Learning new things
If you’ve read my about me, you’ll see that I’m working on becoming a professional genealogist. To do that, I have a lot of studying I want to get in before I attempt the certification process (which I’ve heard can be quite daunting). I bought a book called Professional Genealogy, edited by Elizabeth Shown Mills, a while back that has become my go-to for many questions. I HIGHLY recommend that book if you are thinking about becoming a professional genealogist! I haven’t gotten too far through it and it’s already proven to be quite invaluable.
What the book did for me so far was lead me on my path to becoming a professional. It discusses what the certification process is like (about a year long and very research intensive) depending on what your focus will be. It’s first chapter is about professional preparation which includes courses. Once I heard about the National Genealogical Society’s Home Study Course, I was sold! I immediately looked it up, read about it, and then bought the three CD’s. The course focuses on the standards of genealogy (as does the book, so it meshes wonderfully) and has a huge focus on citations all the while taking you through the many parts of genealogy research. You work at your own pace (you get one year for each CD), there are quizzes for every lesson, and assignments for every lesson. Those do need to be turned in and will be graded.
I have almost finished the first CD (I am waiting for a vital record to be mailed to me so I can complete the last lesson) so I thought I’d do a bit of a write-up about it so far.
Lessons and Assignments:
There are six lessons in the first CD (there are 16 total for all three). The first CD covers items that most people who have been doing genealogy for a while are very familiar with: Lesson 1: organization; Lesson 2: family traditions and records; Lesson 3: interviews, correspondence, and queries; Lesson 4: library resources and citations; Lesson 5: census records; and Lesson 6: vital records. I’m sure even someone who has been working in genealogy for decades could find value in the first CD.
I know for me that my own records haven’t been quite as orderly as they should be. The very first lesson kicked that into gear for me. It discusses how to organize your own paperwork and how to do research more efficiently. The first assignment even showed me that I had holes in my family tree. I had to complete a four generation pedigree and a family group sheet. I had been neglecting the records for my closer to me relatives (like my great-grandmother’s immediate family and even my grandparents wedding date) and realized that with these assignments. I sometimes get very excited and keep going back without finishing an ancestor (I’m sure I’m not the only one!). The first lesson had been very helpful in fleshing out my current family tree and making sure I really do start (and complete) from what I know and THEN go backwards.
Patience is not a virtue I hold.
Now the best thing for me on these lessons has been CITATIONS (even though it says lesson 4 is about citations, you use citations in your first assignment)! As a former high school English teacher, I understand the need for citations and I’m aware of where I should cite them. However, I haven’t worked with Chicago style citations since my undergrad history degree. My focus while teaching was always MLA – which I now have memorized. So this has been quite the transition for me and I still struggle with where information goes. I have been VERY thankful for the intense focus on the citations!
Also as a previous teacher, I find that I am incredibly anxious to get my assignments back to see how I did (and if I need to redo anything). So after a week, I had e-mailed them to see when I would get them back… turns out my assignments had accidentally gone into the spam folder. Whoops! That was fixed quickly. With that, it takes about 1-2 weeks to get assignments back, depending on the research. So far I haven’t had to redo anything (yay!)
Keep in mind that you’ll either be researching your own tree or someone else’s. I am looking at my own tree and that means travel for me. I don’t live in my hometown anymore so I try to clump many assignments (lessons 2 and 3 go together nicely) into one trip (it’s about a 3.5 hour drive for me). Some things can be done in any area. For example, lesson 4 can be done at your local library, which is what I did. Since I am going the professional route anyway, I know I’ll be researching around my current town so I do need to be knowledgeable in what is available. Lesson 5 doesn’t require any travel but lesson 6 can take some time. That one requires you to send for a vital record of your choice from someone in your pedigree chart that you completed in assignment 1 (that chart is used many times). That takes time to get back and the third assignment is to do a marriage records survey. That one I do need to travel for but that’s because my current county doesn’t have public access to their records.
Forum and Help
The NGS has a forum specifically for this group. I signed up for the digest format and I have loved it so far! Other people who are a few lessons ahead of me have been asking questions that I later found I’d have as well. It’s been extremely helpful! You get responses from other students as well as graders so it is great for any clarification you may need.
In the end, after just one CD, I find these lessons to be the best point to start filling in knowledge gaps in becoming a professional. I’ll give more in depth reviews on the next few assignments as I’ll be going through records I am more unfamiliar with (lesson 7 is on church records, which is something I am only starting to get to).
I linked to the course website if you’re interested in learning more! They have a video about it as well but feel free to ask me questions too.