Thursday, December 31, 2015

Top Ten Genealogy Education Posts of 2015

I am grateful to all those who have supported my genealogy education blog this year, especially the guest authors who wrote reviews of genealogy institute courses. These were some of the most popular posts this year.

For 2016 I plan to write more on genealogy education topics and resources. I will still post announcements and press releases on my Adventures in Genealogy Education Facebook page. Be sure to follow that page to be alerted to new opportunities, genealogy conference and institute registration openings, and other timely topics.

These are the top ten posts with the most page views in 2015. You will notice some themes, such as DNA, new genealogy classes and genealogy institute course reviews.

Review of Genetic Genealogy for Professional Genealogists

Whether Right-Brained or Left, This DNA Class is for You!

Review of Advanced Genetic Genealogy and Unknown Parentage Cases

Two New Gen Proof Study Groups To Begin in April

New Course on Federal Land Records

Advanced Genealogical Methods with Dr. Thomas W. Jones

International Newspaper Links

Review of “Genealogical Evidence and Proof”

NGS Conference to Live Stream Two Tracks

2015 NARA Virtual Genealogy Fair Schedule

and the number one visited post this year (thanks to Cyndi Ingle for posting it on Cyndi's List) --

Research Plan Template

I will have to think about posting the syllabus material that goes with the Research Plan Template.

Monday, December 28, 2015

NIGR Renamed Genealogical Institute on Federal Records (Gen-Fed)

I was interested to receive the following press release regarding the renaming of the National Institute on Genealogical Research (NIGR) as the Genealogical Institute on Federal Records (Gen-Fed). I attended NIGR in 2008 and taught at NIGR in 2011. It is an excellent institute program on researching in federal records, and I am excited about the changes for 2016. 

December 28, 2015

The Board of Trustees of the National Institute on Genealogical Research has announced that the institute’s name was changed to the Genealogical Institute on Federal Records (Gen-Fed) on December 22, 2015. The institute, held annually at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., was founded in 1960 as a three-week general course on genealogy. In 1987, it narrowed its focus to federal records.

The institute was incorporated in 1989 as a non-profit 501(c) (3) organization. Trustees are representatives of the American Society of Genealogists, Association of Professional Genealogists, Board for Certification of Genealogists, Federation of Genealogical Societies, National Genealogical Society, and the institute's alumni association. The National Archives, a non-voting member, provides strong support.

“Given the growth in genealogical education, it made sense to choose a name that clearly identifies the institute’s mission,” said Malissa Ruffner, JD, CG, director. “A new website,, offers a closer look at the program, which is scheduled for July 11–15, 2016.  You can also follow the institute on Facebook and Twitter (@GenFedInstitute).”

Diane Dimkoff, coordinator of research customer support at the National Archives, stated, “We are pleased that the institute’s new name reflects the significance of federal records and look forward to continuing our traditional collaboration.”
Gen-Fed is for experienced genealogists, and for archivists, historians and librarians interested in using federal records for genealogical research. It is designed to instill a methodological framework and foster creative thinking about relevant records. Online registration for the 2016 session will be held in late February.

Malissa Ruffner, JD, CG

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Review of “Genealogical Evidence and Proof”

Once again I am pleased to have a guest author review one of the courses from the Virtual Institute of Genealogical Research. This post features a course on genealogical evidence, and is written by my friend Cari Taplin, CG. 

Review of “Genealogical Evidence and Proof” taught by Warren Bittner, CG for the Virtual Institute of Genealogical Research
by Cari A. Taplin, CG[1]

When I first learned about the “Genealogical Proof Standard” and its five components, I was overwhelmed; a lot of beginning or intermediate genealogists probably are. It took a long time for me to embrace the GPS in my daily genealogical practice. No matter how many lectures you might attend on the subject, the process will never be as simplified and broken down into steps for you like the latest course by Warren Bittner from the Virtual Institute of Genealogical Research (VIGR) titled “Genealogical Evidence and Proof.” It is a must have in your genealogical education plan.

This course cuts through a lot of GPS confusion and breaks it down to manageable and understandable pieces. The four lectures this course consisted of are:

    Complex Evidence: What it is, How it works, Why it matters
    The Web of Evidence: Proof and Disproof
    Proof Arguments: How and Why
    Exhaustive Research, Evidence Analysis, and Genealogical Proof

Each of these lectures contained educational gems for genealogists of any level. Every class began with a reminder that genealogy is the pursuit to: identify an individual and identify correct relationships between individuals. “Failure to do these two things is a waste of time,” he said throughout the course. Proper use of the GPS ensures we are not wasting our time.

Warren has a gentle teaching method yet still tells it like it is. One of my favorite quotes from the second class, “There are two kinds of genealogists: those that read the NGSQ and those that don’t.” He pointed out that he (and other top-notch genealogists) learned to use the GPS and write proof arguments through reading quality journal articles, not only from the National Genealogical Society Quarterly, but also the New England Historical and Genealogical Register, The American Genealogist, The New York Genealogical & Biographical Society Record, and the American Society of Genealogists’ The Genealogist. Only by reading and studying other, high quality proof arguments, regardless of their geographic subject or the surnames involved, will we be able to craft our own.

He especially encouraged the class to complete GPS step five, “a soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion,” because failure to write down our thought process identifying the correct person or relationship dooms the next generation to repeat the research.[2] Warren discussed approximately sixteen different steps for writing a proof argument, beginning with making a statement about what is going to be proven, stating the type of proof that will be used (direct, indirect, conflicting or most likely a combination of all), and working through steps for analysis, resolving conflicts, and drawing conclusions. Sixteen! I have never had an instructor break the process down so completely. It was utterly amazing and his course made so many often unnoticed details become visible.

Warren ended the series of classes by stating that “the more I work with the GPS the more I am impressed by it.” He also admonished those who have shied away from pursuing certification from the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) because they didn’t have a “good case study” for the portfolio. He said he doesn’t know one genealogist that doesn’t have at least two documents with points of conflict that could be written into an acceptable case study. Whether or not you are interested in certification, this course should be high on your list of educational requirements for yourself. Warren’s deconstruction of the process is invaluable for gaining a better understanding of the GPS process.

[1] CG and Certified Genealogist are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, used under license by board certified associates after periodic competency evaluations, and the board name is registered in the US Patent & Trademark Office.
[2] For the description of step five of the GPS see Board for Certification of Genealogists, Genealogy Standards (Nashville, Tennessee: Ancestry, 2014), 3. 

Cari Taplin is related to Roy Rogers. Or at least the stories her grandparents told her as a child said so. As a result, she has been working on finding her true heritage since the year 2000. She is a native of Wood County, Ohio but migrated to Wyoming, Colorado and now Pflugerville, Texas which is just outside of Austin. Cari is a Certified Genealogist and has served in a wide variety of volunteer and leadership positions for several state, local, and national societies, most recently elected as Region 2 - Midwest Director for the Association of Professional Genealogists, Director of the Federation of Genealogical Societies, and the Education Committee Chair for the Austin Genealogical Society. She has been a speaker to local and state societies since 2004. As the owner of GenealogyPANTS, she provides speaking, research and consultation services. She is also a graduate of ProGen 16. When she’s not working on her genealogy, she is a wife and mother of two/too cute kids.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Legacy Family Tree Webinars Announces 2016 Schedule

I was excited to receive the announcement this morning about the 2016 Legacy Family Tree Webinars. I have enjoyed participating in the webinars for several years, as they are one of the best values in genealogy education. You can watch the live webinar for free, and for seven days after they are posted. You can also become a Legacy Family Tree Webinar member, and watch the recorded presentations at your convenience, including all of the past webinars with their handouts (more information on membership at the bottom of this post).  
Here is the lineup of instructors for 2016! I know many of these presenters, and they will do a great job. Be sure to register early for your favorites.

2016 Schedule
January 2016
  • Tap Into Your Inner Private Eye - 9 Strategies for Finding Living Relatives by Lisa Louise Cooke. 1/6
  • Technology and Techniques for Differentiating Two People with the Same Name by Geoff Rasmussen. 1/13
  • Snagit software for Genealogists by Michael Brophy. 1/15
  • The Basics of Virginia Research by Shannon Combs-Bennett. 1/20
  • The Paper-Less Genealogist by Denise Levenick. 1/27
  • MyHeritage - Technologies and Content to Bolster Your Research by MyHeritage. 1/29
February 2016
  • The Scots-Irish in America by Peggy Lauritzen. 2/10
  • Getting Started with Microsoft Word by Thomas MacEntee. 2/17
  • Problem Solving with FANs by Beth Foulk. 2/19
  • A Guided Tour of Cyndi's List 2.0 by Cyndi Ingle. 2/24
March 2016
  • The War of 1812 Records - Preserving the Pensions by Michael Hall. 3/2
  • Making YDNA and mtDNA Part of Your Family History by Diahan Southard. 3/4
  • How Do I Know That's My Ancestor? by Amy Johnson Crow. 3/9
  • The Private Laws of the Federal and State Governments by Judy Russell. 3/16
  • Introduction to German Parish Records by Gail Blankenau. 3/23
  • Proof Arguments - How to Write Them and Why They Matter by Warren Bittner. 3/30
April 2016
  • Getting to Know Findmypast - Your Source for British and Irish Genealogy by Jen Baldwin. 4/6
  • Confirming Enslaved Ancestors Utilizing DNA by Melvin Collier. 4/8
  • U.S. Land Records - State Land States by Mary Hill. 4/13
  • Fire Insurance Maps - The Google Maps of Their Day by Jill Morelli. 4/20
  • England and Wales - Rummaging in the Parish Chests by Kirsty Gray. 4/27
May 2016
  • Google Drive for Genealogists by Thomas MacEntee. 5/4
  • Dirty Pictures - Save Your Family Photos from Ruin by Denise Levenick. 5/11
  • Messages from the Grave - Listening to Your Ancestor's Tombstone by Elissa Powell. 5/13
  • Mining the Über-sites for German Ancestors by Jim Beidler. 5/18
  • Discover American Ancestors (NEHGS) by Lindsay Fulton. 5/25
June 2016
  • Get the Most from by Claire Vail. 6/1
  • Researching Your Washington State Ancestors by Mary Roddy. 6/8
  • Introduction to the Freedmen's Bureau by Angela Walton-Raji. 6/10
  • Ticked Off! Those Pesky Pre-1850 Census Tic Marks by Peggy Lauritzen. 6/15
  • Digging Deeper in German Parish Records by Gail Blankenau. 6/22
  • Circles or Triangles? What Shape is Your DNA? by Diahan Southard. 6/29
July 2016
  • Navigating Naturalization Records by Lisa Alzo. 7/6
  • A Genealogist's Guide to Heraldry by Shannon Combs-Bennett. 7/13
  • Finding French Ancestors by Luana Darby. 7/15
  • Organize Your Online Life by Lisa Louise Cooke. 7/20
  • Researching Women - Community Cookbooks and What They Tell Us About Our Ancestors by Gena Philibert-Ortega. 7/27
  • Solutions for Missing and Scarce Records by Tom Jones. 7/30
  • The Germanic French - Researching Alsatian and Lorrainian Families by John Philip Colletta
August 2016
  • Getting Started with Microsoft PowerPoint by Thomas MacEntee. 8/3
  • The Battle for Bounty Land - War of 1812 and Mexican-American Wars by Beth Foulk. 8/10
  • Homestead Act of 1862 - Following the Witnesses by Bernice Bennett. 8/12
  • Successfully Applying to a Lineage Society by Amy Johnson Crow. 8/17
  • Using Findmypast to Unlock Your Irish Ancestry by Brian Donovan. 8/24
September 2016
  • The Treasure Trove in Legislative Petitions by Judy Russell. 9/14
  • Clooz - A Document-Based Software Companion by Rich Thomas. 9/16
  • How to Use for Beginners by Devin Ashby. 9/21
  • Beginning Polish Genealogy by Lisa Alzo and Jonathan Shea. 9/28
October 2016
  • AHA! Analysis of Handwriting for Genealogical Research by Ron Arons. 10/5
  • Time and Place - Using Genealogy's Cross-Hairs by Jim Beidler. 10/12
  • Finding Your Ancestors' German Hometown by Ursula Krause. 10/14
  • Social History Websites That Bring Your Ancestor's Story to Life by Gena Philibert-Ortega. 10/19
  • Flip for Flickr - Share, Store and Save Your Family Photos by Maureen Taylor. 10/26
November 2016
  • Analysis and Correlation - Two Keys to Sound Conclusions by Chris Staats. 11/2
  • Publishing a Genealogy E-Book by Thomas MacEntee. 11/9
  • Dating Family Photographs by Jane Neff Rollins. 11/16
  • Nature & Nurture - Family History for Adoptees by Janet Hovorka and Amy Slade. 11/18
  • Multi-Media Story Telling by Devin Ashby. 11/30
December 2016
  • Becoming a Genealogy Detective by Sharon Atkins. 12/7
  • From the Heartland - Utilizing Online Resources in Midwest Research by Luana Darby. 12/14
  • Tracing Your European Ancestors by Julie Goucher. 12/16
  • An Introduction to BillionGraves by Garth Fitzner. 12/21 memberships
All live webinars (register below) are free and their recordings are free to watch for the first 7 days. With a webinar subscription you also get all of this:
  • Access to 1) all the existing 284 classes in the library (428 hours of quality genealogy education), 2) plus the 61 webinars that will be added during the 2016 season, 3) plus any additional bonus subscribers-only webinars (30 of these so far in 2015) - all available for the duration of your membership
  • Access to all 1,260 pages of instructors' handouts plus the new handouts of the 2016 season
  • Chat logs from the live webinars
  • Additional 5% off anything at
  • Chance for a bonus subscribers-only door prize during each live webinar
  • Additional members-only BONUS webinars
  • Playlist, resume watching, and jump-to features
It's just $49.95/year ($44.95 through 12/31/15).

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Review of Genetic Genealogy for Professional Genealogists

As part of my continuing series on genealogical institute courses, I asked my friend Mary Kathryn Kozy to share her perspective on the most recent course offered by the Virtual Institute of Genealogical Research. "Genetic Genealogy for Professional Genealogists" was taught by Blaine Bettinger, PhD, JD, and will soon be available for purchase and download.

Review of "Genetic Genealogy for Professional Genealogists"
By Mary Kathryn Kozy

Webinars are a terrific way to increase our knowledge and help us in our personal and professional genealogical pursuits. The Virtual Institute of Genealogical Research (VIGR) is offering wonderful courses by leaders in many genealogical fields. I recently attended Genetic Genealogy for Professional Genealogists taught by Blaine Bettinger, a well-known leader in genetic genealogy. Since I teach classes on DNA topics in my community, I was anxious to learn a little more about what professional genetic genealogists do, and I can’t recommend it highly enough! 

If you’re unfamiliar with the format of VIGR’s courses, the first half is typically offered in two 90-minute presentations with a short break in between on the first day. Homework is then assigned that will be reviewed during one of the two remaining lectures the following week. Some courses have a different schedule, and are taught one presentation per week for four consecutive weeks. Blaine’s course also allowed students to purchase a “plus” session which included a further homework assignment that could be anonymously reviewed during an additional one-hour webinar.

Here are just some of the topics included in this great four-session course:

  •  Why become a professional genetic genealogist? 
  •   Ways to incorporate DNA services into your professional genealogical practice
  •   Issues you will face as a genetic genealogist
  •    Client contracts and avoiding conflicts
  •   Finding clients
  •    Educating yourself and your clients
  •    Writing client reports

What this class didn’t cover was the basics of DNA testing. It was assumed that students already had that knowledge. For those who want to delve more into autosomal DNA, there’s another VIGR course taught by Blaine entitled (Finally!) Understanding Autosomal DNA.

Now I’m not currently a professional genealogist, but I do want to be one when I grow up! So even though this course dealt with aspects of adding DNA to one’s professional practice, there was still plenty of terrific information for genealogists like me. While I might never have a paying client, the suggestions given for how to create a contract, as well as the information on how to educate a client about their results was invaluable. In working with DNA results, it’s a sure thing that we will inevitably face sensitive and unexpected results. Blaine provided great counsel on how to handle these situations. The additional “plus” session gave students a chance to evaluate a client’s test results, write a basic report, and get feedback from Blaine on those reports, which was also indispensable. I particularly enjoyed this session, since it allowed me to learn from the other great genealogists in the class.

If you’ve even considered adding DNA testing analysis or other DNA services to your professional practice, then you will definitely want to take this course. By the end I had not only had some great “aha!” moments, but I’d also received a boost in confidence that perhaps I can do this one day!

Mary Kathryn Kozy is a rabid genealogist of long standing. She has a B.S. in Zoology and a B.S. in Information Systems and Technology. She has recently completed the Mastering Genealogical Proof study group and is working her way through the ProGen Study Program in ProGen 24. She enjoys lecturing on a number of genealogical topics, but is most frequently requested to speak on DNA. Mary has served on the board of several genealogical societies and is the recent past president of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Washington State.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

SLIG's Advanced Evidence Practicum: Are you up to the challenge?

I invited Nicole LaRue to write a guest post on the Advanced Evidence Analysis Practicum course at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy, as she has taken the course before, and she is registered again in 2016. Why would someone take the same course twice? She will tell you in her review below. There are still two seats available in this course if you would like to join her in January 2016. Registration information below.  
So you've taken the advanced genealogical courses at the big institutes. You're comfortable with solving complex research problems. You may even take paying clients. What's next for someone who is looking for a new genealogical challenge? Where can you test your skills? How about expanding your knowledge? Good news! You can find all of that in one 5-day course during the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy in January 2016: the Advanced Evidence Analysis Practicum.
Imagine being in a room with prominent professional genealogists, all with different areas of expertise and all are willing to share a case study with you.  In addition, you’re  not just hearing about different case studies from the experts, you also get to participate.
First, you are given the background of a case and get the research problem you are going to attempt to solve.  Next, you are set loose in the Family History Library to work some magic in their innumerable books, microfilm reels, databases, etc. The following day, you come back to hear how the experts solved their problems and to find out about the research plans of your peers before you are presented with a new case for the next day. What you end up with at the end of each day is a room full of genealogists discussing their approach to a research problem with the presenters, who are just as eager to hear how others came to a resolution. And no one's eyes are glazing over (like they would be at my house in such a situation)!
You may be thinking, "this sounds great, but I've already taken the Practicum." Simply put, it doesn't matter. There are new experts with new case studies to share every year, making each experience unique. You could come every year for 10 years and learn something new every single time. In fact, there are five students to do attend every year. My first year in the Practicum, there were experts specializing in the Southern U.S., Maryland and African American research, French-Canadian immigrants, and the Midwestern U.S. 2016 will be my second time in the Practicum and the lineup for the coming year has expanded to include experts in Irish research, federal land research, forensic research, Southern research, and New England research, among others.
So often we, as genealogists, tend to get comfortable in our "bubbles" and lack exposure to work in areas outside our comfort zone. The Practicum allows you to not only learn a bit about several different areas, but to be able to learn through practical application. It's one thing to sit in a lecture room and be talked at for five days on a single topic, but it's a very different beast to actually be working on projects covering several topics day after day. That kind of hands-on learning is what drives home all of the education you've been collecting through other courses. And there's simply nothing else like it. Anywhere. So if you're ready to be challenged, to engage with other professionals, and to immerse yourself in learning more about your field, the Advanced Evidence Analysis Practicum is where you need to be.
For more information on the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy click  here. To register for a course, including the Practicum which is course #13, click here.
Nicole Gilkison LaRue is originally from Illinois and currently lives in Maryland, where she works as a professional genealogist. She has a B.A. in History and has completed courses at IGHR, SLIG, and GRIP, as well as the ProGen Study Program and Mastering Genealogical Proof.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

2015 NARA Virtual Genealogy Fair Schedule

Mark your calendars for October 21 & 21, 2015 so you don't miss the NARA Virtual Genealogy Fair. The schedule has been released, and is listed below. These free classes will be live broadcast via YouTube, and you can send in your questions for the presenters. If you do miss the live sessions they will be archived for viewing later. 

Handouts and session descriptions can be found here.

Day 1: Wednesday, October 21 (Eastern Time)

Session 1 at 10 a.m. ET
Introduction to Genealogy at the National Archives by Claire Kluskens.

Session 2 at 11 a.m. ET
Preserving Your Family Records:  Conversation and Questions by Mary Lynn Ritzenthaler.

Session 3 at 12 p.m. ET
Personnel Records of the National Archives– St. Louis. By Bryan K. McGraw. 

Session 4 at 1 p.m. ET
It’s in the Cards: Finding Family Members in National Archives–St. Louis’ Card Series by Daria Labinsky & David Hardin. 

Session 5 at 2 p.m. ET
Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Personnel Records by Ashley Mattingly.

Day 2: Thursday, October 22 (Eastern Time)

Session 6 at 10 a.m. ET
Where’d They Go?  Finding Ancestral Migration Routes by Jean Nudd.

Session 7 at 11 a.m. ET
Access to Archival Databases (AAD): Looking Down, From Above, to Look it Up!  by John LeGloahec. 

Session 8 at 12 p.m. ET
Finding Your World War I Veteran at the National Archives at St. Louis by Theresa Fitzgerald. 

Session 9 at 1 p.m. ET
Women in War Time Civilian Government Employment by Cara Moore.

Session 10 at 2 p.m. ET
Broke, But Not Out of Luck: Exploring Bankruptcy Records for Genealogy Research by Jessica Hopkins. 

Watch live video stream on YouTube US National Archives YouTube Channel