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