Today I participated in the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) Professional Management Conference (PMC) virtually. I was unable to get to Salt Lake City for the conference but fortunately for me APG partnered with FamilySearch to live stream four of the presentations. The first one was today on "Variables in Professional Genealogists' Approaches to Research" given by Thomas W. Jones, Ph.D., CG, CGL, FASG, FUGA, FNGS.
After the presentation Tom Jones took questions from the audience on the application of the lessons learned from the research presented. As most of you know I have a heavy focus on genealogy education and so Tom's comments on this topic were of particular interest to me.
First, he said that genealogy education is moving in the right direction by:
1) providing more advanced education, and
2) making it available to many more people.
He recommended the genealogy institutes as "higher level education" including the Institute for Genealogy and Historical Research (IGHR) which has been providing instruction since 1964, the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG), and the new Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP). He also mentioned the Boston University online Certificate Program in Genealogical Research and emphasized that it has now been accredited for three hours of graduate level credit.
He highlighted genealogy webinars for making educational programs available to many more people, as well as FamilySearch advanced online video presentations and courses. Ten years ago most genealogy education was at community colleges or library beginner courses, except for IGHR at Samford and SLIG. Now there are better offerings.
Second, he made a distinction between genealogical "skills" and "knowledge." Skills refer to methodology and research techniques. Knowledge refers to known facts about records of a certain locality. Skills are harder to acquire. It is easier to learn the records of a new area if you are already well versed in research methodology. If you do not have good research skills then you will not be as successful in using the records you learn about.
Third, one of the participant brought up the point that ten years of experience in genealogy may not all be equal. A year in 1980 when it took much longer to locate and use census records is not the same as accessing them today in just a few minutes online. Tom agreed with her premise, but mentioned that he learned thinks in 1980 that genealogists today have little exposure to. Cranking microfilm page after page after page is a very different experience than putting a name in a search engine and going directly to a hit. He cited an example of when a person thought an index was wrong because it gave a different city for port of arrival than was printed at the top of the form. From his experience with scrolling through microfilm he knew to go back to the first page of the record and indeed the city indexed was correct as it was handwritten on the first page. He suggested that education needs to include the contextual information on records and lessons learned from previous methods of research.
The last few lessons learned will have to wait for part 2.
Now, the reason that these lessons were unexpected was because the presentation was on research that Tom and I had conducted together. He was reporting on a study that we did involving the students in the Advanced Evidence Analysis Practicum course at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy in 2012. I was familiar with the subject matter as I have reviewed his presentation last week, and he did a great job with the presentation. It was during the question and answer period at the end that I was pleasantly surprised by the comments and insights Tom shared on the state of genealogy education, and his recommendations for advanced study (see the second post tomorrow).