I took the online version of BU's certificate program. The plus side is that you can do it from home. In theory you can work when you want at your own pace, but the course is broken into modules and those modules have to be completed within a certain time to earn a certificate. There are is a forum to interact and exchange ideas with other students in the class. The down side is that I think you make fewer connections in a strictly online program that lasts only a few months. There is a mailing list for the NGS program as well. Since the course can take years rather than months, there may be more opportunities for connections. I signed up with another student from BU. We encourage each other, set a target date for the next lesson and can discuss the process with someone in the same position. Working with someone else adds a little bit of structure to keep on track. Otherwise it is easy to keep postponing something which is difficult, intimidating or out of your comfort zone. We are each a little competitive too which is great incentive.
Having taken the BU certificate course, I thought the NGS course might be easy, but this is challenging too. Learning about records, planning and following through on trips to repositories, and skill building how to present what I've learned, all the while being able to use my own ancestors for many assignments allows me to learn and add to my family tree at the same time.
Having meandered through research just for the fun of it for years, I am mindful of eliminating old habits which would immediately identify me as an amateur. There is some real mental discipline involved in doing solid research. That's a work in progress since I still can get distracted by something especially interesting.
My goal is to become a professional and to do really good work that I can be proud of. I think what I learned from BU and now what I will learn from NGS will give me a solid foundation. There are so many more things I want to learn and to do, but there doesn't seem to be enough time to get to them all!
I take the research very seriously, but I don't taken myself too seriously. If I make a mistake I can laugh, AFTER I correct it!
Who knew that all those courthouses, libraries, archives, etc had a name? Now I know, they are repositories and I am tickled that I know that name. I love what I am learning, and I love all of the wonderful sites, blogs, books, places and people I am meeting as I learn.
When I look back, my first repository visit was to a County Historical Society. I thought I came prepared, but I had no plan, I didn't write down everything about the sources I consulted, and even though the employees were very helpful, I would have to make a return trip to be confident in using my notes. Today, I would:
- Understand the place I am going, how to use it and what the rules are
- Formulate a specific question to research
- Have a plan and be familiar with the catalog
- Bring my background research with me
- Take good notes, particulary regarding the sources
- Identify any photocopies completely and accurately on the copy
- Read and follow directions