Continuing Education: What’s In My Queue?

For anyone on the arc of becoming a professional genealogist, or working to professional standards, continuing education is of vital importance.

APG has a new continuing education requirement for Professional Genealogists as a tenet of its “Code of Ethics and Professional Practices” that reads:

“Engage in sufficient continuing education to maintain competence and comply with applicable requirements”.1

In addition, there are several standards put forth by the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) that address continuing education, in terms of both formal and informal engagement.

No one needs to convince me of the value of continuing education – in fact, I thrive on it. For me, the in-person multi-day genealogy conference or institute experience (or both!) is the highlight of my year. In addition to the learning opportunities, the networking, camaraderie, and research aspects are essential to my development as a professional genealogist.

For the last seven years, I have spent my vacation time from my day job in class, improving my skill set as a genealogist. Friends of mine at work groan – you’re doing what for your vacation? – is a common question. Just wait until they learn my next vacation will be in Pittsburgh. In July, I will attend the Genealogical Research Institute in Pittsburgh, otherwise known as GRIP, for the first time. There were a number of excellent courses to choose from, but it was not really a difficult choice in the end. I settled upon “Gateway to the Garden State: Sources and Strategies for New Jersey Research”. This is the first time I have seen a New Jersey course taught in the institute format, so I was quick to avail myself of the opportunity; I live in the Pacific Northwest, but spend a fair amount of my research time working on my New Jersey ancestors. After July, the next item on my continuing education plan is a return to the Salt Lake Institue of Genealogy (SLIG) in 2018. I have attended SLIG more than any other institute for several reasons: quality of education and speakers, and proximity. Proximity to Seattle, and proximity of the institute to the Family History Library. Yes, there are many FHL records online at FamilySearch, but so much more is available at the library that it makes a trip very worthwhile. The sheer breadth of their collections means you can research in many record types and many geographic locations across the globe from a single location.

Now and then I am able to combine classes with a more traditional type of vacation. In 2015, a friend and I were onboard for the maiden voyage of the FGS Alaskan Cruise with Royal Carribean. We went to genealogy sessions while at sea, and then were tourists in the ports of call at Juneau and Skagway, Alaska and Victoria, British Columbia. We went whale watching, did a brewery tour and tasting, and saw Coast Salish art at a museum, all while sampling the local fare. A genealogy cruise is a more intimate format than a large conference, as tables are set aside to dine with FGS attendees nightly, and there were several social hours for our group. We even had the opportunity to share a table one evening with Elizabeth Shown Mills, whom I was able to ask about where to submit a particular type of article for publication.

When possible, I choose to attend events in those areas where I have research to do, or where I can easily commute to places I need to do research. For example, I attended the 2003 National Genealogical Society (NGS) conference in Pittsburgh, and then spent several days afterwards visiting cemeteries and the library and courthouse in St. Clairsville, Lorain Co., Ohio where family had migrated to in 1803 from Virginia. Five years later, I attended the 2008 NGS Conference in Kansas City, Missouri where I met up with several colleagues from my local genealogy society. I then took some time after the conference to travel to St. Joseph, Missouri and Topeka, Kansas to visit family and ancestral cemeteries. I did research on-site in local libraries and at the Kansas State Historical Society (KSHS). Plus, I was able to get my barbecue fix at Jack Stack in Kansas City with my brother before heading out on my road trip.

The Library of Virginia in downtown Richmond is a huge draw for me as well, so I attended both the 2007 and 2014 NGS Conferences and stayed over both times to do research in the library and archives. Sharing oysters with a like-minded travelling companion at Rappahannock after a full day of research was a highlight which I hope to repeat.

Sometimes I cannot take more vacation time to attend conferences and institutes, plus the budget only goes so far. Fortunately, there are now plenty of online courses to choose from. I am currently enrolled in “Elements of Genealogical Analysis: A Class in Methodology”, a five-week session being taught by the esteemed Robert Charles Anderson of Great Migration fame, through the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS). His approach is a logical one based on what he calls “linkage analysis” and the building of linkage bundles and, ultimately, dossiers from carefully correlated linkage bundles. He uses examples from his book and from various short articles that we read offline to flesh out the methodology.

Earlier this month, NGS held its annual conference in Raleigh, North Carolina. Although I was unable to attend in person, I purchased one of the two live-streamed event packages, each consisting of five presentations. I signed up for the BCG Skillbuilding package taught by five of the top genealogists in the field today. Besides live-streaming of limited sessions, PlaybackNow offers audio recordings of most of the other lectures. These can be purchased as part of a larger package, or individually through the branded PlaybackNGS website. I picked up six individual sessions to add to my library of conference recordings that goes back to the first conference I attended in 1989.


PlaybackNGS website for the 2017 NGS conference in Raleigh, NC

Maintaining a spreadsheet of lectures helps prevent against duplicate purchases. Although not shown above, I cross-reference each entry with the starting page in the syllabus for ease of use.

The best part of the new format is that recorded sessions can be ordered online and are delivered immediately. I can listen to or watch conference sessions from the PlaybackNGS website, or through the PlaybackNow app. The app itself is a free download available in the iTunes or Google app stores – conference sessions are extra. Watching or listening to presentations using the app is simple and the quality is excellent. The conference syllabus is even available with purchase of any recording either through the website or in-app, by clicking PDF near the bottom left corner of the screen.

 
BCG Skillbuilding courses queued up in the PlaybackNow app

The only real task for me now is deciding which session to cue up next. I am delighted that I am again able to listen in the car on my daily commute via bluetooth streaming.

Whether you choose to attend events in person or online, continuing educational opportunities for genealogists at all levels are now readily available for a range of price points. Some are totally free and some can run up to about $125 for a series of webinars and related materials.

What’s in your queue?


Sources:
1 Association of Professional Genealogists, Code of Ethics and Professional Practices     (https://www.apgen.org/ : accessed 28 Mar 2017).

Census Comparison Worksheet

It has been some time since I posted about the Charles and Caroline Carson family of New Jersey. I needed to remind myself where I left off with respect to the census information I had collected thus far. I needed a form to see my census data at a glance. With only a bit of searching on Pinterest, I found a promising census comparison worksheet, posted by Jenny Lanctot who writes the “Are My Roots Showing?” genealogy blog.

census comparison worksheet from Jenny Lanctot, found on Pinterest

Jenny has graciously made her census comparison worksheet available for download at this link. Thank you, Jenny. I like this form, in that there is room to record information from up to five different census enumerations for one couple and up to fourteen of their children. It is similar to the way I have previously laid out census extractions in a table in Microsoft Word, but with more columns. More columns equals more data points for correlation, which is a very good thing when you are writing up your research with accepted genealogical standards in mind.

I downloaded her form and began doing the data entry in short order. It did not take me long to realize that I actually wanted to see a bit more detail than the form allowed for, so I began tweaking it just a bit. In the column on the left where the couple’s marriage information is recorded, I added a row to record the marriage officiant by name and role. I added an additional row below Twp. (for Township) to note a smaller jurisdiction, abbreviated as P.O. (for Post Office), since that level of detail is included on some census enumerations. Finally, on the main tab, I also added a row for the street address when known, as this is important for tracking our urban ancestors.

completed census comparison worksheet for the Carson family, 1850-1900The main table in my census comparison worksheet allows me to visualize 50 years of census data at a glance for one nuclear family (in this case, Charles and Caroline Carson of New Jersey). I have hidden the ribbon (using CTRL+F1 in Excel 2010) and the rows near the bottom for more siblings to make the completed worksheet easier to see in this screenshot.

In my example, I chose to only include United States Federal census information, but you could just as easily create a table that includes state census enumerations or non-population schedules such as agriculture or manufacturing. I also chose to input ages, birthplaces and occupations to improve the ability to compare across census years.

The biggest change I made was to include additional tabs in my workbook, one for each census year extracted on the main page of the form. I renamed each tab to correspond with the year, then I attached an image of the actual census page that I had previously downloaded. Lastly, I included a carefully crafted source citation so that I can simply copy and paste it into other documents or blog posts when needed.

census comparison worksheet with census image and citationI added more tabs in my workbook to include an image of the census page and a source citation, one tab for every census year on the main table. This image from the 1870 Federal census shows Caroline Carson living with an unidentified male named Lewis Rainier in Mercer County, New Jersey. We have yet to learn what relationship the two shared.

This is a time-consuming process, and one that I am unlikely to do for every family that I am researching, as I normally would simply extract the relevant census information into a note linked to a census “event” in my RootsMagic database. But, for those families that present brick wall problems, or for those families that I am writing about, it is a useful endeavor. If you have a genealogical problem you have worked on for years without a resolution, then I would recommend compiling your data in a format that allows you to visualize and correlate information differently, such as a census worksheet, a timeline or mind map.

RootsTech 2016 Syllabus Links

This is the second year that I have attended the RootsTech conference in Salt Lake City, Utah virtually. Certainly it is not the same as being there in person with the many thousands of other like-minded genealogists. I am thankful nonetheless to have had the opportunity to live-stream several of the sessions today (yes, I took a vacation day to do so). Last year it seems that it was quite easy to find the presenter’s syllabus using the RootsTech app. This year it is a challenge.

The syllabus for each session is available in-app and via the “Roots Tech Class Syllabi” web page for a limited (unspecified) time, located at this link:
https://www.rootstech.org/About/syllabus?lang=eng.

rootstech-app-syllabi-page
The RootsTech 2016 App Class Syllabus screen

The challenge is that you need to know the session number to then find the correct link by drilling down. To learn the session number, you can search and filter on a variety of parameters at this link:

https://rootstech2016.smarteventscloud.com/connect/search.ww

rootstech-2016-search-page
RootsTech 2016 search page. Search by presenter or by keyword

To make this a bit easier for myself, I created a spreadsheet that included the session number, presenters names, session titles and links to the syllabus for about 20 sessions that I was particularly interested in.

If you’d like to download a copy of my Excel spreadsheet with selected sessions and links to the syllabus for each, click here. Hyperlinks are to the far right of the worksheet for each session where there is a syllabus available.

Even if you are #NotAtRootsTech, you can still enjoy some of what the conference has to offer from afar. I will be tuning in again tomorrow afternoon. A big Thank You to the sponsors of this wonderful event!