Back to School

Education is a life-long process.
As it is the season for going back to school I decided to review my personal education goals for genealogy today.

Over the past two years I have immersed myself in learning about all aspects of family history but it’s been a bit haphazard. I’ve joined a few genealogy societies (such as Ontario Ancestors) and I have gone to conferences, watched recorded and live webinars, done a LOT of reading, and have even decided to learn through volunteering (The Eastern Europe Special Interest Group, EESIG). It’s all been very rewarding!

Today I will focus on two aspects of my learning goals: basic genealogy skills, and professional genealogy skills. Perhaps I will inspire you?

I currently work in a historic building called The Oakville Club, and my day job puts me in contact with many interesting people. One of them told me his wife had finished a few certificates at the National Institute for Genealogical Studies (NIGS). I told him that I was considering becoming certified but I was hesitant to make such a commitment. He told me that you could take just one course at a time to see what it was like, and that got me interested. I had already looked at a few online genealogy learning centres, but since I had talked to representatives of NIGS at some of the local genealogy conferences I felt comfortable taking my first course through them in late 2019.

Now I am taking my fourth course towards a Canadian Records Certificate through NIGS, in Electronic Resources: Using The Internet. At the beginning I thought “I already know how to use the Internet!” but it increasingly becomes clear to me, and something which I knew, perhaps, but had forgotten…that reviewing topics you know through someone’s more experienced eyes is really valuable. It makes you re-think how you do things, you may become more productive in areas of weaker skills, and you learn of resources which have escaped your attention. It’s really inspired me to create templates and rethink and streamline how I do my research! I recommend you take a look if you are curious.

One of my guilty pleasures is spending time on Twitter. Perhaps I spend too much time on it? That’s debatable, because Twitter is capable of so much. I am in contact with many learned and fun people: comics, scientists, authors, politicians…and many, many historical societies, archives, professional and hobby genealogists, too. If you are feeling down your fellows will be there to pick you up. If you have a specific question you can post a query and bounce the idea off of several knowledgeable people from around the world! They all have their own specialities and their advice is always good. Or, if they don’t know they will be there to encourage you in other ways.

A short while ago I posted a tweet saying I wished more professional genealogists would post content about their experiences. I was looking for practical advice. Someone immediately told me that I should join the Utah Genealogical Association (UGA) because they have a “Pro Gen” webinar series which focusses just on that idea: professional learning and guidance. I joined very shortly, and today I have been watching A Genealogists Guide to Digital Marketing by David Ryan, MA, DipGen. There are two years’ worth of videos (posted roughly every month) for me to watch. And, of course, I plan to follow these speakers on Twitter and add them to my network!

For those of you who are into family history I think you may be like me and have been a bit overwhelmed over the summer with all of the new opportunities to learn online. Everyone seems to be thinking about creating Zoom meetings and concerned about having you join their online conferences, etc. Please don’t be overwhelmed. I know I was (still am). Like a kid in a candy store I have been stretching my resources and becoming a bit burned out.

What I would recommend: make a cup of tea, sit down, and just think about what you really want to do with your own genealogy. If you find a topic which is calling to you, look for free webinars on your local society’s website, or  through your country’s archives. Make a list of all known resources for that subject, and tick them off one by one. Take your time, and have fun!

Stay safe…


Sept 18, 2020

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