Genealogy Education Programs & Activities – Part 1

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been evaluating my own genealogy education. Here are some of the educational programs/activities that I have taken advantage of over the past few years, and some resources I will likely look to further as I work to fill in any gaps or strengthen areas that need it in my own genealogy education. (This list turned out to be a bit longer/more detailed than I originally anticipated, so it will continue in my next post.)

This first set of educational programs (study groups, institutes, and conferences) generally operate on a particular schedule. Some of the study group material may be fully or partially self-paced, and some resources may be accessible after the programs occur. But most of these will require at least some planning ahead for registration and/or participation. Next time, I’ll list some other forms of education that take place at any time.

Study Groups

ProGen – a structured program that meets virtually to study chapters of Professional Genealogy: Preparation, Practice & Standards, edited by Elizabeth Shown Mills. This program involves completing and discussing assignments and reviewing the work of others in the group (as well as getting their feedback on your work), under the mentorship of a Certified Genealogist. While this program is somewhat geared toward researchers who work for paying clients (or who are planning to take paying clients), participating in this study group was an excellent opportunity for me to strengthen my research habits, improve the quality of my research products, and see and learn from other researchers’ perspectives. 

Certification Discussion Group (CDG) – a discussion group that meets virtually to discuss aspects of the process of applying for Certification by the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG). Led by a Certified Genealogist, this program allows people to become much more familiar with the application process and portfolio requirements – regardless of whether the participants are planning to apply for Certification or not. Members of this group also have access to submitted portfolios of successful applicants, and alumni are welcomed into an active and helpful private Facebook group. 

National Genealogical Society Quarterly (NGSQ) Study Group – a monthly virtual meetup to engage in in-depth discussions of specific NGSQ articles. I have not been able to attend as many of these meetings as I would like, but I have found this group useful in a couple of ways. For one, reading peer-reviewed genealogy articles and case studies can often be illuminating, but reading them very carefully can take understanding to a new level. The group’s website gives tips on how to read these articles to get the most out of them. Even for the months when I could not attend the meeting itself, I found it very valuable to take time to read the assigned article carefully. Then, in those months that I did attend the discussion, I got even more from experience.

GenProof Study Groups – a discussion group working through the book Mastering Genealogical Proof by Thomas W. Jones. I have not participated this group myself, but it is run by the same people who run ProGen, and I have heard that this program is also a worthwhile experience.


Institutes

Institute courses are often in-person or virtual programs focusing on one particular topic, meeting over the course of a week or once a week for multiple weeks. Each institute typically offers several different courses to choose from, taught by some of the nation’s leading genealogy researchers. I attended one course at GRIP in person in 2019, and I am registered for a virtual GRIP course this coming summer. Institutes can be a bit more expensive than some other learning options, but they cram a lot of information (and opportunities to interact with instructors and classmates) into a fairly short time period. Learning with others in person can be a lot of fun, but virtual institutes can also allow for more flexibility with people’s schedules, and can cost less money than paying for transportation, lodging, etc. I plan to attend more of these in the future!

Applied Genealogy (AppGen) Institute – all virtual

Genealogical Institute on Federal Records (Gen-Fed) – virtual for Summer 2022

Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP) – virtual for Summer 2022

Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research (IGHR) – virtual for Summer 2022

Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG)

  • SLIG Virtual (Fall 2022)
  • SLIG – virtual for Winter 2023
  • SLIG Academy for Professionals – virtual for Jan-Apr 2023

Conferences

While I have enjoyed the availability of genealogy institute courses for diving deep into a topic of interest, genealogy conferences can be beneficial for almost the opposite reason. Having a wide breadth of talks in front of you means that you can sample talks about topics that you might not have learned about otherwise. By having a dedicated block of time to attend a conference (in person or virtually), I have found myself selecting talks that might not have grabbed my attention at first glance but that filled open spots in my schedule and that ended up being valuable. I still remember a conference talk from a few years ago that was about a group of people that and a topic that I thought were irrelevant to my research, but that ended up being incredibly interesting educational due to the explanation of the methods used.

Many national and regional genealogy conferences have been virtual for the last couple of years; some are now meeting in-person but still having virtual options for attending and viewing talks. As with institutes, attending conferences in person can be a great experience, but I really appreciate the fact that conferences held virtually can be open to so many more people for whom travel may be difficult due to time, financial, physical, or other constraints. 

Here are some links to lists of genealogy conferences and similar events: 

ConferenceKeeper 

Cyndi’s List 

Stay tuned for even more thoughts on genealogy education in my next post!

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