Climbing your family tree is not easy. The marriage record you want was
burned in a courthouse fire, and you're not sure how to prove the marriage
date. You feel certain your ancestor was in the Civil War, but you cannot
find any record of service or pension. The deed book that you want to
examine is water-stained and illegible. The list goes on and you agree
that genealogy is not easy.
We can, however, make genealogy easier by reading genealogical reference
books, examining published case studies, attending seminars and conferences,
and taking classes either locally or on the Internet. This is the beginning
of a series of three columns addressing the variety of genealogical education.
The focus of this column is online education and home study courses.
The National Genealogical Society, Arlington, VA, offers two courses,
both approved by the Accrediting Commission of the Distance Education
and Training Council:
- Introduction to Genealogy: An Online Course began in 1999 as
an online course for beginners. Lesson One: Genealogical Basics is free
to everyone. It teaches how to number ancestors, how to record names,
dates, and places in a standard format, and definitions for terms of
relationship. After completing Lesson One, you can take a 20 question
quiz and decide if you want to continue the course.
- American Genealogy: A Basic Course has been available to genealogists
since 1981. This sixteen lesson home study course introduces each major
record group used in American research. The assignments are graded and
require students to visit local record repositories for "hands on" experience.
NGS recommends that beginners take the online course before enrolling
in the home study course.
Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, offers a Certificate Program in
Family History as an independent study course. College credit is granted
for each course successfully completed within the certificate program;
however, the certificate is not a college degree.
This evening certificate program at the University of Washington (UW),
Seattle, is approved by the UW Graduate School of Library and Information
Science and the UW Department of History. It was designed by an advisory
board of archivists, genealogical practitioners and leading UW scholars.
The instructors are leaders in professional genealogy and experienced
teachers. Students develop and complete a family history project during
the nine-month course. Upon successful completion, students receive a
certificate at the annual UW Extension awards ceremony, and nine Continuing
Education Units (CEUs).
The National Institute for Genealogical Studies has designed a series
of courses with emphasis on Canadian material. Instruction is received
via the Internet; therefore you go at your own pace. You can take the
courses separately, or work towards a Certificate in Genealogical Studies
over a three year time period.
This site can be viewed in English, Deutsch, or Svenska
and offers classes for research in Australia and New Zealand, Canada,
Germany, South Africa, and the United States. The classes in U.S. research
range from a beginners course to specific lessons for South Carolina,
Texas, and Virginia. Special topics such as tracing Morman pioneers, and
Native American research are also included. The IIGSTM
staff includes several instructors, each knowledgeable in their particular
field of study.
The Online University offers five courses designed by Karen Clifford,
AG, Genealogy Research Associates and two courses by Marthe Arends, Online
Genealogy Research Associates Courses:
Online Pioneers Courses:
- Your Great Ancestral Hunt (Beginning Genealogy)
- Tracing Immigrant Origins Basics
- Tracing Immigrant Origins Post Civil War Immigrant Sources
- Tracing Immigrant Origins Between 1820 and 1865
- Tracing Immigrant Origins Pre-1820 Immigration
- Beginning Internet Genealogy
- Online Genealogy Level II
Web Site Watchdog warns of a free online course offered by the Iowa
Digital Education Association. The Watchdog says, "There are 15 lessons
in the course covering what one would expect to find in a beginning genealogy
course. Problem is, much of the information is too generic to be useful
and there is a lack of qualifications on how different laws and time periods
affected the records available. Additionally, the beginning genealogist
is frequently referred to secondary sources, with no mention of the primary
sources and their availability. Granted, the course is free, but the cost
can be high to someone sent off in the wrong direction with bad information."
The Genealogical Web Site Watchdog also alerts genealogists about the
Genealogy 2000 School of Genealogy which allows you to become an Ethel
Torice Certified Family Genealogist (Certified Certificate Program), or
an Ethel Torice Certified Professional Genealogist (Certified Diploma
Program), or an Ethel Torice Certified Home-Based Business Genealogical
Executive (Certified Diploma and Business Licensing Program). Watchdog
states: The Ethel Torice Genealogical Society claims to be an umbrella
group for a number of other organizations, some sharing the Torice name,
but others with names that are deceptively similar to well-known national
genealogical organizations with no connection to the organization. The
society lists credentials of an unidentified "Educational Staff" that
includes respected credentials awarded by recognized national accrediting
bodies, but includes others unknown generally, like "Accredited Master
This demonstrates how vulnerable we are to seemingly credible education.
To prevent the cost of poor education, check out the credentials of instructors.
Compare a sample lesson with lessons from another Web site.
The educational opportunities discussed in this column are just the tip
of the iceberg. Local genealogical societies give workshops and seminars.
There are adult education genealogy classes taught at local community
colleges or universities throughout the United States. Your local library
may be able to direct you to sources of local genealogical education.
Remember, too, that the best form of education is through experience.
Never hesitate to take the extra time to thoroughly examine records-even
if they are difficult to read and unindexed. And when you reach your goal
of extending or adding new information to your family history, share your
findings and the path that took you there. We not only learn from ourselves,
but from others.
Part II of this series will highlight the
national conferences and institutes of genealogical education; and Part
III will cover genealogical education by examining published case studies
and reading genealogy magazines and reference books.