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.