Do I need to take expert genealogy classes?

Maybe.  Do I think you need to take continuing education seriously….YES!  To me the point of certification is to obtain some definable minimal standard of competence.  Notice the word “minimal”.  I certainly do not think that education ends with certification.  What I do not know is whether taking some of the comprehensive courses such as BYU, Boston U or Samford’s are necessary.  In looking at the literature from BCG attendance at a series of the expert classes is not required but it certainly might be valuable.  I have decided at this time not to; I am going a different direction.

I have started taking the University of Washington’s “Genealogy and Family History” year long series of classes.  It is obvious, based on the composition of the class that they accept the full range of genealogists (“never evers” to very experienced).  There are many more “never evers” than experienced.  That’s not so good for me, but….one of the teachers is an historian.  He wants to add historical context to our family stories.  This enrichment is something I have done with the two books I have published on my family (more about that later).  For example, one immigrant landed in NYC in 1864.  Who would immigrate in the middle of the Civil War?  Think about what the reaction of the family would be to landing in NYC, the supply depot for the Union Army at the time.   Knowledge of this historical context can allow us to make educated suppositions about motivations and their resultant actions.

I will keep you posted on the class and its discussions.

Right now I have four projects going on:

  1. Client report on Jens T. Dahle of Norway (active)
  2. assignment which will lead to a major paper at the end of the class on Grietje Wientjes (active)
  3. Case study on Grietje Wientjes for certification (at rest)
  4. Lineage report on my Swedish side of the family (at rest)

I have ordered the naturalization papers for Jens and his Civil War Record.  I have three books on hold at the UW library on Minnesota regiments in the Civil War and three items on order through inter-library loan on Norwegian immigration.  Can’t wait for the Civil War records to come.  I ordered an historical newspaper of Stephenson Co. IL through inter-library loan for  one of my class assignments.  I have a friend looking for the death certificates for the Case Study because the obituary wasn’t in the paper.  I am confident that the reading of these documents will make me a more knowledgeable writer of the various reports needed for certification, my client and my class.

Caution:  Certification requires that the portfolio be only of your work.  I cannot use any of my papers for the certification process in the assignments for the class.

It is great to have an academic library available to me.  Not only to be able to access such great resources but, because I work at the U, they deliver to my office!

I have digressed a bit, but maybe not as much as it might seem….it is important, I think before, during and after that one continue to expand your personal body of knowledge about whatever you are passionate about.  I might find I regret not taking one of the high powered series of classes, and maybe I will change my mind later, but so far I am content with my decision not to.

Happy hunting!


What I have done since the last post:  attended my first two classes of Genealogy & Family History at UW.  Ordered a lot of materials, documents, books and manuscripts.  Gathered more vital record information about Jens T. Dahle and his lineage.   Jen’s family is getting harder to track; I would like to get three full generations of all of his lines for my client.  I am back at the late 1700’s right now.  I did find out that my client’s grandmother’s middle name was my client’s grandmother’s great grandmother’s given name.  (good luck sorting that out!j)


6 comments on “Do I need to take expert genealogy classes?

  1. Welcome to the GeneaBloggers family. Hope you find the association fruitful; I sure do. I have found it most stimulating, especially some of the Daily Themes.

    May you keep sharing your ancestor stories!

    Dr. Bill 😉
    Author of “13 Ways to Tell Your Ancestor Stories” and family saga novels:
    “Back to the Homeplace” and “The Homeplace Revisited”

    • jkmorelli says:

      You might be interested in checking out my ancestor stories…. I publish on You can either search on my name or on “Ryke” and “Bengt”. These are the first words of each of the two books. While not up to NGS standards, I believe they are very readable for my family, who was the intended audience. Please feel free to post at any time. I look forward to the dialog.

  2. I am getting ready to begin the certification process myself. Looking forward to following your progress and insights into the process.

    • jkmorelli says:

      Welcome aboard. Please share your thoughts here or form your own blog. I would be very interested in your insights and your journey as well.

  3. Kristie Strum says:

    I’m on a path toward certification, but I haven’t begun the formal work yet. I’m actually in the Boston University certificate program right now, and while I agree that it might not be necessary, I am finding it valuable. However, I’m in a weird situation where I’ve been learning genealogy all my life (my mom is the family historian, and has been for over 30 years), but I only really realized my own love of it somewhat recently and I know I need the educational background the BU program is providing. It’s a lot of work, though! Much more than I was anticipating, and a bit challenging to fit in while working full-time.

    I noticed you mentioned Minnesota regiments during the Civil War; I live in Minnesota, so if there’s anything I can help you with, don’t hesitate to ask. They didn’t all start here, but all my family ended up in the state eventually, so I’m relatively familiar with what’s available here (our mid-decade censuses from 1855-1905 are really helpful, and there are territorial censuses I haven’t had a chance to check out yet). I’m taking my first trip to the Minnesota History Center (where the Minnesota Historical Society Library is) very soon for my coursework. I don’t know a lot about the Civil War stuff right now, though I’m learning some as I go because a Swedish immigrant ancestor served in it, and I hope to have more time to learn more once the BU program in done mid-December.

    • jkmorelli says:

      Thanks for the offer of searching in the MN archives. So far I have gotten what I need with interlibrary loan. I am envious of your participation in the BU program. I admit, however, the UW program is not very rigorous.

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