Shannon Bennett, Student with The National Institute for Genealogical Studies
I came to the world of genealogy just over three years ago. That is not to say that I was not interested for years before that, but that is when the stars finally aligned and lead me to this path. My little girl dream of participating in the “grown-up” world of family storytelling (aka genealogy) had come true.
For years I listened to the stories of my family told by my grandmother’s generation to my parents, their cousins, and siblings. Sitting around card tables, in boats, or while sipping homemade wine on the back porch. No matter where I was, the stories always poured forth. As a child I had no reason to question my elders, they knew everything it seemed, and those stories just captivated me. Even though I was not really allowed to be part of many of these adult conversations, I became adept at hiding in the right places so I could listen. Amazing how few adults actually look under a kitchen table.
What did I learn? Well, we were descended from people who came to the U.S. on the Mayflower. There was an Algonquin Indian Princess in the family. I heard how my great-grandfather held his mother’s hand while they watched his older brothers in their Union blue march off to the Civil War. The tragedy of accidental deaths and Indian raids on the railroad. The plight of Irish and German immigrants. There were so many stories.
But were they true? As an adult I realized many of these stories may be just that, only stories. I decided that while I would be disappointed to find out my favorite tales were only myth and legend, I had a sneaking suspicion that the truths I would uncover would be so much more interesting. So, that is what I set out to do. I wanted to uncover the family truths. Needless to say that was exactly what happened, and I was surprised by all I discovered.
Having a background in science I am well versed in good research practices (even if on occasion I may choose to ignore them when I get wrapped up in the research). I realized very quickly that this was a good thing. Not everyone thinks analytically, feels comfortable in a research facility, or can navigate Internet search engines. However, this was a new field, and no matter how comfortable I may feel, I could miss something. Thus began my search for ways to make sure I developed a good basic understanding of genealogical principles and research techniques.
In Methodology Part 1, I had hoped to gather more basic ideas, tips, and research techniques. It is my opinion that there is no such thing as too much education. You can always learn something new, or hear something presented in a different way which makes more sense to you. As genealogists (no matter your level) you need to be open to education or you may miss out on something that could be critical later on.
I wanted this course to fill in any gaps I may have in my research knowledge. Also, I wanted to come across a few new ways to investigate. Whether that is via brick and mortar facilities, books, or online. Finally, I wanted to become more proficient with basic paperwork (i.e. not rely so much on my computer). I love my computer programs, and while I understand the basics of pen and paper research I don’t do it. It would be nice to work my way through some “old style” research practices.
This course was a great foundation course for those who have never done genealogy or for those who need a refresher course on the basic skills.
I would consider myself an intermediate level genealogist on most subjects. That being said I really enjoyed taking this course. It gave me a taste of what to expect from courses through The National Institute for Genealogical Studies, showed me some basic holes that I needed to fill, and gave me alternative ways to think about problems. The assignments made me think outside of the box at times, but thankfully were not too difficult. Just right for the level of the course.
In particular I thought the way the course was presented with an international flavor was interesting. I am not Canadian, and my nearest European ancestor was well over 100 years ago. However, learning about various historical facts from different countries is important for anyone with a passion about genealogy. You never know when that type of information will be useful, or if you will have to start working in those types of records in the future. Being able to work globally is a skill that should be sought after, and I am pleased to see that I will have a taste of it while studying at The National Institute for Genealogical Studies.