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Saturday, October 31, 2015

More Genealogy Education Goals and My Progress, Part III

Earlier this year, I created a list of long-term genealogy education goals, and a list of skill areas to develop.

In my last two posts, I detailed my progress toward the first four goals listed below:
  1. I will read scholarly journals.  √
  2. I will attend a genealogical institute.  √
  3. I will attend one or more conferences. 
  4. I will participate in webinars. 
  5. I will continue to build my library, read books and participate in book studies. 
  6. I will work with unfamiliar record types.
  7. I will keep a record my educational activities and evaluate them quarterly.
This post will look at goals five, six and seven to measure progress on those goals.

Goal 5:  I will continue to build my library, read books and participate in book studies. 

I love books so I have really enjoyed this one. I have been researching our families for over 25 years, and so have accumulated some books because they seemed necessary at the time. They were generally "how-to" books, reference books, local history books and books of indexes to records.

About a year and a half ago, I posted a request to Dear Myrtle's Google+ page for anyone following to list their top five or ten general research books. The request generated several suggestions. Although I couldn't find any lists online at the time, save a few suggestions at Amazon, several bloggers have since listed their favorites. Whether they saw my original request or not, I have certainly appreciated their lists of recommended titles.

Probably the best suggestion so far has been to use the lists in "Further Study" at the end of each chapter in the book "Professional Genealogy" edited by Elizabeth Shown Mills. There is also a chapter on "The Essential Library" which has suggestions for U. S. and International materials. I am now mid-way through the ProGen 25 course and can tell you that this book is an awesome resource whether or not you plan to be a professional or hobbyist.

The only caveat that I would add is that the book was published in 2001. Almost fifteen years have passed and there are some wonderful books published since then that would also be considered essential. But the book provides excellent book suggestions in every chapter that a serious genealogist, professional or amateur, should consider.

Many books are also available as ebooks. Several authors publish their books in both printed and ebook versions. Usually, the ebook version is less expensive and has the bonus of being portable on a mobile device. Books that are in public domain are often available free online in one of the many online resources, many of these can be downloaded free as well. A good list of online genealogy book resources is available here.

I wrote in an earlier blog post about how I search for books using Google Books and AbeBooks. Other free book sites can also be used including:
My local library also allows me to check out and read books in an ebook format. These books have to be "returned" just like a traditional library book, but I am able to read the book electronically without any cost. Your local library probably has similar options.

So how did I do on my goal? My library has grown to over 600 print books. I've got a little work to do to enter the most recent purchases in my spreadsheet. My library of ebooks needs a lot of work. I have not organized or listed them so that will be a project for the next six months.

I love reading books so the second part of the goal is a goal I easily meet. I usually have several books going at once. A few of the genealogy books I am currently reading:

  • Professional Genealogy
  • Pioneer Girl: An Annotated Autobiography
  • 15 Habits of Highly Frugal Genealogists
  • Across the Deep Blue Sea: The Saga of Early Norwegian Immigrants

The last part of the goal refers to book studies. I have participated in the study of Mastering Genealogical Proof online. I also followed several other studies but viewed live (or archived) rather than an active participant. Besides watching Dear Myrtle's Mastering Genealogical Proof studies, I also viewed her GenLaw study group. There are a couple of Dear Myrtle study groups that I plan to watch as well:
One item that is not a part of my reading goal, but is something that I do on a weekly basis, is to read genealogy blogs. I have a list of about 50 blogs that I follow. Saturday mornings, I grab my coffee, launch my browser and list of blogs and peruse to my heart's content. 

Overall I am very happy with my progress on Goal 5.

Goal 6: I will work with unfamiliar record types. 

I want to become more comfortable with record types that I normally don't spend a lot of time with: tax lists, wills and probate, land records, military records and so on. When I listed the skill areas I wanted to grow in, I included these record types, as well as DNA and historical law.

I have spent a few hours working in wills and probate in Richland County, Ohio, researching on the site, looking for information on the Trucks family. 

More importantly, I think, is that I have spent quite a bit of time learning more about these records types. About 30% of the webinars I have attended covered one of the records types I wanted to learn more about. Many of the sessions in the conferences and institutes I attended also covered these topics.

This year has been more about the learning and less about the doing. While I haven't totally dropped my genealogy research, it's definitely taking a back seat to my genealogy education. And for now, that's OK. Next year, when I have completed my ProGen studies, I will be able to spend more time on my research. And the time that I spend will be more focused, the records that I find will be properly recorded and cited, and I will spend more time writing about my findings.

Goal 7: I will keep a record my educational activities and evaluate them quarterly.√

I am very pleased with my educational activities record-keeping strategy. The Excel workbook, with a different tab for each activity type, has helped to me not only record activities, but also to plan what areas I need to work on next.

I am not quite as happy with the evaluation part of the goal as I should have evaluated the first time in June rather than September. However, a cursory review then showed that I was making some progress in most areas.

I have spent my entire career in Pre-Kindergarten - Grade 12 public education and am a firm believer in life-long learning. Genealogy is such an awesome field as it gives one the opportunity to continuously learn in many areas: history, geography, genetics, sociology, paleography, law and so many more.

I love being able to check off progress toward my goals, so forgive me if I list them one more time!

  1. I will read scholarly journals.  √
  2. I will attend a genealogical institute.  √
  3. I will attend one or more conferences. 
  4. I will participate in webinars. 
  5. I will continue to build my library, read books and participate in book studies. 
  6. I will work with unfamiliar record types. 
  7. I will keep a record my educational activities and evaluate them quarterly. 

Sunday, October 11, 2015

More Genealogy Education Goals and My Progress, Part II

Earlier this year, I created a list of long term genealogy education goals, and a list of skill areas to develop.

In my last post, I detailed my progress toward the first two goals listed below:
  1. I will read scholarly journals.  √
  2. I will attend a genealogical institute.  √
  3. I will attend one or more conferences.
  4. I will participate in webinars. 
  5. I will continue to build my library, read books and participate in book studies. 
  6. I will work with unfamiliar record types.
  7. I will keep a record my educational activities and evaluate them quarterly.
This post will discuss the progress toward Goals 3 and 4: "I will attend one or more conferences," and "I will participate in webinars." Both of these goals can incur significant cost. It takes some research and planning to fulfill these goals without breaking the bank. 

Goal 3 - "I will attend one or more conferences." 

While attending a conference can be expensive due to travel and the cost of the conference itself, the value of the learning and networking can justify the expense. Because I had already attended a national institute, I decided I should concentrate on finding a local or state conference this fall. I was very fortunate that the two-day Minnesota Genealogy Society1 (MGS) North Star Conference was held less than 10 miles from my house. The conference was small but the crowd was enthusiastic.

Day One, Friday afternoon, was held at the society's South St. Paul location. I attended a class by Paula Stuart Warren 2 which was great fun. She used real-life examples and had attendees collaborate in groups. It was really interesting to see how different groups had different ideas about the clues presented and where to look next.

Day Two, Saturday, was held at Inver Hills Community College, less than 3 miles from my home. You can't get any closer than that! I attended several sessions including the keynote and final session by David Rencher 3Chief Genealogical Officer for FamilySearch

David Rencher's presentations were not only enlightening but very entertaining. And he presented an opportunity for all to contribute to Preserve the Pensions and have the donations matched by MGS, then matched again by the Federation of Genealogical Societies, and then matched again by Every $1 donated became $8 for the Preserve the Pension fund.

The conference was very reasonably priced, as a member I paid $80 for Friday afternoon and all-day Saturday sessions. The speakers were very knowledgable - I consider it a day very well spent.

I also participated in some virtual conferences this year. The Association of Professional Genealogists 4 held a virtual conference January 8 and January 9. There were a variety of pricing options; I purchased the entire conference of 9 sessions and the digital syllabus for $145. You must be a member to participate. I was unable to watch any of the sessions live but watched all of them after the archived sessions became available online in early February. The archived online access ended after 30 days.

Another virtual conference I participated in was the National Genealogical Society 5 Conference held in May. The sessions were all extremely educational and entertaining, presented by nationally-known experts.

I did not view any of the sessions live due to my schedule but was able to view them almost immediately afterward until mid-August when access was removed.

In my opinion it was another very well-spent genealogy dollar.

This fall I also tried Family Tree University's 6 Fall Conference. This conference is just a little bit different than the other virtual conferences in that it added some other social media functions, like chats and discussion boards. It also added the ability to download the actual presentation for viewing later. There were 15 sessions in four different tracks. This was a little more expensive than some of the others but I tried it because the names of the speakers were very well known to me. The sessions were shorter than most conference sessions, about 30 minutes. But they were very well done and I would definitely try this again.

Goal 4 - "I will participate in webinars." 

I'm going to brag just a little here - I rock at attending and/or viewing webinars. My day job interferes with attending webinars and hangouts live during the day. I try to attend certain live webinars at night or on weekends. I've created a list of webinar sites that I can use to find either free or low cost webinars at times when I am doing laundry or other tasks that don't require my full attention. 

I won't list the actual webinars here because the list is actually quite long: Thus far, in 2015, I have attended or viewed almost 100 webinars amounting to over 100 hours of education. As mentioned in my last blog post, I track the webinars with the Title, Sponsor, Presenter, Topic and Sub-topic, Length, Links to Presenter notes (downloaded and located on my computer) and My Notes.

What I will list are the locations of the sites where I have found webinars, either live or recorded, that are relevant to my goals. Perhaps they will also help you. 7, sponsored by Legacy Software© 8, is one of my favorite resources. Even though it is sponsored by a family tree database software company, many of the webinars here are applicable to general research as opposed to using Legacy software. There is a fee. When I joined, the fee was just under $50 annually. You can also join for just one month to see if the resource is of value to you; the cost at the time of this writing was just under ten dollars. So far this year, I have viewed over 25 webinars for over 25 hours. This is less than $2 an hour, and frankly, I think it is a wonderful value. Many webinars are free, and most are free for the first week or so after posting. So try before you buy and see if it works for you. Many of the names of presenters were very familiar to me and are nationally recognized genealogy speakers and educators. You do not need to be a member to view the list of available webinars.

I have viewed ten webinars at the Illinois State Genealogical Society 9 (ILGenSoc) website, over ten hours of webinar learning. Again, many of the presenters are nationally recognized genealogy speakers and educators. Viewing these webinars requires that you join the Illinois  State Genealogical Society. The cost is very reasonable, only $35 a year for an individual at the time of this writing. If you have ancestors who spent any time in Illinois, it's a great value. But even if you didn't the webinars are likely to be of interest. 

The one downfall I have noticed in the IlGenSoc website as an iPad user: the webpage listing of webinars has the actual webinars embedded in it. This is fine when there are just a few. But when there are dozens, it takes a while to load and is difficult to watch webinars further down the list.

Another favorite of mine is the Southern California Genealogical Society 10 (SCGS). They have a great catalog of archived libraries and add to it monthly, usually the first Saturday and third Wednesday. The live webinar broadcast is open to the public but once they are placed in the archives the webinars are available only to members. 

The cost of membership to the Southern California Genealogical Society is very reasonable: a one-year individual membership is $35 annually. I almost always recognize the speaker's name as someone who is well regarded in the genealogy field. I have viewed over twenty SCGS webinars live or archived. 

RootsTech Video Archive 11 allows the viewer to watch webinars from the 2015 RootsTech conference. I've always wanted to attend this very popular conference in Salt Lake City. But the associated costs of travel and hotel make it difficult to so.  This year's conference had almost 24,000 attendees. If that kind of crowd makes you claustrophobic, you might want to consider watching the webinars live during the conference, or you can watch the archived webinars later. Only a small percentage of the sessions are presented via the web,  but for those of us who don't attend, it's a great resource. Those who do attend the conference can skip the live webinar presentations and go to other sessions they are interested in, knowing they can see the webinars later.

While the majority of the webinars I attended or viewed online were from those listed above, there were a few other resources that I used as well.

Youtube.com12 has lots of genealogy videos, many of them are part of a series and/or "channel" and are added to frequently.

Dear Myrtle13 has many different series on YouTube, including Mastering Genealogical Proof book studies, Demystifying DNA and others. What I absolutely love about Dear Myrtle is that she provides wonderful introduction and intermediate material to viewers in a very understandable and non-threatening way. She has great guests and panelists that add richness to discussions. And she encourages you to learn more and dig deeper into those tough subjects like genealogical proof standards. Dear Myrtle also offers an ongoing list of live webinars available each week at Geneawebinars.com14.

Another Youtube channel is Desktop Education Series. Most videos, if not all, are presented by Christa Cowen, the Barefoot Genealogist15.  These videos can also be seen at Ancestry.com16 in the video area.

I'm pretty happy with my progress so far. The conferences and webinars I've attended and/or viewed have all had topics that fit closely with my areas to grow. And in addition to the above conference opportunities, I plan to attend at least one additional conference this year, the NARA Virtual Genealogy Fair17 held October 21 and 22.

In addition to the above webinar opportunites, I plan to view webinars both live and archived at the Minnesota Genealogical Society18 website. You must be a member to view but membership is very reasonable. There are only 10-12 archive webinars thus far. I hope their plan is to continue to broadcast live webinars then archive them for members to view later.

I have also viewed some webinars sponsored by the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG)19  which are available on their website here.

There are so many great quality opportunities for continuing education, and most are a very reasonable cost or free. Sometimes it just hard to choose which to watch next!


1. Minnesota Genealogical Society, homepage, ( :accessed 11 Sept 2015)
2. Genealogy By Paula, homepage, ( :accessed 11 Sept 2015)
3. FamilySearch, The Office of the CGO (Chief Genealogy Office), ( :accessed 11 Sept 2015)
4. Association of Professional Genealogists, homepage ( :accessed 11 Sept 2015)
5. National Genealogical Society, homepage ( :accessed 11 Sept 2015)
6. Family Tree University, homepage ( :accessed 11 Sept 2015)
7. Family Tree Webinars, homepage ( : accessed 11 Sept 2015)
8. Legacy Family Tree ( :accessed 11 Sept 2015)
9. Illinois Genealogical Society, homepage, ( :accessed 11 Sept 2015)
10. Southern California Genealogical Society, homepage, ( :accessed 11 Sept 2015)
11. RootsTech 2015 Video Archive, homepage, ( :accessed 11 Sept 2015) 
12., homepage, ( :accessed 11 Sept 2015)
13. Dear Myrtle, blog, ( :accessed 11 Sept 2015) 
14. Geneawebinars, blog, ( :accessed 11 Sept 2015)
15. Crista Cowan, blog, ( :accessed 11 Sept 2015) 
16., homepage, ( :accessed 11 Sept 2015)
17. National Archives Virtual Genealogy Fair, homepage, ( : accessed 11 Sept 2015)
18. Board for the Certification of Genealogists, homepage, ( :accessed 11 Sept 2015)

Sunday, October 4, 2015

More Genealogy Education Goals and My Progress, Part I

After writing my educational goals last January, it became apparent that while they were OK goals, they were't specific enough.

This table below shows the specific skill areas that I feel I need to grow. I'm very comfortable with many record types but recognize that I need to learn more about many others.

There are also some research skill areas I need to improve on. I've been searching on the Internet for over twenty years, now I need to research on the Internet. That is, I need to make my searches more concentrated toward a specific task rather than blind searches for whatever may pop up. Sources and citations will be an area that I need to continually work on.

The geographic locations are areas that apply to my personal research and that may change and grow as either new information in uncovered or as I help others in their research.

And the writing skills are the areas I would like to improve in before I publish my ancestors' stories.

Record Types

Research Skills

Geographic Locations

Writing Skills
Land and property

Sources and citations

Northeast: New York,
Pennsylvania, Vermont,
Beyond the family tree
Wills and probate

Maps and plat books

Midwest: Ohio, Illinois

Using historical context
Historical law

Online searches

Europe: Czech Republic

Finding female ancestors

Scandinavia: Iceland, Norway
Federal records

Layout and publishing

After I made this table, I started listing ways that I might start building those skills and turned them into long-term goals (not just goals for 2015).
  1. I will read scholarly journals.
  2. I will attend a genealogical institute. 
  3. I will attend one or more conferences.
  4. I will participate in webinars. 
  5. I will continue to build my library, read books and participate in book studies. 
  6. I will work with unfamiliar record types.
  7. I will keep a record my educational activities and evaluate them quarterly.
The seventh goal, "I will keep a record my educational activities and evaluate them quarterly," is actually the reason behind this post. I have been very faithful in recording my activities this year. What follows is my evaluation of the work I have done in the last 6-7 months toward building those skills.

I use Excel to track my educational activities. Tabs across the bottom of the workbook are labeled:
  • Webinars
  • Institutes
  • Conferences
  • Book Studies
  • Article Studies

The columns in each worksheet are similarly labeled but vary slightly for each activity type. Typical column headings are:
  • Date - the date I participated or viewed
  • Sponsoring Organization - conference, institutes, or society sponsoring event
  • Presenter - name and credentials, if known
  • GenTopic - general genealogy topic, say "Research Skills"
  • SubTopic - topic sub-category, say "Online Searches"
  • Length - time spent viewing or attending
  • Handout - link to downloaded handout (organized on my computer)
  • Notes - link to notes taken (organized on my computer)
  • Rating - mini-review on topic and/or speaker

Goal 1- "I will read scholarly journals."

I have probably tripled the amount of time I spend reading journals as compared to years past. However, I need to spend more time studying the articles. I joined an National Genealogical Society Quarterly (NGSQ) Study Group and need to make an effort to schedule myself accordingly. These are the journals I subscribe to:

Goal 2- "I will attend a genealogical institute."

I met this goal by attending IGHR, Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research, in June 2015. I could stop there and just say I met this goal. But instead I want to encourage anyone who might read this to participate in IGHR or one of the other institutes available. There are several including:
  • GRIP, Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh
  • SLIG, Salt Lake Institue of Genealogy
  • NIGR, National Institute on Genealogical Research
  • IGHR, Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research
There are also institutes on genetic genealogy and one or more virtual institutes. If there are others, I would love to hear about them as I have heard nothing but wonderful things about each of the ones listed above. And my own experience was beyond expectations, one of the best values for my genealogy dollars.

The list of speakers at the week-long IGHR in June reads like a "Who's Who" in genealogy expertise. The coordinator of the Intermediate Genealogy & Historical Studies course that I took was Angela McGhie and I cannot say enough about how much I enjoyed the course. I also learned so much from Angela and her guest speakers. Fun & learning - you can't beat that! Speakers (and their topics) during the week-long course included:
  • Thomas W. Jones (Using Evidence)
  • Debbie Parker Wayne (Tax Rolls; DNA)
  • Kimberly T. Powell (Online Searches; Manuscript Collections)
  • John Phillip Colletta (Immigration & Naturalization)
  • Gerald Smith (Local & State Land Records)
  • Michael Strauss (Military Records)
  • Judy G. Russell (Court Records)
  • Angela McGhie (Essential Skills; Vital Record Alternatives; Advanced Census Research; Federal Land Records; Historic Newspapers; Wills and Probate; Evidence Review, Techniques)
The session topics were very closely aligned to my genealogy goals, particularly in Record Types and Research Skills, so I feel that this course was especially suited for me and my goals.

I plan to attend another Institute in the coming year. Because I have family in Birmingham, it may be IGHR as 2016 is the last year it will be held at Samford University. But I have heard such wonderful things about SLIG, GRIP and NIGR; it's a very tough decision.

I will continue my evaluation of my progress toward my goals in Part II.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Reaching for My 2015 Genealogy Education Goals

It's been months since my last post, but they were busy months. My last post was on my 2015 Genealogy Education Goals and this post will look at how I am doing so far.

The last post ended with these goals: I will...
  1. make it to the end of 2015 still up-to-date with all my readings and homework in ProGen 25.
  2. successfully complete Mastering Genealogical Proof Study Group 37.
  3. learn to critically read articles in professional genealogy registers.
  4. follow the GenLaw Study Group on Dear Myrtle's YouTube channel.
  5. continue to add to my research library.
  6. visit at least one courthouse for research.
So let's see what I've accomplished so far and what I need to do to accomplish those goals.

The first goal was to be up-to-date with readings and homework in ProGen 25. ProGen is an 18-month study course for learning professional genealogy research skills by reading and collaboratively studying the book, Professional Genealogy by Elizabeth Shown Mills. October 2015 marks the 8th of 18 months and I am proud to say I am up-to-date so far. I am a co-leader of our Wednesday group and it is a wonderful learning experience. Even though we are just under half-way through the course, I would recommend this course for anyone considering genealogy as a field of practice or study.

Goal #2 was to successfully complete the Mastering Genealogical Proof Study Group 37. This study group studied and discussed the Thomas W. Jones book, Mastering Genealogical Proof for approximately 12 weeks. I had previously followed two of Dear Myrtle's study groups of the same title and so was familiar with the book. Even so, this group study was challenging as the topic is complex. But it is a critical piece to the professional genealogist's toolbox. I was successful at this goal also and was recently rewarded with a certificate of completion.

The third goal was to learn to critically read articles in professional genealogy journals. I will be the first to say I am not an expert. However, I find that looking at the appendix articles in in the Mastering Genealogical Proof Study Group has changed the way I read articles. When I first started reading journals, I only read articles that I thought pertained to my research. Then I started reading other articles but I only glanced at the footnotes or endnotes while reading the article. Now, the footnotes and/or endnotes are first thing I look at. I try to read more critically and see if I agree with the author's conclusions. And when I find an article that covers an geographical location or topic that I am particularly interested in, I note the sources in the articles in case they may have information that I need. I joined an article study group but have only met with them one time due to scheduling issues on my part. I hope to continue to meet as this is an skill I need to grow.

Goal #4 was to follow the GenLaw Study Group on Dear Myrtle's YouTube channel. This study group read and studied the book Genealogy and the Law by Kay Haviland Freilich and William B. Freilich. I did follow through with this goal but recognize that this is an area that I need to grow in, also. What I appreciate about following the study groups with Dear Myrtle is that they are very non-threatening but still rigorous. That is, as rigorous as the follower wants to be. You can study along with the group or just observe. So it is a great introduction to the more difficult topics.

The fifth goal is always a fun thing for me. I love collecting so building a genealogy library was not a chore at all. Of course, I need to build it somewhat slowly as I can't afford to buy all the books I want at once. The book mentioned above, Professional Genealogy, has a wonderful list of sources and recommended reading at the end of each chapter. I used these suggestions when building my library. When available, I purchased or found ebooks online. But my library already fills three tall bookcases. So far I have catalogued about 80% of the books and plan to do the rest soon if for no other reason than to prevent duplicate purchases.

And as for goal #6: so far I am a dismal failure. Although I have broadened my knowledge by attending at least three lectures on the topic of courthouses and legal records, I have yet to visit a courthouse. I still have about 90 days so it is still something I hope to check off my to-do list.

I also created a more detailed list of topics and skills that I need to improve on, and will share that list and my 6 month progress toward those goals in my next post.