteps?

I love the looks on someone’s face as they hurriedly jot down a note based on what I just said. Or the moment when that lightbulb goes off in their head. That tells me I have just shared a great piece of information that makes sense to them. Having research knowledge in my head and not sharing it is selfish. Other people taught me and now I can share that and more that I have learned on my own. It is important to remember we are educating, not entertaining. That we are sharing but can also learn from our students. That our students don’t want to be lectured to, but talking to or with is better. That our adult students need visuals to help them learn. And lastly that our students still need to learn about records and repositories along with databases, websites, and social networking. It’s all part of the package.

Do you have a website where students can learn more about you?

I have blog, Paula’s Genealogical Eclectica, at My email address is and I am happy to respond to questions from folks trying to decide if this course is for them.

Will you share something with us that students may not know about you? Perhaps a non-genealogical hobby?

In addition to spending time with my four grandchildren, I love to drive in my car and not on the interstates. Seeing the many parts of this beautiful country is special for me. Though I don’t drive to Salt Lake City from Minnesota in the wintertime, I have done so at other times of the year. This summer I am taking my three youngest grandchildren on another driving trip in part of Minnesota that I call our history tours. This is being done by popular demand after last summer’s tour. Of course, there are hotel pools involved on some of the nights. All this will be done after I get to shed a few tears at my oldest granddaughter’s high school graduation.

Any parting thoughts or advice?

Don’t delay genealogy education. Keep up with continuing education. No one can know about all the resources, places, websites, databases, indexes, and more. Don’t neglect the books that are on library shelves. Much sage advice in those still is good in today’s world. Learn about the websites, digitized images, and finding aids that others put online. But read them, don’t just skim the information.

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