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11 July 2010

Getting to IGHR: A Tale of Two Days


Board member and conference reporter, Jeffrey Vaillant, has been on another voyage of learning. This time he took time out of a busy week in Birmingham, Alabama to report on the Samford Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research (IGHR). Jeff's first report:

IGHR is the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research held annually at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. There are ten courses offered this year and I selected Intermediate Genealogy and Historical Studies whose course coordinator is Lloyd de Witt Bockstruck.

My trip to “genealogy camp” (as some call it) began innocently enough with a United Airlines flight from the San Francisco Bay Area to Birmingham with a stopover in Chicago – all on the Saturday before the institute to allow me to arrive a bit early. The travel time would allow me to read Virginia Winters’ book Murderous Roots (2009) which I highly recommend for mystery readers with a strong genealogical bent.

Landing at O’Hare International Airport brought the sudden news that my connecting flight to Birmingham had been cancelled. The agent at the gate informed me that the chances of getting out of Chicago were slim and to proceed to the customer service desk which he warned me would have a long line. How right he was. After waiting 2.5 hours in line I finally got to talk with a service person. No flights on any airline out of O’Hare Saturday night. What were my options? ALL the flights on Sunday were booked! To his credit the service person put me on a standby list for the 7 a.m. flight and if that did not work out he ticketed me from Chicago to Charleston, SC, to Charlotte, NC and then to Birmingham. Since the flight cancellation was weather related I got a discounted rate at the Doubletree in Rosemont and was assured that my luggage would be on the first flight out the next morning (which was my standby flight).

Up early Sunday morning, shuttle to the airport and Starbucks was my start of the the day. I found that watching the wonderfully informative screens at the gate kept me informed about the flight, including the standby list. I was number eleven and there were ten seats left. “Standbys” were encouraged to stay until the gate closed. I had an alternative so I waited it out. Four seats left and I am number seven on the list. WHAT?? My name was called and I was on the plane.

It was a short flight to Birmingham – one hour, forty five minutes – arriving before 9:00 a.m. Off to retrieve the luggage. The routing is well known. We all stand around staring at the conveyor belt which finally starts. Nope, the luggage did not arrive! Where is the luggage agent? The luggage office was closed so it was off to see a ticket agent. The luggage tag and the computer system worked well: the luggage was still in Chicago! The United Airlines Delayed Baggage Report was filled out and submitted. The assurance was I would hear within 24 hours. Well, that was not going to work since I was staying in the dorms and the luggage contained bedding materials and the like.

Since orientation was in the afternoon and it was hot in Birmingham (99°F.) I elected to stay in the airport and read Labor Day by Joyce Maynard on my Kindle. Afternoon arrived so it was time to taxi from the airport to Samford University ($45). It was amazing to see others standing around in the heat and humidity waiting to register – and the line got quite long before the doors opened. Registration was a snap due to the IGHR staff. I got my dorm room. Bare bones accommodations and the price is right.

Dinner was in the Cafeteria with more than the 300 attending IGHR. The campus is alive with various activities from summer youth sports camps to freshman orientation. The cafeteria staff must have feed 1500 people. The IGHR orientation followed. The orientation was complete and informative. I called United Airlines to find out the status on my luggage. Their call center could not find anyone at the Birmingham Airport---not surprise it being Sunday.

One advantage about conferences and institutes is the people who attend. I was able to hitch a ride to Kmart to get clean clothes and some bathing items as well as rent a room at the nearby Marriott for the night. At 11:30 p.m. my luggage arrived so Monday I could get settled into the dorm.

Ah, what an adventure. I knew I should have flown Southwest Airlines.
– Jeffrey Vaillant



Read the entire series:
Part 1 — Getting to IGHR: A Tale of Two Days
Part 2 — Monday Report
Part 3 — Tuesday Report
Part 4 — Wednesday Report
Part 5 — Thursday Report
Part 6 — Friday Report



Copyright © 2010 by Kathryn M. Doyle, California Genealogical Society and Library

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