International Institute of Genealogical Studies


International Institute of Genealogical Studies - LEADERS IN ONLINE GENEALOGY EDUCATION

Starting the US Newspaper Records Course

The Indiana Herald (Huntington, Indiana) 5 July 1848, page 3.

The Indiana Herald (Huntington, Indiana) 5 July 1848, page 3.


by Shannon Combs-Bennett, student


I think one of the most overlooked sources for genealogy research are newspapers.  Where else can you find information on current and historical events, your ancestors, and history all in one place?  Even before I started researching my family history I admit that newspapers were a bit of a fascination for me.  Old newspapers are intriguing, and hold so many stories just waiting to be uncovered.

When I learned that one of the required classes for an American Records certificate from The National Institute for Genealogical Studies  was a course on  newspaper research I was very excited.  I really, really hoped when I saw that I would learn some cool new tips about newspapers.  From my experience, and you probably have read this before in my past blog posts, I just knew that there was more to learn.

By looking at the syllabus for the US: Newspaper Records course you can see that a lot of different aspects of newspaper research are covered.  Particular importance is paid to learning how to dissect information out of stories as well as module after module on what information can be ferreted out of said articles.

I am looking forward to learning more about the information I will find in newspapers.  However, I know that I can always brush up on my search technique which means Module 6 will most likely end up being the one I find the most helpful.

On that note, off I go to learn about newspaper research.  See you online!


Learning More About US Court Records

Couthouse at Gulfport, Mississippi. Mississippi Dept of Archives and History. Flickr the Commons.

Couthouse at Gulfport, Mississippi. Mississippi Dept of Archives and History. Flickr the Commons.


by Shannon Combs Bennett, Student

Who doesn’t love a good court record?  If you haven’t researched this type of record set, by the end of this blog post I hope you will investigate it more. While the amount of genealogical information can be overwhelming, the rewards are numerous. Due to the amount of information I have found over the years in court records I was very excited to take the course, U.S. Court Records authored by Ann Staley, CG.  I am always on the lookout for new information that I may have overlooked in the past, or something I simply didn’t know about.

Some of my favorite records to search are Chancery records, a type of court record relevant in states with a colonial past. These are the courts where you would go to have something divided, such as in the case of  a divorce, business dissolvent, or arguments over an estate.  Let’s face it, when our ancestors argued they left great records!  While these types of records were covered briefly I did learn a lot more about the types of records available across multiple jurisdictions.

By the end of the course I realized you could easily spend years studying court records looking for all aspects of your ancestor’s life!  Remember, they didn’t have to be a criminal to be mentioned in these records. Naturalizations were done on the local level for many years before becoming a federal process as were vital record registrations in many places. Thinking you will only find the bad deeds of your ancestors will only  limit the research you do for your ancestry.

The further I was in the course the more I realized there is a lot to remember and take in when you research court records.  Not only is there the history of the laws, but there are jurisdictions, and types of courts.  I am not sure how people can remember it all!  Which means I was counting on this course to be a reference guide for me in the future.  The instructor for this course, Ann Staley, did an excellent job laying it all out, keeping it organized, and giving the student the resources they needed to understand the material.

If you look over the syllabus for the course you will notice it is quite extensive.  The course has 6 modules and includes a couple of case studies with an appendix which includes supplemental information for use in and out of the course.  I was particularly interested in learning more about territorial records and courts which was not what pops into my mind as a place to research for court records.

I am sure you will find this a useful and informative course for researching your ancestors in US court records.  It is really one of those that can take your studies to that next level!

See you online!



Planning a Research Trip: Salt Lake City

Microfilm at the Family History Library. (c) 2016 Shannon Combs- Bennett

Microfilm at the Family History Library. (c) 2016 Shannon Combs- Bennett

By Shannon Combs-Bennett, Student

The Family History Library (FHL) in Salt Lake City, Utah is one of those dream research locations for genealogists. Many people plan for years to take just one trip to this world famous library. Others are lucky enough to go on a regular pilgrimage to this repository. I thought having a section on researching in Salt Lake City was a wonderful addition to the Planning A Research Trip Including Preparing for Salt Lake City course. Once again, there are tips and tricks in there that I wish I had known about before I made my first, or even, last trip!

I have gone to the Family History Library (FHL)  twice, and I am getting ready to go for my third trip in February 2017.  In my past trips  I had only 1 day at the FHL, but this time I am excited to put what I learned in this course to good use and spend multiple days there.

When I  go also corresponds with the  RootsTech conference, so it is a crazy time in the area. Other times of the year are less packed, but at other times of the year you cannot run into so many people from the genealogy  community all doing what we love…research.  While my experiences may not match yours (from the past or in the future) I hope you can see why I think the last two modules of this  course are so valuable.

Not only do the course instructors walk the students through how to navigate the Library but also Salt Lake City and other facilities that are of importance to researchers.  Until this course I knew little about the Joseph Smith Memorial Building (JSMB).  The JSMB holds some records that are only found on microfilm at the FHL as well as having computers for research and places to eat.  The one thing I can vouch for is the JSMB café.  I ate there once and it was very, very good food for a reasonable price.

After these two blog posts I hope you will consider taking this course if you are preparing for a research trip.  The information contained was extremely informative, and no matter your level, very useful. Interested in hearing more about this course? I’ll be talking about this course and my Salt Lake City tips in a Virtual Meeting on Monday, January 9th at 12:00pm EST.

On that note I am off to spend the time I have left before RootsTech doing my research prep.  Say hi if you see me there, otherwise I will see you online!

Starting Planning a Research Trip

Shannon at the Family History Library. (c) 2016 Shannon Combs-Bennett. Used with permission.

Shannon at the Family History Library. (c) 2016 Shannon Combs-Bennett. Used with permission.

By Shannon Combs-Bennett, Student

When I started out on this genealogy path I thought I had a pretty good grasp of what it took to visit a research facility. Boy, was I wrong!  True, I knew how to use most search features on the computer, plus a card catalog, but there was so much more to a trip than I realized. I wish I knew about the course Planning a Research Trip Including Preparing for Salt Lake City  before I took my first major research trip.

That is not to say that if you think you are an old hat at research  this course won’t be useful. Far from it. I am sure this blog post will prove to you that there is something for everyone in this course.

My  first big research trip (away from home) was to the Allen County Library in Ft. Wayne, which was also at the same time as the Federation of Genealogical Societies conference that year. I was making it a comprehensive trip, since I am from Indiana, which meant that not only did I visit large and small repositories, family members, and dozens of cemeteries.  It was a great time, but it could have gone so much better. How do I know?  Well, I am still working on processing the data from that trip since I saved information in so many different ways and places.

The first two modules of this course were fantastic in walking you through what to expect, how to prepare, and what to do when you get home from your trip.  All those things I didn’t really take time to think about before my first trip. Like how to transport my research home safe and sound.

For my trip I was lucky enough to be able to stay with family. Many people when they take a research trip will not be so lucky.  It was a nice touch that our instructors talked about how to learn more on where to find good lodging, navigating a new place, and other details that may normally fall through the cracks.

When I travel it is usually with my family and I try to do activities outside of research with them as well. However, one tip from the course that I thought important was to consider attending a local genealogical or historical society meeting. There you might meet someone who is familiar with where, or even who, you are researching. Those types of networking opportunities are wonderful, and I encourage you to take advantage of them.

I’m looking forward to what more I can learn from Planning a Research Trip Including Preparing for Salt Lake City.

See you online!

The Importance of Analysis and Skills Mentoring

Image courtesy of Stoonn at

Image courtesy of Stoonn at

By Shannon Combs-Bennett, Student

If you are working towards a certificate at The National Institute for Genealogical Studies,  the Analysis and Skills Mentoring 12, and 3 courses are required subjects. However, as you will read below, they are also great ways to test if your genealogy methodology and research skills are up to par. I wrote previously about Analysis and Skills Mentoring 1 in this blog post so you can get an idea about that course. This blog post takes a look at both Analysis and Skills Mentoring 2 and 3 because they have the same elements and each one builds upon the other.

The main difference between Analysis and Skills Mentoring 1 and the other two courses is that Analysis and Skills Mentoring 2 and 3 require you to transcribe and abstract a document. This can be one of the more difficult assignments for students.  Many feel it is because everyone has a different style of how they transcribe or abstract.  And, while this may be aesthetically true for abstracts, a transcription is a true-to-life copy of the original.  That fact by itself means that if you adhere to the guidelines taught in the course you will be fine.  Abstractions are the ones that I feel can be more difficult.  To me, beyond deleting the boiler point information, it feels almost subjective as to what you should leave in or take out.

Beyond the transcription and abstraction, your assignments  include a series of research questions that test the skills you should have learned through the intermediate level (AS 2) and advanced level (AS 3) courses.  I didn’t feel they were too difficult, as long as you take your time and read through everything.  In one instance I rushed through an assignment, but luckily I put it to the side and came back later to review my work before submitting.  There were a couple glaring errors which should have stood out to me the first time!  So big tip: read and the re-read your submissions.

All three Analysis and Skills Mentoring courses have a National Genealogical Society Quarterly journal article to read and analyze.  A lot of the students I talked with thought the Analysis and Skills Mentoring 2 reading, Organizing Meager Evidence to Reveal Lineages: An Irish Example-Geddes of Tyrone by Dr. Thomas W Jones, Ph.D., CG, CGL, was a bit harder than the Analysis and Skills Mentoring 3 article, Identification through Signatures: Using Complex Direct Evidence to Sort Colwills of Cornwall by Ronald A Hill, Ph.D., CG.  In fact, many felt it was the most difficult article of all  three courses.  This may be, in my opinion, because it is a bit more theoretical and there are some great “get you thinking” type questions.

On that note, I hope you feel a little more prepared to jump into the Analysis and Skills Mentoring courses.  Remember, you have a full year to complete the course.  So there’s no need to rush, especially through the transcriptions.  You also have two instructor consultations per course which is a great way to get feedback from instructors at The National Institute on what you may need to work more on.  Plus, there are always Article Review Virtual Meeting (and Analysis and Skills Mentoring General Virtual Meeting) sessions you can join in when you get to a sticking point with the articles.  If you take your time, and take advantage of the resources made available to you, these courses will be no problem.

See you online!