Monday, July 16, 2012


The best thing I ever did for myself as a genealogist was to attend the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy and IGHR at Samford University.

The second best thing was to volunteer to abstract and index local courthouse records under the auspices of my local genealogical society.

Those two things may seem incommensurate, but they're not. No class, no course, and no brilliant instructor can substitute for hanging out with the records a few hours a week, especially when you're starting out.

I was reminded of this last week, when I was wading through 1840s-era handwriting in loose probate papers and found a relatively clear diagram drawn up by a diligent executor. He listed 19 debts owed to the estate, and for each he then listed the amount he deemed likely to be collectable. In effect, it was a credit report for a handful of individuals living in La Porte County, Indiana, in late 1844. And while the record appeared in a probate file, the people being reported on were not dead, nor were they heirs.

You could do a lot of personal and client research and not run into this kind of item. And of course such things are not readily accessible unless someone has indexed the loose papers -- or unless someone turns the courthouse upside down and shakes it by investigating associates of associates, Elizabeth Shown Mills style. (If you want an example, check out JAMB's recording of her "Margaret's Baby's Father & The Lessons He Taught Me!," presentation F-144 from FGS Philadelphia 2008 -- one of the great genealogy experiences.)

It's not the only form of continuing education, but it's a good one. And it contributes to the profession as well.

(Not that you asked, but #3 would be joining the ProGen Study Group, #4 entering the NGS writing contest, and #5 attending the best national conferences [NGS and FGS].)

Harold Henderson, "Volunteer," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 16 July 2012 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

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