Online Education with the National Institute for Genealogical Studies

Have you ever considered taking genealogy courses to help you with your research, to expand your knowledge base or to begin your preparation to become a professional? I was looking for all of these when I found the National Institute for Genealogical Studies in October of 1999.

I had read an article about the program in Maclean’s magazine and was very excited to find a program on offer in Canada. I had been researching different programs to see what would best suit my finances and what I wanted from this type of education. My post secondary education already included two diplomas from Sheridan College for Research Techniques and General Arts and Science.

To be honest I had all but given up taking genealogy courses to expand my experience. They were very expensive and if they were available by correspondence I would still have to go to the educational institution to do my final exam. Since most of the institutions offering these programs were in the United States this was out of my budget range.

So you can imagine my excitement in reading about the online courses that were going to be offered by the National Institute for Genealogical Studies. The article in Maclean’s said they were affiliated with the University of Toronto. I was at the “Word on the Street” festival in Toronto and the University had a booth. The people manning the booth had not heard about the program, it was that new. While at a one day genealogy conference I found a flyer on a table about the program and grabbed it up. This was a Saturday and I had to wait until Monday to call.

First thing Monday morning I called and they had just started their very first course so I had to wait until the beginning of November to start my course and then I was off! I have completed my Professional Learning Certificate in Genealogical Studies (PLCGS) for Canada, England, Ireland and Methodology and was in the first graduation class for each program.

The NIGS offers a variety courses. You can take a single course or you can take a full certificate course. Do you have ancestors in Canada, England, Ireland, Germany, United States or Scotland? Are you a Librarian who would like to take genealogy courses so you can better serve the patrons coming into your facility? The National Institute can help.

You not only take your courses online but you upload your assignments and do your exams online as well. They also offer chats with instructors that are audio and video. You will see the instructor but if you do not have a webcam that is not a problem. Everyone is welcome and it is a chance for students and instructors to meet. If students have questions, need clarification or just want to connect with their classmates this is the place to do it.

There is the choice of printing out the reading material on your own printer or ordering the material already printed and getting a binder to store it in. If you get the pre printed material it comes all at once. If you do it yourself you have to wait for each week to be released before it can be printed.

You can basically custom make this program to suit you, your schedule and your price points.

Want to do one course on how to research your Slovak, Scandinavian or Polish ancestry? How about a course that tests your analysis and skills for each level of the program you are taking? The National Institute can help you with that as well.

I have risen through the ranks at the National Institute for Genealogical Studies. I started as a student and then became an author and instructor. Are you planning a genealogical research trip to Ireland? Consider taking my course “Planning a Research Trip to Ireland”. I also moderate the chat sessions for the Irish program.

You can start slowly with a single course and then build upon that baseline. Or you can jump in and take a full certificate course. One thing I can say is that I am very glad that this program was on offer when I was looking to improve my genealogical knowledge base.

Check out their website or give them a call and have a chat. You will be glad you did.

©2010 – Blair Archival Research

Irish Research and the fight for Independence

Recently I came across a new blog called “On a flesh and bone foundation: Irish History” and found it very interesting. Jennifer Geraghty-Gorman is researching her Grandmother and her family who lived in Dublin at the start of the 20th century. The Magee family was also involved in the Irish War of Independence.

Jennifer’s blog provides a good description of how family and history come together. She shows the effects of the Irish War of Independence on the family and how the death of a beloved son affected them.

Jennifer shares her trials and tribulations of doing research in Ireland as well as the joys and sorrows of seeing the places that played a big role in her family’s lives.

I would suggest that you visit the blog and have a great read.

©2010 – Blair Archival Research

Have you ever tried the Scotland’s People website?

Have you ever tried the Scotland’s People website? This website is run by the Government of Scotland and overseen by Brightsolid who also own “Find My Past” and may soon own “Genes Reunited”.

This is a genealogist’s dream website as it has the complete civil registration and census records online. They are indexed and there are digital images available. You can also find copies of probate records as well as Old Parish Registers for baptisms, marriage banns and burials. The burial records are not complete so please check the reference to OPR burials on the website that tells you what years and places are available.

There is a fee involved and it is 6 GBP which at the current rate of exchange is approximately 9.30 CDN. You get 30 credits for this price. Theoretically to view the index page and one image would cost you 1.86 CDN.

To view an index page of 25 entries will cost 1 credit. A search may come up with more than twenty five entries but they tell you how many search results there are. You then have the option of narrowing down the search before opening the index page.

Once in the index page if you find the correct entry you click on view image. This will cost you 5 credits per image viewed. If you decide to search to either side of the original image remember that will also cost you 5 credits per image. They clearly make note of this on the website.

The search process is the same for all the documents available except for the Wills and Testaments. You can search the index and see the results of the search for free. If you find a document it will cost you 5 GBP (7.75 CDN) to view the entire file. The file could be one, two or eleven pages the price would be the same.

Scotland’s People also have several places that can help you with your research. If you are having difficulty reading the handwriting there is a section to help you with this problem. Check under Help & Resources to see what other reference materials they have that can help you with your research.

In my experience if I have ever had a problem with the images it has been rectified very quickly. Once I clicked on an index entry that was supposed to be for my ancestor in the census. When the page came up they were not there and no one with the same surname was on the page. I emailed Scotland’s People to let them know and a couple of days later I got a response and the credits were put back into my account. Once I even got a few extra credits as an apology which was very nice indeed.

One thing you must do with Scotland’s People is read the directions and descriptions on the website very carefully.

The Registers of Corrected Entries for example. These show up if the page you have downloaded has one attached to it. There is a little red box at the top and it costs you 2 credits to view this entry. The only problem is that it can be for any of the people listed on the birth, marriage or death entry. Read the entry carefully as you should find a reference to the RCE in the right hand margin of the entry page. This will tell you if the RCE relates to your ancestor.

Educate yourself on the counties and parishes of Scotland to help you better identify your ancestors in the indexes.

Remember that the Old Parish Registers deal only with the established church in Scotland. Scotland’s church history is too complicated to cover here but you can find a good reference to it in “Tracing Your Scottish Ancestry” by Kathleen B. Cory, Third Edition, Revised and Updated by Leslie Hodgson, Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc. 2004. In the Illustrations section, figure 7, is a copy of “Burleigh’s Chart of Scottish Churches” which outlines the complicated history. If you do a Google search for “Burleigh’s Chart of Scottish Churches” you can find it in Google Books.

You can let the purchasing of credits and searching get away from you if you are not careful. Too save a little money you can always search the Scottish Civil Registration Indexes on microfilm at some Mormon Family History Centres. I know my local one has a complete set but yours might not so check it out.

Ancestry also has indexes to the Scottish census records but no images. Check these census indexes to help narrow down your search on Scotland’s People.

You will still have to view the index page to get to the image at Scotland’s People but you will know what you are looking for and may not have to view as many index pages.

My Scottish blood insists that I find the best way to save a penny no matter what I am purchasing!

©2010 – Blair Archival Research

Podcasts and Genealogists

Do you listen to podcasts online or on your IPod/MP3 Player? They are free and very useful to the genealogist. In fact podcasts are all I listen to on my IPod! I subscribe to many different types of podcasts through ITunes.

The big one for me is The National Archives of England. They put new podcasts out regularly. They are recordings of slide presentations that are given at The National Archives in Kew. My only regret is that I am unable to see the slides and therefore the documents that they reference in the seminar.

I subscribe so every time my IPod is attached to my computer it is being updated. I have learned about World War 1 records, land and estate records, Irish and Scottish genealogy just to name a few. All this was done while riding the bus to the Ontario Archives.

Others that I listen to are “Digging up your Roots”, “Family History Expos Genealogy Podcast” and the “Genealogy Gems Podcast”. I also listen to other podcasts that can help with my genealogy such as “Oxford Biographies”, “Documentary One on RTE” (Irish Radio), “English Heritage” and “Great Lives”. These all provide me with background information.

One little gem I found for writing my family history was an Open University program which is found under ITunesU. Open University is a program on British television where people can take a university course by correspondence or just for interest. Open University has been around for a long time. There are seven episodes to help you write your family history.

These are just the ones I listen to; there are many others that cover a wide spectrum of genealogy. When you go in do a general search for both genealogy and family history. Some will come up under both searches but you will find others that can only be found in one search field. You may even find podcasts that do not relate to family history but to family. Go through the list to see what is there as you never know what you may find.

You do not have to subscribe to the general podcast. If there is one particular entry you are interested in you can download that specific podcast. You may discover that after a while the podcasts are not relating to your requirements so you can delete the subscription and try another one.

Unfortunately sometimes there are only a few podcasts to be found under certain titles. The last podcast may have been put up 2 or 3 years ago and then they stopped. Check these out anyway as you may find something of interest. Occasionally you will find a video podcast which adds another dimension.

Your local library may also allow for downloads of books that could relate to your family history or a book you may have wanted to check out. These can be downloaded from your public library website but you will only be able to use the files until the check out time has expired.

There are a wide variety of topics available in a format that is easily portable.

The one thing to remember is that all of these are free to download. Have fun!

©2010 – Blair Archival Research

Happy St. Patrick’s Day – Beannacht Lá Fhéile Pádraig

This is a day when the world goes to pubs and drinks green beer. In fact up until the last half of the twentieth century Ireland was dry on St. Patrick’s Day. The pubs had to close for the holiday. Everyone wears green for St. Patrick’s Day but did you know the national colour of Ireland is actually blue.

This year the parades started on the weekend since the big day falls mid week. In Toronto on Sunday there was green all around for the annual parade. The oldest parade in Canada is in Montreal which started in 1824. Newfoundland is the only place in Canada that has a legal holiday on St. Patrick’s Day. The Islanders are mostly of Irish descent with a good number of their ancestors from Waterford and Wexford.

The Irish Diaspora has contributed greatly to countries around the world. When the Irish first arrived the one thing they could give to their new homelands was their brute strength and the will to get things done. Through the generations their circumstances have improved and the ancestors of those original Irish immigrants are helping to build stronger and more productive communities around the world. Some have even returned to the old sod to create a stronger Ireland.

I am a first generation Canadian. My roots are still very connected to Ireland. The family covers the whole island from north, south, east and west. There are professionals, land owners, roof thatchers, and farmers.

St. Patrick’s Day started as a remembrance of the death of St. Patrick who died on 17 March 461 AD. Now it has turned into a huge celebration of Ireland and the Irish people around the world. Everyone is Irish on this day no matter where their ancestors were born. So everyone have a Guinness and celebrate Ireland and her people.

Beannacht Lá Fhéile Pádraig – Rút

©2010 – Blair Archival Research

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