25 September 2008

My Education - Past, Present & Future

I've had a few people (more than 1) ask me about my structured education. From 2003 to 2008 I totally immersed myself in education. I looked for any opportunity to gain experience.


Monterey Peninsula College - Karen Clifford, AG offers 4 semester long classes - Family Research Studies I - IV. These are 3 unit courses. All 4 semesters are completely online classes. We had an assignment every week, reading every day, discussions everyday. And Tests. Pop Quizzes, Mid Terms and Finals. Ms. Clifford is a wonderful teacher and expects her students to learn the very basics so that you get to a point that you don't even think about things, you just do them. As for Ms. Clifford's credentials:
Karen Clifford, A.G., is Founder and President of Genealogy Research Associates, Inc. She is an Instructor in the Associates Degree programs in Library Science-Genealogy and Computers at Hartnell College (Salinas, California) and Monterey Peninsula College (Monterey, California).
Although an Accredited Genealogist in Midwestern States Research, she specialized for years prior to that in Southern States and Scandinavian Research. She has authored several family histories and national textbooks including Genealogy & Computers for the Complete Beginner; Genealogy & Computers for the Determined Researcher; Genealogy & Computers For the Advanced Researcher; and Becoming an Accredited Genealogist..
Karen currently serves as Vice-president of the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) and President of the Utah Genealogical Association (UGA). In 1999, she was the Director of UGA's Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy. She is a member of the California State Genealogy Alliance, Association of Professional Genealogists, National Genealogical Society, New England Historic Genealogical Society and was the founding President of the Monterey County Genealogy Society. She was Director of the Monterey California Family History Center.
She has received the FGS Award of Merit.

You go to classes in kind of a virtual classroom and "talk" with classmates daily. Up to this point, I was self-taught and thought that I knew quite a bit. I began with the first beginner class and I have to tell you, I did not know as much as I thought I did. I am so glad I found these classes. I learned from one of the best in the field and had the best classmates. In fact there were 7 of us who started in class I and continued through all 4 semesters. We still meet every February in Monterey for lunch and a reunion.
The price was right and you will come away from this class a much better genealogist - California residents pay only $20 per unit plus, your student body fees and your books. MPC website - http://www.mpc.edu/Pages/default.aspx Over in the left hand column is a link for distance learning. Click it and the classes you want are LIB60, LIB61, LIB62 and LIB63.

The National Genealogical Society has a home study course that is very good. I am glad I completed the classes at MPC before taking these courses. The Home Study Course - American Genealogy is another great option. My personal opinion is that you really must choose the option to have your work graded. It costs more but well worth it. You'll find the information here:


Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. This is Genealogy Nirvana. One week usually in the first couple weeks of June. Once you have some experience under your belt this is the place to be to get your genealogical groove-on. See my previous blogs about Samford for the experience of a lifetime. The website for IGHR is:



In August 2006 I attended the week long Family History Conference at Brigham Young University. This is similar to any major conference - tracks of 1 hours lectures all day long. Well over 150 lectures to choose from over a 4 day period. I stayed in the dorms and ate in the cafeteria at BYU to save money. My first time away from home by myself and I learned so much. Most of the people who attended were Mormons. I am not Mormon and if you thought my Samford Experience was funny, you should have heard the stories about this one.

Picture if you will - Me, the pack-a-day smoker, caffeine/coffee 24/7 guzzler, short skirts and my favorite bathing suits - who shows up on the appointed day only to find that my welcome kit did not include a "How you must behave and what you cannot wear when staying on campus you stupid Catholic Girl" brochure.

I wasn't allowed in the cafeteria or the library or any building on campus without the proper attire. I have no problem playing by any rules as long as I know what they are in advance. My guess is that the organizers assume that all the attendees are Mormon. Well I informed them that I was not and that for future conferences - this issue should be addressed so that know one has to go through what I did. I said it as nice as I could but damn it I was hungry and they wouldn't let me eat!

I won't bore you with the details (hee hee), but thank goodness my teacher - Karen Clifford was presenting lectures at the conference and also lived nearby. When she heard of my misfortune of being mis-informed, she came over to my dorm with a weeks worth of appropriate clothing for me to borrow. Bless her little heart. It was the nicest thing anyone had ever done for me.

Once I got over the ugly first day, I was glad I stayed. I attended lectures by Kory Meyerink who is such a genea-legend and a very nice man to boot! I highly recommend that you attend this conference Mormon or not. There is a wealth of information to be had for the taking.

I also take advantage of every local and semi-local genealogy events that I possibly can. The California State Archives in Sacramento has a yearly Family History Day. This free event, the 9th annual, will be October 11, 2008 - 8:30AM to 4:00 PM and the link can be found here:

http://www.sos.ca.gov/archives/level3_famhistday.html I am going to this great event - anyone want to join me?


Joining your local genealogical and/or historical society is very useful in your education.

Volunteers are needed everywhere. Here is my list:

I am the registrar for my local DAR chapter

I am the editor (until we can find somebody) of my local gen. society newsletter.

I was on the team of transcribers from the Missouri State Archives who brought you the online Death Certificates. I also transcribe land records for the MSA.

I am a transcriber for the Immigrant Ancestor Project over at Brigham Young University. I transcribe passenger lists, but have been working on the East India Company Writer's applications for the last year. I love this project.

I am indexing books from the DAR library for their database. And I transcribe member application for the Descendants Project for DAR.

I transcribed the headstone inscriptions for every cemetery in the county of Poweshiek and part of Pocahontas County, Iowa for their Tombstone Project at Iowagenweb.

I am a volunteer for Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness for San Joaquin County. I look up obits for people who do not live in the area.

I do all of these things for the experience but mostly to give back to the community. I cannot begin to tell you about all the people who gave freely of their time to help me along. The price of their help? Pay it forward and volunteer your time to help an individual or the community.


Currently I participate in 2 different online study groups. One is the ProGen study group. The participants were divided into into groups and using the book by Elizabeth Shown Mills "Professional Genealogy", we spend about two to four hours a month participating in group discussions, "homework" assignments and the peer review process. When we formed this study group our mission was and still is:
"This group will require a certain level of dedication and effort from its members in order for the whole of us to reach our unified goal, which is to achieve a higher level of efficiency and competency as professional genealogists."

The other I participate in is the Transitional Genealogists Study Group (TGSG). We were again divided into groups and meet once a month in an online chat. In this group, an NGSQuarterly (or other) article is read by the group at least 3 times prior to meeting. Then based on that in-depth reading and analysis we discuss whether the author proved their point. It is great exercise for creating and analyzing proof summaries and narrative genealogies, both elements of the certification packet. It is this last point that is especially meaningful to me as I am trying to get my portfolio finished and sent in before the end of the year.


Your education is never really over. It is an ongoing process. New ways of accessing records, someone discovers a brilliant method of research to share with the world, new technology to use in our research, the list goes on. I feel certain that I finally have a good solid background in genealogical and historical research. With that solid base I have been able to add different techniques and creative thinking to create my own unique way of getting the job done.


  1. Thanks for sharing your educational path. I was one of those who asked and I appreciate the information.

  2. Hi Sheri,

    This was a wonderful and very informative article! You have been totally wrapped up haven't you? Thank you so much for sharing. I am always interested in the paths those take to get where they are. I have taken some online classes and now the classes at the Jr College, will see where I go after this. I will check out the classes from Monterey for sure. Thanks for accomodating those of us who were wanting to know!


  3. Sheri, forgot to tell you, if I wasn't in a class already I would have loved to go with you to Sacramento! ;-)


  4. As someone who clapped their hands in delight when I first found the Missouri Death Certificates posted online, I wanted to say thank you. A branch of my family went to Missouri and I was hitting some brick walls, but thanks to those wonderful online images I was able to go -"Oh, well that makes sense," and solve some of the mysteries.

    I loved your story about your seminar "adventures" in Utah. You are my kinda woman. Thanks for an interesting, funny and informative article.