International Institute of Genealogical Studies


International Institute of Genealogical Studies - LEADERS IN ONLINE GENEALOGY EDUCATION

Learning How to Create Genealogy Programs

By Shannon Combs-Bennett, student

I am a teacher at  heart. It comes naturally you see. My parents were teachers, so too were my grandparents, great-grandparents… you get the drift. This is one of the reasons I love to do genealogy presentations. It makes me feel so good to explain something to someone who really wants to learn and watch them walk away with so many new ideas.

This is one of the reasons I really wanted to take the course  Creating Genealogy Programs for Adults & the Younger Generation. The instructor, Jennifer Holik, has written several books on teaching genealogy to children that many of my friends who homeschool use as textbooks. Looking through them, and talking to Jennifer in the past, I knew that I would learn a lot of new techniques I could use in the future.

Don’t fear though! This course is not one sided at all. She adequately covers how to provide appropriate education for all age groups from child to adult which can be more difficult than it initially sounds. Especially if you are trying to teach younger children and you have never done that before. That is a skill all on its own… and it requires a lot of patience.

I really like how she broke down how to create everything from an hour-long presentation to a day-long workshop. Each of which I have done, and it was a lot easier after I put into practice some of her tips. Trust me, it seems easy when you agree to do a 6-hour workshop until you have to do it.

In addition to outlines on how to create these programs Holik also gives ideas on types of activities you may want to include based on age group. If you have a multi-generational workshop you can even adjust any hands-on projects so that everyone can participate. As an example, adults can do a traditional pedigree chart and younger children can create one with pictures or drawings if they cannot write well. Pretty cool, huh?

If you are involved with scouting or other similar groups, Holik points out that they may need your help as a genealogist. Many of these groups have badges the kids can earn that focus on family history or  genealogy. This is a great way to get your name out into the community and help out too. I have done a couple of these and each one was an absolute blast. Something I would jump at doing again because the kids were great.

Needless to say, if you want to do more large format programs for a variety of ages this is a course you should register for. The sample plans, worksheets, and assignments alone are well worth it. The ideas are like the cherry on top of a decadent sundae.

On to the next course!!

Oh the Records You’ll Find for Institutions

Richmond, Virginia. Almshouse. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540.

Richmond, Virginia. Almshouse. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540.

by Shannon Combs-Bennett, student

Well, color me surprised. You don’t have to have a black sheep ancestor to get a lot out of the course US: Institutional Records. In fact, several of mine and my husband’s ancestors have institutional records. That means you do too! Which, by happy chance, led me to even more records and information on these people.

In Module 1 we covered how to dissect the various US census schedules to learn more about where institutionalized ancestors were. Many researchers forget about the various schedules that were created for the census beyond the population schedule. If you have not explored them you are truly doing a disservice to your research!

From there we moved on to  different types of institutions. Many of these places hold different records, but they all include similar types of information. I really have an obsession with  jail records. Honestly, I don’t know what it is, but they fascinate me to no end!

From these records, you not only learn about a person’s offence (or repeat offences) but you can also glean data to help with your genealogy research. Beyond the vital information data you can also learn about their last address, what they did while in the clink, and even where they were going upon release. For women, you can often times learn their maiden names.

Another record set that I am delving more into is orphan and poor house records. My husband has a collateral line ancestor who died in the New York City Almshouse in 1920. While he is not a direct line ancestor he had a significant impact on my husband’s family. He is one of those missing link people who I just have to find more information about. Because of this course I was able to learn  where the records are located. Now, I just need to get myself up to the municipal archives in New York City.

I hope you are as fascinated as I was about the amount of information you can learn from this course. The records, and how to search for them, really took my research to the next level. I know it will enhance your research too!

On to the next course!!
See you online!

Starting the US: Institutional Records Course

Historic American Buildings Survey, photo-copy of engraving by John Andrews, showing Dexter Asylum in 1869. - Dexter Asylum, Hope Street & Lloyd Avenue, Providence, Providence County, RI. Library of Congress.

Historic American Buildings Survey, photo-copy of engraving by John Andrews, showing Dexter Asylum in 1869. – Dexter Asylum, Hope Street & Lloyd Avenue, Providence, Providence County, RI. Library of Congress.


by Shannon Combs-Bennett, student

When you think of an “institution” what comes to mind first? For me, it is prisons or asylums. But guess what, this word can cover a whole bunch of other places as well. Places which most of us had ancestors in attendance. Not to say all ancestors were black sheep, just that they had reasons to attend an established facility.

The 6-week course US: Institutional Records  does cover researching prisons and asylums as well as a variety of other institutions. Places like poorhouses, orphanages, schools, and veteran’s homes. In addition, the course author, Amy Johnson Crow, also covers where to find the records and how to trace the clues. Both of which are crucial to a successful search.

I do not have any black sheep ancestors, much to my personal disappointment, but I and my husband do have ancestors which fall into other categories. This gives me hope that I can fill in more details about their lives for my research. Maybe even break down a wall or two in the process.

On that note, I am very excited to get started. Off to read the first modules.

See you online!

Specialty Newspapers in the United States

Image courtesy of Stoonn at

Image courtesy of Stoonn at

by Shannon Combs-Bennett, student

Extra! Extra! Read all about…. Specialty newspapers!  Seriously, I learned a lot about niche newspapers in Module 5 of the US: Newspaper Records course. While I don’t think I will be able to use it in my personal research I am certain this knowledge with come in handy for when I help others with their research.

I was surprised by the number and types of specialty, or niche, type newspapers that were published throughout US history.  Many of us may be familiar with ethnic newspapers, especially if we have immigrant ancestors from non-English speaking countries. However, did you know about that the following types of newspapers were published too?

  • Ethnic, including Native and African American
  • Religious
  • Military
  • Labor / Occupation

No matter which type of specialty newspaper you decide to investigate you will be able to do so with a bit of help from the five page finding aid section of this module.

My family has a long line of military involvement which means I need to follow those leads to see if I can find anything for my research in them. If I don’t find my people in them I am hopeful that I will be able to add context, images, and stories about what they did to my personal files.  You know, breathe some life into those biographies!

This module surprised me with the amount of information to say the least.  I know you will get a lot out of it too!!

I hope you’ll join me on Tuesday, February 28th at 3:00pm EST for a virtual meeting where we will discuss US newspapers and the US Newspaper Records course.

See you online!

What Do You Know About US Newspapers?

 Daviess County Democrat, Washington, Indiana. November 29, 1913 – Page 2. NewspaperArchive

Daviess County Democrat, Washington, Indiana. November 29, 1913 – Page 2. NewspaperArchive


by Shannon Combs-Bennett, student

Who loves history?  I do! I know you probably do too. Which is why Module 1 of the US: Newspaper Records course was absolutely amazing to read. Most of the module covered the history of newspapers in the US as well as an overview of the information you can discover. There was so much excellent information in those pages.

Many people don’t know that there were regular newspapers in the Americas dating all the way back to the 1600s. As the colonies grew, so did the number of newspapers. Not all of them were successful, but the ones that we are lucky enough to still have today are a great insight into life during that time.  Which is one of the things that excites me most about old newspapers.

A window into the past, that is what I like to think of newspapers. You can see exactly what was happening in a community during a specific day, week, or even month. It is one of the purest ways to study the social history of our ancestors.

The course author includes a section about advertising in the newspapers. Advertisements are great, not only for the social history aspect, but also to give you clues about your ancestors if they were in business.  For instance, one of the best advertisements I found in a newspaper was for my 3rd great grandmother’s hotel in my hometown. Because of that advertisement,  I learned the cost of a nightly rate plus the price of dinner in the dining room. This is the same woman who just a few years later was in the newspaper  as a person who was being reimbursed by the county for aiding the court. She housed  jurors in that hotel while they were in town for a trial.  Without a newspaper listing I may have never known that about her.

We learned in this course that by 1860 there were about 3,000 newspapers across the US.  While that may not seem like a lot today, it was actually pretty impressive for that time frame. Especially since by 1914 there were more than 15,000 being published in the US.  With those numbers every one of us should find something of interest to our family history!

To make sure we all understand what the newspapers are telling us our instructor provided a glossary at the end of Module 1.  It contains all of the terms describing parts of a newspaper which make us sound more knowledgeable about the subject.  Of course there is also a section about citing newspapers correctly for genealogical use.  Something we all must know how to do!

See you online!