Getting A Grip On My Education And My Kit

GRIP — that is, the Genealogical Research Institute Of Pittsburgh — offers a solid week of courses on genealogical research each summer, and Dai and I attended this year’s first session for the second year in a row.

I can truly gush, glow and go on about the great time we had and how much we learned. The organizers, Elissa Scalise Powell and Debbie Lichter Deal, see to all the needs of the students. The classes are held at La Roche University in McCandless, near McKnight and Babcock Roads.

Housing and food is organized on campus and off campus nearby. GRIP has the info laid out so you can spend all your time on learning. They direct you to everything you need.

The courses and instructors are great. Every year I lament the courses I can’t take, but after working on DNA for genealogy for almost a decade and a half, I cannot turn down a chance to learn from the genealogy world’s best and the brightest on that subject. Blaine T. Bettinger was the course coordinator for Advanced DNA Evidence, and we were not disappointed. He is an amazing and wonderful teacher who keeps us up to date on the latest in the field. He even does a lecture on what might be coming in the future in DNA. Dai especially likes the way he makes the science of DNA understandable, and shows how you can use it to solve problems.

Blaine also chose the best instructors, Angie Bush and Karen Stanbury, for our added classes. Both of them gave us great lectures on the latest new tools for DNA research and how to write up your research using DNA for genealogy.

Dai and I also studied DNA at last year’s GRIP (him in basic, me in advanced), but with all the new tools and features that have been added in the last year, we learned important things every day.  I bet we would not go wrong taking a DNA course again next year.

But there are so many other courses to choose from, and I want them too. Cyndi Ingle was there. I am always telling folks to use her website (, the go-to place for links to the entire world of genealogy. No matter what the question is, when you google for information, her site often comes up.

Thomas Jones was also there, teaching how to document your genealogy. I need this course so seriously – like yesterday. There was also Judy Russell and so many others, all of them experts in almost every aspect of genealogy research from the old to the new, traditional and general to specifics.

I  do not speak for GRIP – they can speak for themselves…


They have been having two or three one-week institutes each summer, and with many courses to choose from each time. They also have a Facebook page that you can follow. You can learn there about the coming courses, the instructors and all the hints and helps the students offer each other.

Blaine T. Bettinger has pages and groups on Facebook and his own websites, all just for learning and sharing.

About DNA Central

Research became my life through two jobs and adult schooling. I began researching DNA for genealogy almost 15 years ago, buying the first kit for myself July 2005. But I got my first computer working as a research journalist in Hong Kong in 1983 and it was what was described to me as a fake Apple. I did not know then what that meant. Soon after, I got a PC from a Hong Kong company called Comtech; within a year after that, I had I think it was called WordStar.

There was no internet then. I had a dial-up modem to transmit from my home computer to the office in the Cable and Wireless building — or anywhere else that the phone would reach. The technology has never looked back, but today we have internet providers that tell us all the time what they cannot do. Of course those are fibs; a computer can do anything a programmer tells it to. All can be done and linked and learned and shared and taught. But it will only  come to the public once the marketing department  has developed its new products.

Genealogy and family history research wasted no time getting into the internet and computer age. Whether we continue our education at GRIP or research at various archives and societies, our livelihood or hobby of family history (or herstory) now includes computers and power surge protectors; extension cords and chargers. When we carry water to drink, it is packaged so it can’t spill and fry a computer. And we might like some sturdy wheeled baggage for all the gear.

I love the little Belkin Power Surge Protector – it will take two plugs and can protect your computer from those strange sockets. The Travelon power plug adapter took me across the pond with multi-plug and socket choices – it is a one-piece easy to pack unit that also has two USB ports for charging phones or tablets (this is NOT a converter). For a good and compact converter, we used the Odoga in Europe. It was a nice, affordable unit.

Ebay is still the best place to find your business-style laptop bag on wheels. Set the notifications and Ebay will send you notices when something new comes up. Keep a watch, and after a while someone will turn up with a nice bag that they want to sell and are willing to consider an offer. For that matter, after you see the wonderful business bags on offer, you just might find a fun bag for yourself  at a really nice price.

The Incipio backup battery (I got the large size to take to Europe) was a digital life-saver at GRIP. My old Windows 7 laptop refused to connect to the college’s wi-fi. So I used the smart phone to make a hot spot, but then my phone was draining quickly. The backup battery charged the phone back up in a jiffy.

The Contigo metal travel cup really keeps drinks hot and really keeps them cold. I like the model with the lock on the lid for no spills and a hook that allows you to attach the cup to a pack or bag for hands-free carrying.

The university was near McKnight Rd.  My father’s Knight surname DNA line has both Knights and McKnights, so the school gave me a fun story for family history/herstory. I added a lookup for the congressman Robert McKnight, whom the road seems to be named for. We know we had Knight/McKnight ancestors in Pennsylvania.

We loved having a look around Pittsburgh, and recommend it for anyone who has time. We had a fun walk around the Strip District, with its myriad little shops, and a late brunch at the locally famous DeLuca’s Diner.

DeLuca’s has a wonderful mural painted across one wall. I have researched a relative who painted murals in the 1920s and 30s — Reginald Sherman Kidd Winton — so we enjoyed the mural more than you might think. The DeLuca artist, Sylvester Konrad Yenka “Socrates”, had painted a satyr in one corner, right by the booth where we were seated.  GGG Uncle Sherman also painted satyrs, and we think that might have been inspired by his birth surname (Kidd). I did not find much on the mystery artist Mr. Yenka, not yet anyway.

From the time we arrived at GRIP, we saw old friends from the year before. By the time we left, we had renewed those acquaintances and made lots of new friends.

Thanks to all – you are way too many to name…

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A few pics of the trip. I was thrilled the tablet/Facebook uploads wanted to tag the location of McKnight, Pennsylvania in the photos from the Hotel (the photo of the bags – the GRIP bag they so wonderfully had for sale and a bag I make which folks can write their ancestors names on. From the opening ceremonies and introductions, to the last lunch of the week, you can expect to learn a lot and have a wonderful time learning with a great bunch of folks.


Traveling for research means packing very carefully. An archives or society might have a library with all your digital needs but not always. The Little Belkin Power Surge Protector is a must for me and carrying an extension cord and power bar are worth their weight in gold if you need them and you are away from home. This was my first trip carrying my battery backup and it saved the digital day. My ole’ Windows 7 laptop refused to connect to wi-fi and so I used the iphone for a hot spot. This drained the battery of the phone – u kno iphone 6 😦 – and so the Incipio battery backup did everything it said it would and charged the phone fast.





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