Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Every Opportunity Counts

I consider myself to be one of the most fortunate people alive.

I was recently asked about my background, my education, etc.  I took a deep breath and gave my answer.

Other than high school, I have no formal education.  But, I certainly am educated.  Let me tell you why.

The opportunity to go to college was not there for me.  Being the baby of the family is not easy, for I didn't have a line of people encouraging me in that direction.  All of my sisters are educated, with nursing degrees and x-ray technician backgrounds.

But, I am not.  I was generally told college was for smart people.  And, I believed that.

So, I educated myself.

I worked at Bierce Library at the University of Akron for a number of years.  I could have taken classes for college credit for free.  But, I didn't.  I did take one class on how to play the harmonica from a man who used to play with Freddie and the Fendercats.  Now, I don't have the breath to even play the harmonica.

All I ever wanted to be was a wife and mother, and I really didn't think that would ever happen, either.  But, it did.  And, soon I was "stuck at home" with four children under five years old.

This is when I did my greatest amount of learning.  While the kids were napping, I was reading and studying.  I was expanding my musical talent, learning how to go beyond piano and organ and saxophone (from high school).  I acquired six-string and twelve-string guitars, a banjo, autoharp, recorders, and anything else I could get my hands and taught myself.

As the kids grew, we spent hours at the library.  Each were allowed to check out ten books - forty books each week!  Kerry and I would immerse ourselves in the history and reference section.

Our kids began to realize how books could open up the world to them at a very early age.

When my kids were in junior/senior high school, I was asked to be the Family History Director at our local ward.  At this time, I hadn't taken the time to learn to do the things the easy way (microfiche, microfilm).  I had always gone to the actual areas with my parents.

Long story short...that assignment led me to where I am today.  I have traveled the United States and spoken to the world.  

So, when asked about my background, let me give some advice:

1.  Always, always take advantage of every opportunity for learning that comes your way.  There are so many to choose from.  They range from conferences, webinars, and classes to local gatherings at the public libraries, local genealogy societies, and even public television.  Learning about the 1918 influenza epidemic helped me to realize how difficult it was for my grandmother and her sister to lose seven babies between them.  It enhanced the writings in my mother's journal, who happened to live through it and remembered it as a five-year old.

2.  Learn to recognize the opportunity in front of you.  It may come in a casual conversation with someone of advanced age, a class being held, a book at a book sale.  

3.  Make the time to learn.  If you wait for the time to come, you may be waiting a long time.  Set aside the time for your own education.

4.  Some opportunities are free - some may cost money.  We were a single-income family, so I had to be judicial in what I spent money on for myself.  It might mean only one trip per year with my sisters to do research.  It might mean borrowing a book from the library instead of buying it.  One of the best ways is looking through what I already had in my own home.

5.  Conferences and institutes are tremendous, if you can afford them and the travel involved.  I have been fortunate to attend many conferences, but had to sit back on many more.  With modern technology, I can attend some of the streamed sessions.  

The Family History Library is hosting a wonderful United States Research Seminar in August.  I would love to be attending it.  But, I can't.  However, there are at least twenty classes being streamed!  Take a look at it here .  I have registered for as many as I can.

6.  I am an Accredited Genealogist, and have been for the past fifteen years.  I made a choice between becoming Accredited, or going through the Board for Certification of Genealogists.  I chose the first, as it hones you in on a specific area.

I did not need to do this professionally.  But, I wanted to.  Some of my friends and colleagues were proud of my accomplishment, and let me know that.  But, I'm still the same Peggy as before.

My oldest child had left on a mission, and I had three more in various stages of junior/senior high school.  Acquiring this Accreditation was one of the hardest things I had ever done.  I thought I was good, but it polished me.  I am so grateful that I set that as a goal, and that I reached it.

There are many genealogy colleagues who are neither Accredited or Board Certified.  But, they are good.  Very, very good.  Neither of these are needed to do professional research or speaking at different venues.  But, perhaps it helps when the post-nomials are noted, for it shows you have gone a little further.

7.  I learn from my peers.  I have attended classes when I have sat in awe at the tremendous amount of information being shared.  I have learned things I didn't know that I didn't know.

I have also attended classes where the only thing I learned was how not to teach a class.  I am not saying that to insult the presenter.  I have known several whose brains are so full of knowledge that I am coveting them.  But, they didn't quite know how to convey that knowledge to others.  As they spoke, I took note of the attendees around me.  Again, I learned how not to teach.

8.  I am always in research mode.  Always.  When we travel, I am reading.  When we were waiting for children at piano lessons, swim meets, tennis matches, etc., we always had a book.  (We watched our parents do the same thing.)  We never go anywhere without a book to read or a journal to write in.  

9.  I have found that by helping another person, or preparing a new lecture - I learn more than anyone else.  I believe it's called *homework*.  

10.  Belonging to your local or state genealogy society benefits you in so many ways.  I am fortunate to live just a few moments away from the Ohio Genealogical Society.  I have blogged about it several times, and those are tagged in the right column of this blog.

One thing they have begun doing is having a series of summer learning sessions - for free!!!  Please check out what has already been offered, and what is yet to come:

If I follow the example of my parents, my in-laws, and Mr. Kerry, my learning will never come to an end.  In today's world, there is no reason to remain uninformed on a subject.  

We choose those things that are the most important to us.  For me, it has been lifelong learning.

So, don't be discouraged if you're not able to go to all of the events you would like to.  Instead, be grateful for the things you may have right in front of you.  Kerry's father counseled his children:
Always keep your mind active and learning.

AND, from one of my previous posts

When you're green, you're still growing.
When you're ripe, you're almost rotten.



  1. What a fabulous post with excellent advice. Thank you for sharing your story and congratulations on your accomplishments. Learning should never end for anyone.

    1. Thank you so much, dear Linda! I guess I just feel like a sponge. I'm soaking it all in, and get excited every time there is an opportunity. Thank you for your kind words.

  2. What great advice Peggy! I have found the more I read and learn the happier I become so that has been my focus the last few months. I can already tell a difference in my research techniques. Not to mention all that fun I'm having just by reading!

    1. Kathleen, you're a woman after my own heart! Knowledge really does become power -- especially when we're sorting out these ancestors. Thank you for your comment!

  3. One of the wonderful aspects of doing family history and getting to know my more distant cousins is learning the unusual ways that they scraped together education and career opportunities. I salute you as I do my cousins, for persisting and wholeheartedly seizing the opportunity that presents itself today.

  4. Marian, how kind of you! My kids call me their hero, but I am calling the ones who went before me my heroes. Again, my mantra is: I did what I could with what I did have.

    Thankk you so much for your comments!

  5. Such wonderful advice from a great lady. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and tips for life-long learning with us.

    1. Jana, I have been so fortunate to have so many learning opportunities. And, I am far from being done.

      Thank you so much!

    2. Jana, I have been so fortunate to have so many learning opportunities. And, I am far from being done.

      Thank you so much!

  6. It seems to me that the more I learn, the more there is to learn and the more questions I have. I am so grateful to have the opportunity, now that I'm retired, to blog and write and give a few talks, but mostly I love to read and research. I have not done as much as you've done, but I consider it a day wasted if I don't learn something new and relevant.

    1. Janice, you have spoken a true statement! I learn something from every experience I have. Some are good. Others, maybe not. But, like I mentioned above, perhaps what I learned was to how not to teach a class. I am a listener and a noticer. I listen to questions being asked, and to conversations in vendor halls. That's how I end up developing some of my presentations!

  7. Peggy,

    I want to let you know that three of your blog posts are listed in today's Fab Finds post at

    Have a fantastic weekend!

    1. Oh, Jana!!! Three of them?? This just makes my week. Thank you so much!