Monday, May 6, 2013

Comparing Forensic Genealogy Institute Courses

As part of my continuing series where guest authors share reviews of courses at genealogy institutes, here Charlene M. Pipkin, AG shares her experiences with the forensic genealogy courses she attended in 2013. The opinions shared are those of Charlene. 

Comparing the Forensic Genealogy Institute to BU’s Forensic Genealogy course at SLIG

By Charlene M. Pipkin, Accredited Genealogist®
CAFG = Council for the Advancement of Forensic Genealogy 
BU = Boston University’s Programs in Genealogical Research 

I attended both BU’s Forensic Genealogy course at SLIG and the Forensic Genealogy Institute in 2013 and learned more about forensic genealogy in each. Here are my comparisons. 

Both courses covered types of cases, finding the living, DNA, business structure, and potential markets.

BU: This course offered more guided practice finding the living. The quality of the course content was mixed. Presentations by Mary Ann Boyle, PhD, CGsm, (types of cases; research objectives, plans, and analysis; and business plans) were the most applicable to genealogists. I found the classes on finding the living and DNA presented by Colleen Fitzpatrick, PhD, informative, while her classes on photographic clues and fraud cases were less relevant to me. Melinde Lutz Byrne, CGsm, FASG, presented only two topics. Her presentation on naming the unknown dead repeated previously-presented material. I was unable to relate to her archeologist’s perspective on facial reconstruction. She provided no syllabus material.

CAFG: Each presenter (Dee Dee King, CGsm; Leslie Brinkley Lawson; Kelvin L. Meyers; Michael Ramage, JD, CGsm; and Debbie Parker Wayne, CGsm, CGLsm) was present throughout the Institute. Catherine W. Desmarais, M.Ed., CGsm, was unable to attend so her material was presented by other instructors. There was more focus on contracts, law and procedures, and ethics. I learned from each presentation. Dee Dee King and Michael Ramage did a mock examination that was both instructional and entertaining. Topics were well coordinated. 

CAFG: $400 for CAFG members, $450 for non-members, breakfast and lunch included; about 7 hours of instruction daily for 3 days (about 21 hours of instruction); downloadable syllabus provided, printed copy available for $25.

BU: $350 for UGA members, $400 for non-members, cost of final banquet included; 4 hours of instruction daily for 5 days (20 hours of instruction); printed syllabus provided (which is standard for SLIG).

BU: SLIG has a welcome event, time allowed for class members to introduce themselves, otherwise self-directed.

CAFG: business card exchange, informal dinner gatherings, otherwise self-directed.

Because of the differences of focus, each course offered value. 

BU: The emphasis on the fringes of forensic genealogy disappointed and, in my opinion, did not reflect favorably on Boston University’s program. 

CAFG:  I preferred, and highly recommend, the Forensic Genealogy Institute.


Charlene M. Pipkin, AG®, Genealogy Guide, applies her specialty in kinship determination to a variety of projects, including forensic cases. She is a graduate of Brigham Young University’s bachelor’s degree program in Family History and Genealogy, is an ICAPGen Commissioner, is an Associate Member of CAFG, and is a graduate of ProGen Study 3.

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