The Blog

Rebecca’s Reel Hints: Educate Yourself!

The more I learn about genealogy, the more I realize how much more there is to learn.  There’s always a new record group or website or archive I don’t know enough about.  Where can anyone go to learn more about the family history research they enjoy so much?  There are so many ways to learn and places you can go, you’ll be surprised! Here are 6 sources of information that should help you in your research:

1. Conferences.  Local and nationally sponsored conferences are held all over the United States.  Look for the one-day conferences sponsored by genealogical and historical societies in your area.  Often they are inexpensive or even free.  Contact your local genealogical society or LDS Family History Center to ask if they know what is coming up.  Some of the biggest nationally-sponsored conferences last several days and require travel.  The great thing about conferences is that they are a one-stop-shop for some of your favorite speakers and genealogical topics.

2. Seminars.  For week-long seminars with a concentrated research focus, check out some of these:

  • IGHR. The Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research is highly regarded and its classes sell out quickly. Seminars are held at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama.
  • NIGR.  The National Institute for Genealogical Research is designed for the more experienced researcher, and focuses on records available at the National Archives.  I would certainly go again; there was so much to learn!
  • SLIG.  The Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy sponsored by the Utah Genealogical Society offers the double bonus of being able to research down the street at the LDS Family History Library.  SLIG offers many classes for all levels of experience.

3. Taped lectures and online tutorials.  There is no way to list every online tutorial experience for genealogists, but here are a few to get you started:

  • CDs from national conferences can be ordered from Jamb Tapes.  I like to order favorite speakers and listen over and over, especially if I can’t make it to a conference this year.
  • FamilySearch offers great beginner tutorials from top genealogists at their online Learning Center.
  • Check out the handwriting tutorials from Brigham Young University. There is a wealth of early handwriting types and some self-tests.
  • More experienced researchers looking to hone their professional skills may consider joining one of the 18-month online learning groups sponsored by ProGen.  They study the book Professional Genealogy edited by Elizabeth Shown Mills.  These industrious learners gather online for scheduled chats and share assignments for peer review.  Get on the waiting list at http://progenstudy.org/.

4. Online classes and at-home courses.   Sometimes you just need to learn by doing, and the creators of these programs both teach and review your work.

  • Boston University’s Genealogical Research Program has a high price but an equally high reputation.  They have a wealth of programs that take a few weeks or several months.
  • A fantastic program the beginner or intermediate level researcher really should consider is the National Genealogical Society’s Home Study Course.  Each lesson is backed up with an assignment that is reviewed and critiqued by a professional.  Their selections of online courses are wonderful for focused research.

5. Books and periodicals.  As a mother with young children, checking out beginning-style genealogy books at my local library was a great start (many, many years ago).  Now I love my growing personal library and print out a wish list of new genealogy books for my husband every Christmas.  Magazines and scholarly journals will also help researchers of all levels.  Ask for some samples at your local library or Family History Center and see what fits your level and interests before you subscribe.

6. Keep up to date.  Online blogs and interest groups will help keep you full of ideas.  Some favorites are:

Have another favorite I haven’t mentioned?  Let us know, and we will post your comments.  Just remember that your own education is in your hands.  Oscar Wilde
said it best when he quipped, “Experience is one thing you can’t get for nothing.”