I sit here on the airplane returning from Birmingham, Alabama with my brain full to overflowing after a week spent at IGHR, as the Institute of Genealogy & Historical Research is commonly known. This annual event has been held at Samford University in Birmingham each year since 1962. The Institute has changed and grown each year and now registration for many of the classes is hotly contested. Several courses are full within 10 minutes of registration opening. Currently comprised of 10 courses of study, each course having 30 to 40+ hours of lectures and outside homework during the week, each course is an intensive study experience. The most demanding, and most sought after course is taught by Elizabeth Shown Mills, Advanced Methodology and Evidence Analysis. This is the only course with formal prerequisites so I was unable to take it this year, instead taking Intermediate Genealogy and Historical Studies coordinated by Lloyd DeWitt Bockstruck. I hope to be quick enough with the registration link next year to get into the Advanced class now that I have the prerequisite under my belt, but even if I miss that class there are several other options that I will be taking sooner or later.
IGHR is an amazing experience, not only for the chance to learn from some of the most renown names in genealogy, but also for the opportunity to get to know other serious genealogists from all across the country. Unlike a conference, where you go from class to class bouncing between interesting topics, at IGHR you are in the same classroom with the same people all week. You can choose between staying at the dorms on campus or at a local hotel with shuttles arranged to transport you back and forth to the campus each week. Relationships are developed with the others at your hotel or dorm and these are the people who I will refer business to when I have a question relating to their local area. I expect that relationships formed this week will be quite important to me in the future years.
The campus of Samford is beautiful with lovely Southern architecture and large magnolia and other types of trees. It is a Baptist college and was originally named Howard University. Their Special Collections department in the library has many records from Alabama Baptist churches. While I do not have too many families that remained in Alabama, several of them passed through and stayed there for 10-15 years. Through the resources of the Special Collections Department and the help of the wonderful library staff I was able to find a church in Perry County that both the Bamburg family and the Griffin family attended in the 1860’s. Being Baptist, there were no infant baptisms that gave me any birth dates, but there were several interesting tidbits that help to flesh out their lives. Other family members and associates were also mentioned who I hadn’t known of before, so I have more clues and trails to pursue than when I started. One great aspect of going to IGHR is the ability to ask questions of the instructors if you come up against something you don’t understand. An entry in the records refers to one of the Bamburgs being expelled from the church because he associated himself with the “Camelites”. I was able to ask Mr. Bockstruck the next day if he knew what Camelites were. He thought about it for only a second or two and he didn’t even see the entry, but out of his years and years of research came up with the answer that it must be referring to the Campbellites. The Campbellites were followers of Thomas and Alexander Campbell who were prominent leaders of the Disciples of Christ in the early 19th Century. Now, I would have wasted a bunch of time trying to google “Camelites” and wondering if it had something to do with dromedaries or Mount Carmel in Israel. Instead, I have a new area to research and new church records to search for!
One thing I learned for sure is that when registration opens up next January for IGHR 2014, I will be sitting in front of my computer with the fastest internet signal I can find, ready to click that link to register.