Monday, September 26, 2011

My Genealogy Education Binder

As genealogists, we're constantly learning. Whether it's new ways to approach an old problem or learning about a new technology for genealogy, there's always something around the corner that we need to know about. At least once a week, I come across something that would be helpful for my research. It may be a blog post or article, notes I've taken while watching a webinar or taking a self-directed course, or the syllabus and handouts from a class I have taken.

When I originally started out trying to keep track of all the information I had on topics related to genealogy, I didn't foresee how much I would eventually amass. So at first, I just stuck everything in a manila folder and stuck it in the file rack on my desk.

While this system kept all my education material in one central location, it had one major drawback. Whenever I wanted to refresh my memory on a certain topic, I had to dig through a lot of paper to find the one I was looking for. After a few times of this happening, I decided that I needed a better way to handle this mountain of paper.

In effort to organize these papers, I ended up with a large binder subdivided into topic areas, which are organized alphabetically. In effect, I have designed my own genealogy textbook, personalized to my needs. So if I want to refresh my memory on say researching in land records, I just flip to that section of the binder to access all the information I have on that topic.

At the moment, my genealogy education binder consists of the following sections
  • Brick Walls
  • Cemetery Research
  • Census Records
  • Church Records
  • Courthouse Research
  • DNA
  • Family History Travel
  • Immigration
  • Land Records
  • Lawsuits
  • Location-Based Genealogy
  • Maps
  • Military Records 
  • Names
  • Native American Research
  • Naturalization
  • Newspaper Research
  • Occupations
  • Pensions
  • Photographs
  • Repository Research
  • Reunions
  • Tax Records
  • Vital Records
  • Wills & Probate
  • Writing Family History
You will notice that some categories overlap. This is intentional because while an item may fit in one category, it may offer advice on another area as well. If a particular item I'm adding to the notebook fits more than one category, I file it in the first category it fits and then add a cross-reference in the other categories.

The beauty of the education binder is that it can always be added to. If I decided to start learning a new area of genealogy, say German research, I just add a divider at the appropriate place in the notebook to start a new section. When it outgrows the current binder, I can move it to a bigger one or divide it into multiple binders.

At the very front of my genealogy education binder, I have a log where I record classes, self-directed courses, webinars and conferences I have attended. I eventually would like to become certified and/or accredited as a genealogist. I know that ICAPGEN requires applicants have at least 1,000 hours of experience, education and training in the area for which they are applying for accreditation. The log allows me to track my education hours. It also serves as a reference I can look to when choosing new classes to take so I don't end up repeating something I've already taken.

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