The National Institute for Genealogical Studies


The National Institute for Genealogical Studies - LEADERS IN ONLINE GENEALOGY EDUCATION

Methodology, Part 2: An Introduction

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Methodology - Part 2: Organizing and Skill-Building
Shelves Of Files by Stuart Miles/courtesy of

Shelves Of Files by Stuart Miles/courtesy of

Shannon Bennett, Student

I am now diving into the second part of the course Methodology to give me the ground work for my genealogy education here at The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. This course builds on the basics learned from Methodology Part 1, hopefully so that the student will come out as a better researcher on the other end. Or, at least, that is my hope.

In the introduction for the course, the very first paragraph really hit home for me.  You can see it here:

(c) 2014. The National Institute for Genealogical Studies

(c) 2014. The National Institute for Genealogical Studies

All I can do is sit here and nod my head yes!  Just because I don’t have the answer now, doesn’t mean I might not find it one day. Or, just because I think I have an answer doesn’t mean one day that answer may be incorrect. This field is all about persistence, hard work, and having a good foundation of basic skills.

Looking through the syllabus for the course I am excited about several things.  The modules appear to be geared to getting you organized in all possible aspects of your family history adventure.  Now, I can be very particular about the way certain things are done in my life.  Then there are other times that it is like pulling teeth to get that aspect of my life in working order.  Unfortunately with my family research it is hit or miss.

It’s not that I don’t want things organized, sorted, catalogued, and so on but the overwhelmed feeling of where do I start always kicks in. My saving grace is that I seem to pull it together for specific projects.  Too bad I can’t figure out a way to make everything a project. The portion on storing and organizing my files may help me figure out a system to use in my research space. I have struggled with so many good suggestions out there, maybe this one will really stick!

While each of the modules covers items that I am familiar with, I strongly feel that you can never take too many classes on basic techniques.  You never know what you are going to learn, what will stick, or what will finally make sense. Yes, there are accepted standards in our fields, but each instructor may have a different tip, trick, or technique that you could learn.

Come back next week to find out what I learned from modules 1 and 2.  Looking forward to getting started and learning ways to tame files.  Wonder if I will get lost?


See you online!

Methodology, Part 2: Transcribing and Abstracting

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Methodology - Part 2: Organizing and Skill-Building

By Shannon Bennett, Student

The more we dig into our past the more we come across documents in varying states. Some are pristine and new while others are decades old and crumbling. Which is why I was happy to see these first two modules in Methodology, Part 2 covered transcriptions (more in depth this time) and abstracts.


"Period Letters" by Simon Howden/courtesy of

“Period Letters” by Simon Howden/courtesy of

I think these two skills are among the most important a genealogist can master. Learning to do these properly, and accurately, will not only help you but those who follow in your footsteps.  Particularly if the document later goes missing or is destroyed. Your transcription may be the only thing left with the “proof” you need.

While I talked briefly in a prior post about transcribing, I thought it would be important to hit on this again. In the first module we are given five reasons why you should learn how to transcribe:

  1. Reproduction equipment not available or allowed
  2. You received a transcript of a document or book pages from someone else
  3. Your recipient or reader may not have your skills
  4. You made a photocopy or a printout and it went missing
  5. The exercise itself is a learning experience=

In addition to these reasons we were taught about diacritical marks, obsolete letters, and the use of square brackets. I have to admit I have a fondness for learning about obsolete letters and diacritical marks, but I am an odd nut.

Going hand in hand with transcriptions are abstracts. Abstracts are the important bits of a document with all the extras (boilerplates or extra words) cut out. Making an abstract of the document, or transcript, is a great way to have all the important bits pulled out and ready to use.

Through the reading and exercises we were taught how to properly perform both of these tasks. With practice they both become easier and you will notice that your skills improve. I thought I was pretty good at both when I first started my research a few years ago. Well, I quickly found out that I wasn’t as good as I thought. However, over the years my skills increased. The key was reading a lot of different types of documents and then making both transcriptions and abstractions for both.

Now, someday soon, I will have the time to go back and re-do all those early ones.

See you online!

Methodology, Part 2: Forms

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Methodology - Part 2: Organizing and Skill-Building
Note Book And Compass by nuttakit/ courtesy of

Note Book And Compass by nuttakit/ courtesy of

Shannon Bennett, Student

Modules 3 and 4 of Methodology, Part 2 focus on the types of forms to use during your research. I love forms. Seriously, love them. Of course I can be a little OCD about them, but that is another story. Forms, checklists, to-do lists, guides, etc. are a great way to provide road maps to your research. They keep you going forward, not lost in limbo with no direction. Think of them as genealogical compasses.

Module 3 covered ways to track your research and module 4 covered ways to organize your research.  Both are important for you and those that follow in your footsteps, they let you have the compass pointed forward and not spinning in confusion. Clearly organized and documented research is a fantastic feeling.

There were two suggested forms that really jumped out to me. They are things that 1) I already do and 2) I think that serious researchers should really do too. Hopefully you will see why by the end of this post.

First is the Daily Journal. I can hear some of you making noises about that one already. Trust me, I am not a journal writer per se but keeping a research journal is very important. This is more a running list of things you do on a daily basis with your research. Who did you call? What did you search? What were you results? Did you get an email and what did it say? Those types of things. The one place that you can keep track of all the hills, plateaus, rivers, and cliffs while using your genealogy compass.

Second, is a Repository Chart of research centers and websites that you use. Having a handy computer file, or binder with this form on the outside and all the brochures on the inside, is a great item to have on your genealogy bookcase. You can see where you have been, get clues for places you need to search, have the information for those repositories at your fingertips, and will not need to worry about forgetting what you can find where or wasting time with fruitless searches.


(c) 2014 The National Institute for Genealogical Studies.

(c) 2014 The National Institute for Genealogical Studies.

While we may get lost on occasion wandering around in the woods, if we use the tools that we uncover along the way our path may become a little straighter and a little less frustrating. The compass can only lead us when we know which way we want to go. Try a journal or a repository chart. I bet you will find them as useful as I do!


See you online!

Methodology, Part 2: That 1 Thing

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Methodology - Part 2: Organizing and Skill-Building
Pile Of Books by Surachai/courtesy of

Pile Of Books by Surachai/courtesy of

Shannon Bennett, Student

What’s the biggest complaint among serious hobby or professional genealogist? Do you know?  Well, from the comments I have seen and heard, that would be source citations. More particularly, the lack of them. Are you guilty of this, because if so when you take Methodology, Part 2 and get to module 6 you will find out why citing your sources is important.

On the first page of the module you learn why citing your sources is critical:

(c) 2014. The National Institute for Genealogical Studies.

(c) 2014. The National Institute for Genealogical Studies.

These two items are the underpinnings of good research practices. People who read your research in the future must have confidence in you. They have confidence in you because of the types of materials you use. Those researchers know what types of sources you used due to the citations you create.  Without them how do they know where you found that information? For all they know you could have made it up.

Through the module you will learn what elements need to be recorded to have a complete citation. One of the elements a lot of people may not realize is important is including a description of the location you retrieved the information from. For a website it could simply be a list of the clicks you preformed ( > 1880 US Census > Indiana > ….) that way you or someone else could get back to that exact page. Or if you visited a brick and mortar building you should include information on which collection you looked at and any particular identifiers another researcher will need to follow on where they should look for this information (County Courthouse > Clerk’s office > Collection name > …)

The key is consistency. If you choose to use your own method, the suggested way in the module, or the examples from Elizabeth Shown Mills book Evidence Explained stick with one and do it that way for everything you create. Use the same style, punctuation, italics, etc. for every citation you write.  It will help you and not leave you second guessing what you wrote down.

One last important note.  Source citations are a fundamental part of the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS).  The GPS, set by the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG), is what serious researchers use as their guidebook.  If you don’t have a copy of their standards manual you should think about picking one up.  Every researcher needs a copy on their shelf.

Remember, cite your sources!  Make you work look great, give it credibility, and make it easy on the next genealogist in your family. They will thank you for it, and you will be happy you did it too.

See you online!

Methodology, Part 2: Finishing Up

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Methodology - Part 2: Organizing and Skill-Building

Shannon Bennett, Student

Another Methodology  course done, another four to go! Whew, I will make it because you will cheer me on right? This one was, once again, packed full of information to help a researcher build a good foundation for their genealogical research. I know the information taught here will help me and others who take the class be better in their genealogical endeavors.

Image courtesy of  Stuart Miles/

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/


The theme of organization was carried on throughout the course. We were shown new forms we could use, ways to organize our finds, our time, and our office. All things that I know many genealogists struggle with from time to time. Just know that you are not alone in that, but maybe these ideas will help you with it. I know I picked up a few new tips!

I particularly found the words of encouragement from the summary section helpful. In it the instructor walks us through how to stay focused, organized, and on task. I don’t know about you, but I struggle with the “oh shiny” problem from time to time. Remembering to stay focused and not go down rabbit holes was always a struggle for me. Using the tips and tricks learned here I am sure I will be able to focus better in the future.

Once again I discovered new information in the research skills section. While I am pretty confident in my research abilities I found myself nodding along with the list and mumbling to myself “I never thought of it that way before!” Again, no one should ever scoff at basic level lectures, programs, or classes. You never know when inspiration will strike or if someone will present something in a way that just clicks with you.

Hopefully you will join me at the chat I will be doing where you can hear more about my thoughts on these first two methodology courses.  Join me on  April 17th at 11:00am (EST).

See you online!


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