By Colleen Murray, Student
Last week marked a major milestone in my genealogical education. I finished my 40 courses required to earn the PLCGS (Professional Learning Certificate in Genealogical Studies) from the National Institute for Genealogical Studies! Though immersed in celebration this week, I have returned to my computer to write this account of my experiences and reflect on how I got here.
I was always a business-minded individual. I initially thought I’d be an accountant, and completed a Bachelor of Commerce degree. But finding myself at a soul-sucking job after graduation, I quit to follow my dream of opening a retail tea shop in Edmonton, Canada. Six years later, I sold it when our family moved to Ontario. Small children took up most of my day, and I happened on genealogy as a hobby that I could do in spare moments to maintain my sanity.
In 2010, having moved back to Edmonton, I started researching genealogy educational programs. I wondered if perhaps my hobby could be translated into a career? I settled on the National Institute for Genealogical Studies because of its Canadian stream of courses. It was very important to me that my education be relevant to my location. It also allowed me to take Irish courses, which is where my cultural heritage lies. And best of all, I could work at my own pace.
I started out the program very slowly, trying out Methodology parts 1 & 2 before moving on to the beginner level Canadian package. I look back with some amusement on that first year, I did not usually tackle more than one course at a time, and did not usually submit more than one module per week. Part of this was due to being a bit of a perfectionist, and part due to family commitments. My slow start may explain why it took me five more years to complete my 40 courses!
By 2011, I was fully committed to becoming a professional genealogist, and I decided to pursue the PLCGS. The 40 course requirement would allow me to finish up to the advanced level of Canadian courses, and up to the intermediate level of Irish courses, while of course still taking the methodology, analysis and other required courses. I still completed my classes slowly, but really picked up the pace when my family spent a year travelling on sabbatical in Ireland and Australia. With few other obligations, it’s amazing what you can get done! I also spent a lot of time upgrading my previous research, using practices I had learned in class- fixing source citations, producing reports, and implementing a better system to organize my online documents.
The advanced courses that I took in later years were the toughest, but in retrospect, the most valuable. The Canadian: Geography & Maps challenged me, but the result was a different way of tackling research. The Palaeography: Reading & Understanding Historical Documents class took a LOT of time, but by the end my skills had really improved dramatically. I still refer back to those notes regularly.
Having finally completed all of my PLCGS courses, I know that my education is not finished. In fact, I know that professional genealogists have an obligation to keep current and continually upgrade their knowledge of record sets, methodologies, business and technology, and also study journals that include the work of others. I do plan to do all this, and am on the waiting list for ProGen, as suggested by my instructor Brenda Wheeler (who put up with me through all three of my Analyses classes!) The National Institute’s Professional Development courses will also no doubt be useful to me. Right now, I am going to spend some time working on my business plan and use some of those Bachelor of Commerce skills to map out where I want to go from here.
I want to say thank you to all my instructors, especially to Brenda Wheeler & Ruth Blair, who have been great mentors to me. I want to say to all the prospective and current students out there to keep at it! Even if it takes you longer than you’d hope, when you finish, it feels so sweet.
You can contact Colleen and keep up with her genealogical adventures at www.cmgenealogy.com