Education Plans (Part Two)

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This article is the second installment and finishes our discussion on genealogical education plans. In our first article we assessed your education and training needs, considered some constraints and reviewed setting goals to improve your skills. This article surveys some common education and training resources available to you, suggests a way to organize your plan, and then wraps up with ideas for putting your plan in action. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, but rather a solid starting point. I grouped these resources in the following order to help support your learning methods.

  • Reading
  • Courses
  • Conferences and Workshops

Reading

There are so many publications from journals, magazines, and books on genealogy and family history ranging from skill building, regional history, and “how to” guides to narrative family stories. The challenge is to narrow your reading list to those items that help you achieve your goals. We are blessed with one of the largest genealogical and history collections in the southeastern United States at the Florida History and Genealogy Library located on the 4th floor of the John F. Germany Library. Search their catalog or talk with their staff to help you find items to meet your needs. Also check out the Board for Certification of Genealogists recommended reading list. Here are some great reading sources:

Journals

National and ethnic genealogical and historical societies typically publish quarterly or monthly journals or magazines with valuable information. The articles can range from scholarly discussions on analyzing evidence to personal accounts of breaking through brick walls. Several of these organizations also host online blogs full of additional information as well.

Two other sources to research for specific journals or articles are JSTOR and Google Scholar. Both of these repositories provide search engines and abstracts to narrow your search; however, be prepared to pay for many of these articles.

Books

Turn to published books for more in-depth analysis, instruction, and information than the individual articles provided in journals or magazines. The following merely scratch the surface of available topics and genres. Go deep with multiple books on a specific topic or skill area you want to improve or mix it up with a book per goal area.

  • Evidence! Citation & Analysis for the Family Historian by Elizabeth Shown Mills
  • Advanced Genealogy Research Techniques by George G. Morgan and Drew Smith
  • Elements of Genealogical Analysis by Anderson, Robert Charles.
  • How to Write Your Personal or Family History by Katie Funk Wiebe
  • Guide to Genealogical Writing: How to Write and Publish Your Family History by Stratton, Penelope L. and Henry B. Hogg 
  • Polish Roots by Rosemary A. Chorzempa
  • Mind Maps for Genealogy: Enhanced Research Planning, Correlation, and Analysis by Arons, Ron

Courses

Instructional courses are typically the first things we think of when we consider education; sitting in a class room with text books, homework, and tests. In fact we have several options available to us for more formal and traditional education. In addition to formal courses held in either a physical or virtual classroom, we can enroll in instructor or peer led independent study programs. Here are examples of several readily available courses.

Conferences and Workshops

Conferences and workshops are not only a frequent source of genealogical education, but they are also a wonderful way to meet new friends who can be a wealth of information, source of encouragement, and an invaluable resource. Many of the leading instructors deliver several presentations during the conference. In fact, large conferences such as RootsTech or the National Genealogical Society Annual Conference can have upwards of 100 distinct presentations to choose from. The challenge here is deciding which ones to attend. Of course, the biggest drawback to conferences is their associated time and cost. Let’s not forget, our own FGS Tampa Annual Seminar in October with Amy Johnson Crow (once the program is finalized we will release more information).

To help keep up to date on conferences, check out these sites:

Pulling It All Together

Now it’s time to sit down, open your word processor, and transcribe our notes into a short concise document. I tend to keep it simple and focused on the specific actions I want to achieve for the year. As previously discussed make sure to balance your time and costs with the rest of your life’s pursuits. Once you have your goals, objectives, readings, courses and conferences written down, arrange them in priority order within their groups; i.e. the first book you want to read is on top of the list. Finally, I set the plan aside for a couple of days in an attempt to tame my overzealous excitement and apply a dose of reality. Consider removing one or two items form your plan if you feel you may have overcommitted. Once you are satisfied with your plan, it’s time to take steps to achieve the goals you laid out.

If you use a task management system to manage your to-do lists, then I suggest adding your goals and objectives to this system. By doing this, you are incorporating your training plan into your daily routine and habits. It is said it takes 21 days to form a solid habit, so you’ll need to stay motivated until it become just another part of your routine. Learning is a lifetime activity and for genealogists and family historians it is necessary to keep abreast of the constant changes in tools, available records, and methods. Make sure you allocate time to do your reading, course work or attend the conference. Consider blocking out this time in your calendar.

Now that you have set aside the time, create your learning space, turn off your phone and any other distractions, tell your family you’ll be unavailable while studying, don’t forget to get a cup of coffee or tea and then sit down and get started. Spend a few moments reviewing your notes from the last training session to reorient yourself back on topic. Make sure to take notes as you go, even if you’re just reading a book. You never know when they may discuss a method that might be helpful to you in your research. I always end each session by writing a simple 2 or 3 sentence summary of what I learned and any questions or followup items for next time.

So there you have it, all the tools to create your own genealogy education plan. Let us know in the comments below about your goals, experiences, insights, and achievements as you build and start your plans.

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About Dave Glogowski

Dave began searching for his family origins in the 1990s as a way to understand his Polish heritage and its traditions. Upon retirement from a 26 year Air Force career in 2010, he moved to Tampa and joined FGS. Dave took on stewardship of the FGS website in 2017 and was a Director from 2017 - 2019. As Vice President, Dave seeks to continue to our history of current, relevant, and renowned speakers as well as foster a greater sense of community among our members.