Thursday, March 31, 2011

Spotlighting the National Institute of Genealogical Studies

This post was written by guest author Eileen Souza. I have asked some of my friends who have experience with different genealogy education programs to share their experience.

Spotlighting the National Institute of Genealogical Studies
By Eileen A. Souza

I have been participating in the National Institute of Genealogical Studies (NIGS) online program for almost three years.  NIGS works in affiliation with the Continuing Education Division of St. Michael's College in the University of Toronto in offering comprehensive genealogy courses and certificate programs. The web site is  

The course work ranges from basic to advanced, with the lessons and homework becoming correspondingly more difficult.  I have been very challenged by this program and feel a sense of satisfaction as I progress through the various levels. I see the improvements in my own personal research and in my client work.  I would definitely recommend this program to others.  

I have completed my certificates in Basic and Intermediate Genealogical Studies for General Methodology and American Records and am working toward a Certificate in Genealogical Studies-American Records.  Once I complete this 40 course program, I will be able to use the post-nominal, PLCGS (Professional Learning Certificate in Genealogical Studies), after my name.

The instructors are dedicated genealogists who do an excellent job of knowledge transference. You can find the faculty list at

NGIS offers a Certificate in Genealogical Studies with a specialty in one of the following record types: American Records, Australian Records, Canadian Records, English Records, German Records, Irish Records, Scottish Records, General Methodology and Librarianship.  Details can be found at   You may sign up for a certificate program or just take individual courses.  

Each course consists of reading and assignments for the student to complete. Assignments cover a range of problem-solving and analytical exercises and each course ends with a final exam. Assignments are generally submitted online and are graded along with the exam.

Each level of instruction has an analysis and skills mentoring course where you apply what you have learned to date and analyze a case study. This course provides for two appointments with your instructor to obtain feedback on your progress.  

There are numerous live “chats” held every month and you may attend as many as you wish in any of the courses.  Recently, the Institute switched the chats to Microsoft’s LiveMeeting. This is a very exciting option as the instructor can now present/teach during the session and with webcams you can see the instructor and fellow students.

All in all, I believe that NIGS courses are instructive, challenging and cost-effective alternatives for the continuing education of genealogists. 

Eileen Souza is finishing the ProGen Study Program this month in the ProGen 4 group. She can be contacted at or

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Seeing the Forest AND the Trees: Mastering the Craft of Genealogical Documentation

On Tuesday the New England Chapter of the Association of Professional Genealogists posted the following announcement on their website. I wish I lived close enough to attend! I hope some of you get to go.

The New England Chapter of the 
Association of Professional Genealogists


Dr. Thomas W. Jones

Sunday, October 2, 2011

1:00 – 5:00 PM
The Arts and Sciences Building of Boston University – Room # pending

Seeing the Forest AND the Trees: Mastering the Craft of Genealogical Documentation
This hands-on workshop will cover the why, what, when, and how of documenting genealogies, lineages, reports and other written products. Participants will lean the five characteristics that make a source citation "complete and accurate" and how to apply a simplified format to citing most genealogical sources.

Thomas W. Jones,
Ph.D., CG, CGL, FASG, FUGA, FNGSDr. Thomas W. Jones is a genealogical researcher, writer, editor, and educator who co-edits the National Genealogical Society Quarterly and teaches problem solving and evidence evaluation in Boston University’s Genealogical Research Program, advanced methods at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy, and genealogical writing at the Samford University Institute on Genealogy and Historical Research

Registration Form can be downloaded here. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Virtual Genealogy Education lecture links

Here are the links I mentioned in my "Virtual Genealogy Education" lecture to the Montgomery County Genealogy Club today. I will write more details about this topic in the coming weeks.

Live seminars on the Web – generally 60 to 90 minutes
GeneaWebinars (scroll to bottom of the blog to see the calendar)

Legacy Family Tree

Southern California Genealogy Society – Jamboree Extension Series

Ancestry – archived Webinars

FamilyTree University – Webinars for $39.95

Online Presentations
RootsTelevision - Ancestors Series from PBS
Type “Ancestors Series” in the search box

FamilySearch Research Courses and Recorded Lectures
Favorites: “Inferential Genealogy” by Thomas W. Jones, “U.S. Courthouse Research” by Christine Rose, handwriting series, and research principles
Includes lectures from the APG Professional Management Conference

New England Historic Genealogical Society

Study Groups
These types of study groups can be organized to study any genealogy topic.
ProGen Study Group – for professional genealogists
NGSQ Study Group – studying articles from the NGS Quarterly
Writer’s Group – reviewing the writing of group members

Formal Classes and Courses
National Genealogical Society Online Courses – Six online courses available

FamilyTree University – A variety of

Heritage Genealogical College

National Institute for Genealogical Studies

Boston University’s Online Certificate in Genealogical Research

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Preparing to Attend the National Institute for Genealogical Research (NIGR)

Today there was a question on a genealogy mailing list about preparing to attend the National Institute for Genealogical Research (NIGR), and I decided my response would be useful to share with others. Here are my suggestions for planning ahead to get the most out of the NIGR experience and research time at the National Archives. 

1. Read the recommended text before you attend NIGR
Read the Guide to Genealogical Research in the National Archives of the United States edited by Anne Bruner Eales and Robert M. Kvasnicka. This will give you a good overview of the records and then you will be able to pick up finer details in the classes. 

2. Create a research plan of records you would like to search. This will make your limited time at the National Archives more efficient.

Think of ways that your ancestors may have interacted with the federal government so you will know what types of records you want to look at while you are at the National Archives. Did they serve in the military? Did they buy federal land or apply for a homestead? Did they immigrate to the U.S.? 

The most commonly used records for genealogists are:
* Census Records
* Military Records
* Immigration Records (Ship Passenger Lists)
* Naturalization Records
* Land Records
The classes at NIGR will teach you to go beyond the basic records, but these categories are a good place to start organizing your plan.

3. Use the records that have been digitized before you come, and spend your time at NARA on original records not available anywhere else.

A list of the records that have been digitized and are available on NARA partner web site can be found at

This list can be reorganized by clicking on the column headers at the top of the list. For example, if you click on "Record Group" at the top right then you can scroll down the list to see the digitized records of the Veterans Administration in record group (RG) 15, naturalization records in RG 21, military records in RG 94, and so forth.

4. Review the resources available on the National Archives web site

a. You may want to begin with the page "Start Your Genealogy Research" which contains a power point tutorial and links to pages for each of the major record groups at

b. The main page for genealogists contains links to the online research tools.

c. Spend some time learning to use the Archival Research Catalog (ARC) or the new Online Public Access system (OPA) on the National Archives web site at
In ARC you can search for materials by topic or keyword. There will be additional finding aids available on site at the National Archives.

5. Prepare for your field trips to the Library of Congress and Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Library before you come

You can access their catalogs online to create a research plan and therefore use your time at these facilities efficiently.

Research at the National Archives can be fun, and attending NIGR is a great way to learn about the many different types of federal records available for research.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Genealogists need genealogical and analytical skills

I really like this quote by Tony Burroughs. It demonstrates why we need to pursue learning everything we can in the field of genealogy, and the reason for my emphasis on genealogy education.

“Access to billions of records will not guarantee genealogical success any more than walking into a library will make people smart. Genealogists will still need genealogical and analytical skills to solve complex problems. Success in genealogy is based on available records, access to resources, knowledge of history, analytical ability, technical skills, genealogical skills and persistence. If any one of these ingredients is lacking, or is not of a high enough skill level, difficult genealogical challenges will go unsolved, often for years.”

Tony Burroughs, “Commentary: Tracing Michelle Obama's roots -- and yours,”, October 14, 2009.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Genealogy Writing Competitions

I believe that experience is the best teacher, and one of the best ways to learn is by doing. I am going to challenge myself, and invite you to join me, in developing genealogical writing skills. You can work on writing a formal genealogy, a biographical sketch of an ancestor, an article, or any other piece of genealogical writing you choose.

I also know that competition and a deadline can be a great motivator. Listed below are genealogical writing competitions where you can be recognized and rewarded for excellent writing. Even if you do not plan to submit a piece to one of these competitions this year, it can be a goal for the future. The challenge I issue is to work on improving your writing skills and honor your ancestors by telling their story.

Thanks to Michael Hait for compiling this list of writing competitions.

American Society of Genealogists
ASG Scholar Award
2012 Deadline: Interested applicants for the award should apply before September 30, 2011.
“The ASG Scholar Award provides financial assistance for a developing scholar to attend one of three training programs in American genealogy: the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research (IGHR), the National Institute on Genealogical Research (NIGR), or the new Certificate Program in Genealogical Research at Boston University. The recipient may register for the program of his or her choice.” Submit “a manuscript or published work of at least 5,000 words, demonstrating an ability to conduct quality genealogical research, analyze results, and report findings in an appropriately documented fashion.”

BCG Education Fund
Donald Mosher Memorial Award for Colonial Virginia Research
2011 Deadline: The annual deadline is 31 December.
“This competitive Award was established in 2001 by Merrill Hill Mosher, CG, of Oregon, to honor her late husband in gratitude for his support of her genealogical endeavors. The $500 grant funds scholarly research on colonial Virginia topics in the following categories: family genealogy, study of immigrant origins, or projects focused on obscure or difficult unpublished Virginia resources.”

Connecticut Society of Genealogists
2011 CSG Literary Awards
2011 Deadline: Entries must be received in CSG’s Office by February 15, 2011.
“Entry Categories are:
a.) Genealogy, related to New England (begins with someone in the past and moves forward in time through all of his/her descendants).
b.) Family History, related to New England (begins with someone living today or recently and moves backward in time usually in a direct line).
c.) Genealogical Resource related to New England (might include cemetery abstracts, compilations, court records, etc.)”

Connecticut Society of Genealogists
“Tell Your Family Story” Essay Contest
2011 Deadline: Entries must be received in CSG’s Office by February 15, 2011.
“Essays may include transcriptions of excerpts from an ancestor’s journal/diary; transcriptions of cemetery markers; oral histories; family histories/traditions and socio-economic background surrounding/affecting an ancestor. Essay writers are encouraged to use their imagination when deciding on a topic. Please bear in mind that essays must have some relevance to New England (see #2 above).”

International Society of Family History Writers and Editors
Excellence in Writing Competition
2010 Deadline: The contest will begin 1 October 2010. Entries must be received by the coordinator no later than 31 December 2010.
National Genealogical Society
The Family History Writing Contest
Deadline for Submissions: 31 December Annually
To encourage members to write a family history that covers at least three generations and not more than four. Full rules on website.

Ohio Genealogical Society
The 4th Annual Ohio Genealogical Society Writing Competition
2011 Deadline: Entries will be accepted from 1 December 2010 through 1 February 2011.
“Showcase your genealogical writing talent in one of the Ohio Genealogical Society’s outstanding journals. OGS is sponsoring its fourth annual genealogical writing contest which is open to authors of genealogical and historical material. In doing so, OGS will reward genealogical authorship and will feature the winners in its journals. Two OGS journals will reach our 5,400-member base while the two subscription journals reach genealogical and historical groups with special interests in early Ohio history and in Ohio’s Civil War soldiers. The contest is for articles dealing with Ohio history and genealogy, Ohio records groups, Ohioans who left to settle elsewhere and Ohio families. OGS welcomes articles ranging in size from 750 words up to 5,000 words, depending on the subject.”

Oklahoma Genealogical Society
Family Story Writing Contest
2011 Deadline: postmarked by 30 April 2011
“There is no entry fee and membership in OGS is not required for this year. There should be some connection to Oklahoma, either through the author’s residence or the story itself. There will be two divisions: Adult and Student.”

Pinellas Genealogy Society
Family History Writing Competition
2011 Deadline: All entries must be received no later than 31 October 2011.
“Entries should be based on the author’s research of a family history or a genealogical account of family lines and lives, discussing the steps followed and the conclusions that resulted from the research. Entries must be original, unpublished papers or published papers. If previously published, please submit permission to reprint from the original publisher along with the entry.”

Rogue Valley Genealogical Society, Inc.
Family History 2011 Writing Contest
2011 Deadline: Submit entries between March 15, 2011 and April 15, 2011.
“Piece must be written to the theme: “Person, Place or Thing”. Weave a story around an object your ancestor made or used that was passed down through the family, or write about your favorite family member or story. Your story must be factual, with suppositions clearly indicated. Documentation in the form of endnotes or footnotes is required. Length is to be between 750 and 5000 words.”

Southern California Genealogical Society
GENEii Family History Writing Contest
2010 Deadline: Entries must be received between November 1 and December 31, 2010.
“The contest is for factual articles: either family history or local history, character sketches, or memoirs. The entries should capture a sense of a family’s experience(s), or the character of a locality, or reveal an individual’s character and personality. The best articles will help illuminate the human drama—and will also illuminate the era, and/or the historical or social context of the subject.” FAQs for 2010 Contest on the website.

Texas State Genealogical Society
TSGS Writing Awards
2010 Deadline: 1 September 2010
Contest open to TSGS members. Several categories. Full rules on website.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Free Webinars by Michael Hait

Michael Hait, a professional genealogist and author of the African American Genealogy Examiner, will be offering two free webinars this week.

What is a 'Reasonably Exhaustive Search'?Date:  Thursday, March 17, 2011
Time:  7:30 PM - 9:00 PM EDT
The first step of the Genealogical Proof Standard is to "complete a reasonably exhaustive search for all relevant records" related to your research objective. This presentation discusses what a "reasonably exhaustive search" constitutes, why this is necessary, and how to conduct a search.  A case study explores how failing to identify all relevant records can lead to missing information and forming inaccurate conclusions about your ancestors' lives.
Space is limited. Reserve your Webinar seat now at:

African-American Genealogy: Tearing Down the BrickwallsDate:  Saturday, March 19, 2011
Time:  1:00 PM - 2:30 PM EDT
Brickwalls in African-American genealogy can be caused by lack of records or improper research habits. Learning to research effectively can help to avoid these brickwalls.
Space is limited. Reserve your Webinar seat now at:

I love teach genealogy. In the past few years I have lectured around Maryland and the District of Columbia, and even twice in New Jersey. I have several more lectures coming up this year in Maryland and Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, the costs of travel prohibit my being able to lecture in distant cities and states. To get around this issue, I would like to offer my services as a lecturer remotely to societies around the country. This strategy is already being used with success by other lecturers, within our field and many others.

To promote my services, I am offering a series of free lectures, presented as online webinars. I would like any members of genealogical societies to attend these lectures, especially society program coordinators. These lectures can all be given directly to genealogical societies at any time. Speakers' fees will be discussed upon request.
All interested parties are of course welcome.

Future webinars will also be scheduled. For more information on other webinars by this lecturer, as well as other genealogy webinars by other lecturers, please visit the new GeneaWebinars blog. This site, established by genealogy blogger and lecturer dearMyrtle, contains announcements of upcoming genealogy blogs.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Professional Paths and Income in Genealogy

Review of the "Professional Paths and Income in Genealogy" course from the 2011 Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG).
Guest author: Ron Cannon

Note from Angela: I will be featuring reviews from several guest authors as they have experience taking genealogy education courses that I have not had the opportunity to take yet. I appreciate their willingness share their reviews.

The Coordinator for this SLIG course was Kory Meyerink, MLS, AG, FUGA. He was an excellent choice to coordinate and teach this course as he has been earning a living one way or another in this field for over thirty years. While many may have been drawn to the course by the "income" part in the title (myself included), the professional paths aspect was at least equally, and probably more, beneficial.

While all genealogists consider themselves primarily researchers (and generally thrive in that activity), the business aspects of the industry are often our greatest weaknesses. That is certainly the case with me. Having completed the ProGen on line study course this last year, Kory's course served to reinforce many of the principles learned there. Indeed, this SLIG course and ProGen are quite complementary in that regard. Sections on marketing, setting rates, billable time management, report writing (all taught by Kory), task management (Elissa Scalise Powell), vendor and client relations (George Ott), and, not least, making a profit (Craig Scott), were thorough and, for some us, eye-opening.

Other sections dealt with different career paths to be found in genealogy. For me this was perhaps the most interesting aspect of the course. Paula Start-Warren explored on-site research: earning a living as you travel to various repositories. Rosemary Cundiff of the Utah State Archives gave us an insiders look at working in archives or historical societies. Leland Meitzler discussed the ups and downs of book selling as a career path and Craig Scott gave us a candid view of the publishing business. Finally, Jim Ericson of FamilySearch explained what corporations are looking for in
genealogists as employees.

The rest of the course was rounded out with sections on teaching and writing for pay (Kory) and lecturing (Elissa). Kory also offered a couple of unscheduled round table discussions to help answer questions we might have concerning specific issues or topics. These were very enlightening.

The class experienced an epiphany when Kory announced that "genealogists are cats: they do what they want to do, when they want to do it." This course gave us much to think about exactly what we do want to do in this great field of genealogy.

While I have not taken the Professional Genealogy course at Samford (offered this year and coordinated by Elissa Scalise Powell), this SLIG offering seems to compare quite favorably. As with each course I have taken at SLIG, Kory Meyerink's "Professional Paths and Income in Genealogy" was for me the right course at the right time.

Ron Cannon
BlueGray Research