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Genealogical Education

Today, across the United States and Canada, public libraries, state and local historical and genealogical societies, adult education centers, and colleges and universities offer courses for those searching for their ancestors.


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Opportunities for instruction in family history research have increased tenfold in recent years. Today, across the United States and Canada, public libraries, state and local historical and genealogical societies, adult education centers, and colleges and universities offer courses for those searching for their ancestors.

Locating a course is easy. Local libraries usually have a listing of courses being offered in their area. Would-be genealogists can also check with their local historical societies, many of which offer half-day seminars, lectures and the like on a number of subjects, from how to get started in basic genealogy to more advanced courses in tracing ancestors of a particular ethnic origin.

Genealogical societies, such as the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania, located in Philadelphia, offer weekday afternoon seminars. A recent one, entitled "Genealogical Resources of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese," featured a spokesperson from the Catholic Archives in Philadelphia. Another covered using American records to uncover Irish ancestors. The Society also sponsors a genealogy summer camp.

There's also a home-study course, "American Genealogy: A Basic Course," offered by the National Genealogical Society. This course is designed for all those who want to do genealogical research more effectively and efficiently. The sixteen lessons provide an introduction to each of the major record groups used in American genealogical research and require "hands-on" experience with the records. Also included is instruction in basic record-keeping practices and evaluation of evidence.

Many community colleges and school districts offer adult education classes. For those who want to test the waters, these courses offer an excellent opportunity in two to six-week sessions to learn the basics. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona, and Daytona Beach, Florida, offers "Genealogy for Beginners,"a six-week, 12-hour course costing about $40.

Other educational institutions, through long-distance learning, offer genealogy courses online. Bellevue Community College Online Course, of Bellevue, Washington, offers an "Introduction to Genealogy" course online. It guides beginning genealogists through the first steps of family history research, offering instruction in practical genealogy and guiding them through fundamental research strategies. Each lesson is divided into two sections: offline and online (Internet) research. Offline research covers the mechanics of organizing data, locating records and utilizing existing resources. The online section provides examples of related Internet

resources–where to find them and how to use them. And students are given homework and reading assignments from a designated textbook.

For those who would rather take in a week of intensive genealogical study, The Samford University. of Birmingham, Alabama, offers an annual Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research in June led by nationally prominent genealogical educators. A student may choose one of seven courses ranging from a course for beginners to courses for specialized topics. The Institute is academically and professionally oriented and is cosponsored by the Board for Certification of Genealogists. The faculty is composed of outstanding, nationally known genealogy educators. The University also offers a British Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research in England in July.

Before taking such a course, the beginning genealogist or family historian should gather at least a few records of his or her ancestors, gain a little experience, and know what problems exist. Many of these courses, in addition to lectures, require students to do some type of laboratory work. Students are then graded, in part at least, on the way they handle a problem.

The teacher may assign a case that involves using the kinds of records which he or she has been discussing. Students may be asked to take one of their own problems and apply to it the principles they've been taught, using the appropriate sources in their efforts to find the solution. This is good practice, for unlike working on their own, students have expert guidance while they search.

For more information:

THE GENEALOGICAL SOCIETY OF PENNSYLVANIA,1305 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA. 19107 - 5405; (215) 545-0391.

NATIONAL GENEALOGICAL SOCIETY, 4527 17th Street North, Arlington, VA 22207-2399; (800) 473-0060, ext. 223; Web site:

EMBRY-RIDDLE AERONAUTICAL UNIVERSITY,600 S. Clyde Morris Boulevard, Daytona Beach, FL 32114-3900; (800) 222-3728; Web site:

BELLEVUE COMMUNITY COLLEGE, Bellevue, WA.; E-mail:; (425)641-2263; Web site:

SAMFORD UNIVERSITY, Birmingham, Alabama. Contact Jean Thomason, director, at

(205) 726-2198 or fax (205) 726-4009; E-mail:

Source Information: Everyday Genealogy, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2005.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.

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