School just started back this week and it made me think of how much I liked to learn (and still do). Here I am in the 3rd grade.

I remember getting excited for the first day and seeing all my friends again. When we were young, my mom would take us to Sears to buy several new outfits for the year. I think the brand was called Lemon Tree, but it was more like Garanimals where you matched the tags to put the pieces of the outfit together. Anyway, it was a fun time of year. I seem to get that same type of excitement now that I’m studying genealogy.

There is always something new to learn and so many ways to learn it…webinars, journals, podcasts, conferences, institutes, and classes. I’ve tried them all and LOVE them all!

Currently, I’m enrolled in the ProGen Study Group, a 15-month course based on the book “Professional Genealogy,” edited by Elizabeth Shown Mills.1

So far I have learned how to give constructive and valuable feedback (it’s harder than it seems), how to transcribe and abstract documents and how to cite sources. In genealogy being able to get back to a source you used or how to show someone else how to find it is very important. Citing your sources also shows the scope of your research and that you have exhausted every avenue looking for answers. It is one of the factors that take you from a hobby genealogist to a more serious one.

At the beginning of the summer, I learned about evidence analysis. Starting with a research question (what you want to know), you look at the sources you have found and analyze them. You are noting any background information needed regarding laws and customs of the time, etc., and looking at the source itself. Is it an original source or was it derived from an original source? If possible, you want to look at as many original documents as we can.

Next, examine the information the source is giving us. Is it primary where the informant had firsthand knowledge of the event or is it secondary where the information was of the secondhand variety? Sometimes you don’t know what kind of information it is because the informant was unknown! Most census records are classified as undetermined information because they don’t reveal who the informant was.

The last thing we are looking at is the type of evidence we have found. Does it directly answer our research question? Or does it give us a clue and we still need to look elsewhere?

You may think, now what do I do with all of this? YOU WRITE!!

For the past 2 months, the assignment has been to write and rewrite a research report. After the first report was turned in, I received valuable feedback from my peers. I took those suggestions and rewrote the report. Feedback is the primary tool used in the ProGen Study Group. It’s how we all learn from one another and gain insight into other methods of reaching our goals.

Writing, in general, is key to improving your genealogy skills. When you write you make connections that you wouldn’t otherwise. Your brain is engaged in the process and you start asking better questions that lead to finding the answers you seek. I am still a math girl, but writing is a mandatory element of good genealogical practices.

If you’re interested in the ProGen Study group, go to for more information.

Genealogy Tip: Make an education plan. Do you want to take a class, listen to a podcast on a regular basis or perhaps go to a conference or institute? All will help you further your education and make you a better, more efficient genealogist.

1 Elizabeth Shown Mills, editor, Professional Genealogy: Preparation, Practice & Standards, (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, Inc., 2018).

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