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Thanking UGA and a whole team

Saturday here at The Legal Genealogist is the time to talk about family stories and history.

But occasionally it’s time to record The Legal Genealogist‘s own family story and history.

And today is a time to remember the mentors.

trayGerald Kerrigan was my 11th grade English teacher. It was an advanced English class and he was particularly demanding. Some of the students complained to their parents, the issue was addressed at a PTA meeting, but that teacher stood his ground.

And I learned how to write.

Kenneth W. Michael was the executive editor of a newspaper then known as the Perth Amboy Evening News. I was a cocky teenager without a college degree – and with a writing style Ken described as the most nearly identical to his that he had ever seen.

He gave me my first break. I became a newspaper reporter. And under his tutelage and that of news editor John Curley, I became a better writer.

Jack Smee and Alex Michelini were the editors of the short-lived New Jersey edition of the New York Daily News. Although by that time I had been off in the corporate world, they paved the way for me to come back into journalism.

The Daily News style was short and sassy, Jack and Alex were masters of that craft, and under their guidance I learned to write and have fun.

When I first met Matthew P. Boylan, he was director of the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice. He fed me information as a newspaper reporter; I fed him evidence he could use in his investigations. Later, when he was a senior partner in a New Jersey law firm, he gave me my first legal job – as an investigator for his law firm while I went to law school.

Until the day he died, Matt was my teacher and my friend. From him, I learned to love the law.

The entire faculty and staff at Rutgers Law School has to be included in any mentor list. They were my teachers and later my colleagues during the quarter century that I taught as an adjunct at Rutgers.

And then there are the genealogists.

It was my friend Lynne Fisher of Chicago who convinced me that we were ready to take the Advanced Methodology and Evidence Analysis class known as Course Four at the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. That was the course taught by Elizabeth Shown Mills.

Which is the reason why I am fortunate enough to count Elizabeth as one of my mentors. I wasn’t at all sure I knew what I was doing as a genealogist or that I could ever be good at it. So I will never forget opening the final project paper from that class and seeing one word at the top in Elizabeth’s handwriting: “Superb.”

The following year I took the genealogy writing course taught by Thomas W. Jones at IGHR. And that is how I began to count Tom as one of my mentors.

David McDonald. Claire Bettag. Rick and Pam Sayre. John Phillip Colleta. The list of genealogists from whom I have learned goes on and on.

And the mentor list goes on and on. There are so many people who helped me become a better journalist, a better lawyer, a better genealogist. Every one of them is on my mind today.

Why today?

Because last night was the final banquet for the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy, where Rick Sayre and I had had a wonderful time with the students in our Family History Law Library class, aided by Claire Bettag, David Rencher and F. Warren Bittner as instructors. It was a great week.

Then came the total surprise. The President of the Utah Genealogical Association, Bret Peterson, got up to present the UGA awards and the first one presented was the 2015 Silver Tray Award, given for scholarly contributions to the field of genealogy and family history. Since 1988, it has traditionally been given for publication efforts.

It has gone in the past to people I count as dear friends: Kimberly Powell, Tom Jones, Lou Szucs and others who have contributed so much to the written scholarship of our genealogical community.

And, last night, that award was presented to me.

I am honored.

I am grateful to UGA.

And I am most grateful to my mentors.

In genealogy, we all have the sense that when we laugh, all of our ancestors smile for us, and when we cry, they are all there helping comfort us.

In our lives as genealogists, when we succeed all our mentors share in our success.

Thank you to my mentors.

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