My Education Plan

I am participating in ProGen 8, an 18-month home-study course based on the book Professional Genealogy, edited by Elizabeth Shown Mills. We attend monthly group “online chats”, group members critique each others assignments and we all have access to a “genealogical” mentor who has volunteered to support our group.

This month’s assignment was to pull together our own personal Genealogy Education Plan. I thought that it might be helpful to share some of the items on my list and some things that I have done already to help further my research skills. 

Just as an Accountant or Doctor must keep us with changes in their field, so must a Genealogist. Primarily we gain knowledge  through hands on research experience. But learning is also enhanced by attending conferences and institutes, completing self-directed online (or classroom) based study courses and by reading genealogical books, magazines and other publications. To many of us, learning is a lifelong passion and by the way – as a side benefit –  lifelong learners are believed to have lower incidences of Alzheimer’s Disease.

My three favorite books:

  • The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy, Val D. Greenwood
  • Google Your Family Tree, Daniel M. Lynch
  • The Family Tree Problem Solver, Proven Method for Scaling the Inevitable Brick Walls,  Marsha Hoffman Rising

Free Online Courses:

Other Online Courses:

Brick and Mortar

  • National Institute on Genealogical Research (NIGR), held 11-16 July 2010 at the National Archives (NARA) in Washington, D.C., and College Park, Maryland, their website describes the course as “an intensive program offering on-site examination of federal records.  Designed for experienced researchers, it is not an introduction to genealogy”. The 2010 course (held July 11th-16th) was $350 –
  • The Samford Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research (IGHR) – $445, They describe their offerings as “provides an educational forum for the discovery, critical evaluation, and use of genealogical sources and methodology through a week of intensive study led by nationally prominent genealogical educators.  Students may choose one of the offered courses that range from a course for beginners to courses on specialized topics.” Registration opens in January 2011, and many of the courses are filled within minutes
  • Boston University Certificate in Genealogical Research (also available ONLINE) class starting 9/2010 is priced at $2,695, the prerequisites are described as follows: “Some prior genealogical experience will be assumed; the student should have spent a significant amount of time searching for multiple generations of a family through record repositories and online sources, then documenting results. Students are expected to possess basic computer skills, including the ability to use a web browser and word processor. Students should also be able to communicate well in spoken and written English”. I will tell you this class is WELL worth it based on my personal experience!!
  • The Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy fees for Jan 2011 are $320 (intermediate to advance)

There are lots that I haven’t mentioned.  These are just the ones with which I am familiar (either I have taken them, am in the process of taking them or plan to take them).  Cyndi’s list names many more or try a google search on: education ~genealogy

It’s also helpful to read some of the popular blogs – There are 100’s – I list my favorites (to the right of this post) in my blogroll.

It might be fun to attempt to complete the blog series entitled 52 Weeks to Better Genealogy, described as: ” to get all genealogists and family historians – both new to the field as well as the “lifers” – to stretch their brains and examine certain aspects of what some of us pursue as a past time, some as a profession and all as a passion”-

Magazines and other publications are helpful as well.  Randy Seaver of Genea-Musings posts the table of contents for many of the popular ones so you can pick and choose.  Just search on the words “table of contents” in the search box within his blog:

I regularly read articles in National Genealogical Society Quarterly, New England Historical and Genealogical Register and American Ancestors.  I don’t yet follow Internet Genealogy ($27.95/annually), but it’s recommended by many of my classmates,  they do offer one free online issue

So what’s the value in reading articles that are unrelated to your own personal genealogical surnames?

1. It helps to improve your own research techniques learning how someone else found that missing record or correlated information to come up with a genealogical conclusion.

2. You learn of sources which you may not have been aware, which may help with the progression of your own family history research.

3. They are a great source for enlightening discussions (blogs too).

4.  It raises your awareness of some of the top genealogists in the field because you have read their work.  This helps when you are deciding whether or not to take a course or which session to attend at a conference – Who are my favorites, you ask?  99% of the courses/presentations that I have attended were WONDERFUL – here are just a few off the top of my head (certainly not an all-inclusive list) – Dr. Thomas W. Jones, D. Joshua Taylor, Elizabeth Shown Mills, Elissa Scalise Powell, Melinde Lutz Sanborn and Jean Nudd…..

This video by Mary Penner taped at the APG Professional Management Conference given in September 2009 on Henry O’Neil will give you an idea of how genealogies written by others might teach you something…

Last but not least, volunteer!  Helping to transcribe records or find records in different repositories “pays it forward” and helps to improve your skills – see my related post:

Happy Hunting!!


5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Meg Landseadel STaton on August 3, 2010 at 10:04 AM


    I want to thank you for taking the time to write this blog. I feel I have learned more from you in the past few days, and where to look for further information, than I have learned in the past 10 years..

    One question or thought I would love to see addressed, is the proper recording of sources. I own Family Tree Maker 2010, Legacy 7.4 and on your recommendation am trying a free version of The Master Genealogist. FTM is easy. Basically they record most of the sources for you. But when I have located names in indexes and then sent for actual BMD certificates, I don’t have a clue how/where to annotate the results.

    Thank you again



    • Hi Meg,

      Thanks so much – I am happy to hear that you find my posts helpful! I would recommend that you pick up a copy of Evidence Explained by Elizabeth Shown Mills. I bought a .pdf version on for $25.00 ( – that way you can easily search for the specific record or artifact for which you need to create a source. I guess I should have included this on my list of favorite books 🙂

      It really is a great resource, it is the book in my collection that I use most frequently – she gives over 1,000 examples of properly written Source List Entries, First Reference Notes and Subsequent Notes on any source that you could ever imagine!

      Also TMG has source categories modeled after E.S. Mills guide. Go to File, Preferences, Other and you will find a pull down list of Source Categories; select ES Mills. Then if you fill in all the fields in a specific source definition, TMG will automatically format the source based on E.S. Mills guide. If you haven’t found them yet, the TMG user forums are quite helpful in answering any questions you may have while learning how to use TMG –

      If you really want to delve into source citations, I would suggest the online Boston University Genealogy Certificate Program – Dr. Thomas Jones teaches a 3 week module that focuses solely on crafting proper source citations. He is a tough grader, and the amount of work can be overwhelming. but this 3 week session alone made the hefty tuition price well worth it!!

      – Linda



  2. Excellent excellent post – and as a fellow ProGenner (ProGen 4) and a graduate of the Boston Univ program, it is nice to know we both feel the same about these programs.



  3. Thanks Thomas! Always nice to meet a fellow BU graduate and ProGenner! Are you also active in the BU Google Group?



  4. Thank you for including “52 Weeks to Better Genealogy” in your list.

    Amy (ProGen 3)



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