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South King County Genealogy Society Blog

Genealogy Institutes--Summer Classics Going Virtual

Posted: 06 Jul 2020 10:00 AM PDT

Genealogy Education: Institutes

If you have attended more than a few genealogy society meetings, you have undoubtedly heard the terms GRIP, SLIG, Gen-Fed, or IGHR mentioned.  Either you just let the terms float by, or you were reluctant to ask what they meant.

These terms describe genealogical institutes. 

A genealogy institute is not the same as a genealogy conference. Genealogy institutes offer intensive courses usually lasting four and one half to five days. Conferences offer five to seven hour-long presentations daily for three or four days. The presentations may cover many different genealogy topics.

Several week-long “Institutes”  are held each year. Typically, the courses are intended for intermediate to advanced genealogists.  

Until 2020, these institutes were in-person events held in a hotel, conference center, or on a college campus.  Some conferences and institutes were canceled this year due to the coronavirus, others converted to online “virtual” events. 


IGHR, The Institute of Genealogy & Historical Research,is the granddaddy of all the U.S. institutes. Established in 1962, it is hosted by the Georgia Genealogical Society.  The location has changed several times, but it is now held at the University of Georgia’s Continuing Education & Hotel in Athens, Georgia, usually in late July. (Yes, the facility is air-conditioned.) Unlike other institutes, it offers a course for beginning genealogists. 

In 2020, IGHR will offer thirteen courses virtually.  The topics include DNA, Military Records,  Writing and Publishing, Scottish Research, Researching African American Ancestors in Government Documents and Advanced Tools, and others. 


The Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy, (SLIG), was founded in 1996.  Sponsored by the Utah Genealogical Society, it is usually held in late January.  In recent years SLIG virtual and SLIG Academy have been added.

SLIG Virtual offers a variety of courses specific to the needs of students.  Beginning in the early fall of 2020, four courses will be offered. 

  •  All-DNA Advanced Evidence Analysis Practicum
  •  Intermediate Foundations
  •  In-depth Swedish and Finnish Research
  •  Chinese Ancestry: Research Methods and Sources

“Schedules vary, but classes are held once a week for eleven to twelve weeks.  Classes are supported by closed Facebook groups and homework assignments, as well as the option to re-watch segments to ensure clear understanding.”[1]

The traditional SLIG will be presented virtually in 2021, and for the first time will be held in two weeklong sessions.  Each session will offer seven different courses.  You can view the fourteen different topics by going to the SLIG 2021 web page and downloading the 2021 flyer.[2]

SLIG Academy for Professionals will also be offered virtually in 2021.  Courses are designed for those working in the genealogy industry, as well as those seeking to become professionals.  Topics include business management, public speaking, writing, and others. Courses will be held live in three-hour sessions for nine weeks beginning in mid-February 2020.


GRIP, the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh, has been held in three one-week sessions at LaRoche College in Pittsburgh.  In 2020, all three weeks are being presented virtually. Each week usually contains different classes. This year, because some topics do not lend themselves to virtual presentation and the great demand for classes that filled rapidly, two classes are being repeated.  GRIP hopes to return to an in-person format in 2021.

Housing is offered in the college dorms and meals in the cafeteria are included in the housing package.  The dorm accommodations are basic. (If you choose that option, be sure to take an extra blanket!) The food is also basic, but not bad.  These options make GRIP more affordable than IGHR or SLIG. 

I have attended GRIP in-person and virtually.  I was surprised that I missed the social interaction of the in-person event.  The virtual event was more affordable because there was neither airfare nor housing and meals involved.  My instructor for the virtual program said that he liked working from home but missed interacting with his students.  I liked sleeping in my bed, but I did NOT like being camera-ready at 6:30 am. 


Gen-Fed, the Genealogical Institute on Federal Records held at the National Archives in Washington D.C. and College Park, Maryland has been canceled for 2020.  It is full for 2021. 

Planning for Institutes

Attending an institute takes planning.  Not only are there scheduling issues, but there are budget issues.  Tuition for IGHR is $620, SLIG Virtual “Intermediate Foundations” is $495, and GRIP 2020 was $475.  Information on registration for the traditional SLIG will be available in mid-July.  Transportation, housing, and meals must also be considered.  IGHR and SLIG housing are in hotels. Meal costs become significant.  At GRIP, a private dorm room and meals were $450 before the in-person event was canceled.  A shared dorm room was $100 less.  Some courses require the purchase of a textbook.  My most recent course required the purchase of The Chicago Manual of Style a hefty volume at a hefty price. 

Scholarships are available for most institutes.

Is it worth the investment of time and money? If you are ready to become a serious genealogist, the answer is Yes.

Happy learning!

Barbara MattoonSKCGS President                

2 Utah Genealogical Association, “SLIG Virtual,” ( viewed 30 June 2020).

3 Utah Genealogical Association, “Join Us for SLIG 2021,” ( viewed 30 June 2020.