2012 – Intermediate Genealogy: Tools for Digging Deeper

Coordinator: Paula Stuart-Warren, CG, FMGS, FUGA
Instructor: D. Joshua Taylor, MA, MLS

See course photos below.

Are you beyond the beginning stages of researching your family history? At this point you probably have checked the basic records but still have blanks on your pedigrees and family group sheets. You may need tips on records as well as how to use analytical skills to evaluate them. We will delve deeper into a variety of records, some of which are new to you, and where they may be accessed. During the week there will be some hands-on projects, small group discussions, and full class interaction as we develop research plans, delve into the records, and learn what may get those family blanks filled in.

The course covers 19th through 21st century U.S. records and includes online resources. Prior to the course students will be able to send the coordinator a research issue or two along with a listing of the U.S. places where their ancestors resided. The course includes some “homework” that is optional but highly suggested. Students often find they like those learning exercises. An extensive syllabus including online sources is provided.

Paula Stuart-Warren on the first day


Door prize winner of Evidence Explained thanks to publisher Genealogical Publishing Company!



REQUIREMENTS: While not required, it is suggested that you bring along a netbook, laptop, or iPad for taking notes and for the week’s projects. Make sure you bring along some of your own family research (either as a database or in paper form).


8:30–9:45 a.m.  Analyzing Documents Workshop: Self-Judging Your Expertise I (Stuart-Warren)
Are there times you question your analysis of a document? It’s likely you can do a better job than you give yourself credit for. In these two sessions we will analyze a document, prepare a research plan, and discuss it. Then we will break into groups and do analysis and research preparation of a different document that will evolve into a class project for the week. The result: a solid research plan, recognition of the value of discussion with other genealogists, and the sharing of knowledge to help attain the sought-after research goals. The morning sessions will also include discussion of the research problems submitted by the students.

10:15–11:30 a.m. Analyzing Documents Workshop: Self-Judging Your Expertise II (Stuart-Warren)

1:00–2:15 p.m.  Printed Legends and Missing Footnotes: Dissecting 19th and 20th Century Compiled Genealogies (Taylor)
Discover the methods used in the 19th and early 20th century to create a compiled genealogy, and how to ensure its information does not lead you down the wrong trail.

2:45–4:00 p.m.  Vital Records and Substitutes: More than Names and Dates (Stuart-Warren)
Laws, statutes, doctors, midwives, ministers, justices of the peace, clerks, and other people all affect what we find for the births, deaths, and marriages related to ancestral families. In this session we’ll discuss those, analyze birth, death, and marriage records, learn about some of the hundreds of alternate sources, and those that enable us to build a case for the sound estimation of the date, place, and other details.

4:00–4:30 p.m.  Optional Class Roundtable Discussion; Q&A


8:30–9:45 a.m.  Citing and Sighting Your Sources (Stuart-Warren)
Without a citation for a document or other item found, how do you find you way back to consult the original if needed? The newspaper where the obituary was found deserves credit. The second cousin who sent the old letters also deserves credit. Future family historians need to know where you found the details you posted online or wrote in the family history. Learn about the elements of citations, preparing your own style sheet, and how to use the citations to demonstrate the depth of your research and knowledge.

10:15–11:30 a.m.  Building Context and Making Connections: Using JSTOR for Family History (Taylor)
Thousands of potential resources await you at JSTOR, an online collection of scholarly publications from across the world. Discover how JSTOR can help your research during this guided, step-by-step view of the database and its search functions.

1:00–2:15 p.m. Original Manuscripts: Finding Aids Online and Off (Stuart-Warren)
Manuscripts often hold details not found anywhere else. Usually, these one-of-a-kind documents might turn up in a repository almost anywhere. Today we have a myriad of finding aids in print and electronically to help us locate family letters, scrapbooks, church records, and more that may have migrated from Pennsylvania to California, from Indiana to Texas, or anywhere else.

2:45–4:00 p.m. Probate Records: More Details than Expected (Stuart-Warren)
Probate. Simple word, but the records of a probate (or similar court) usually hold more than dealing with the estate of a deceased person. Estate records themselves often hold family relationships, ages, birth and death details, current and former residences, finances,  occupational details, land ownership, marriage situations, and other helpful data. Add adult and minor guardianships, institutional commitments, apprenticeships, and you have a set of court records that must not be overlooked.

4:00–4:30 p.m.  Optional Small Group Discussion


8:30–9:45 a.m.  Land and Tax Records: They Tell Stories (Taylor)
Land and tax records often deliver hidden gems for genealogists. Discover methods and techniques for making the most out of these two important record sets and how to expand your search for land records beyond the grantor and grantee indexes.

10:15–11:30 a.m.  Civil & Criminal Court Records (Stuart-Warren)
Litigious society today? It’s nothing new. A few scallywags in the family (distant cousins, of course)? Also nothing new. The files, volumes, calendars, minutes, and indexes we find in such court records contain vital family history details.  Divorces, adoptions, land and tax disputes, inheritance issues, minor/major illegal activities, and business dealings are just some of what might be found.

1:00–2:15 p.m.  U.S. Military Service: Often Overlooked 19th & 20th Century Records (Stuart-Warren)
Bonus payments, organizations of comrades, discharge records, state level records, adjutant general records, correspondences, relief records, Congressional records and other important items may add significant details and understanding to the basic military information for our ancestors.

2:45–4:00 p.m.  They Moved: Acclimating Yourself to Research in “New” Localities (Taylor)
Each move of an ancestor can mean learning a new set of records, repositories, and other idiosyncrasies.  Learn how to create a detailed locality profile for areas you are researching and make the most of online resources to feel “at home” when approaching any new locality.

4:00–4:30 p.m. Optional discussion on reports and analysis concerning submitted student research problems.


8:30–9:45 a.m.  Step Away from the Computer: Exploring State Archives (Stuart-Warren)
State archives are treasure troves of genealogical details.  Learn about the town, city, county and state records as well as those of some businesses, individuals, and organizations that may be found and about some of the finding aids.

10:15–11:30 a.m.  Federal Government Records: More than Census (Stuart-Warren)
Ask a group of genealogists what the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration has for genealogical research and the most likely answers are pension and census records. A listing of additional federal agency records of value for our research would easily fill up many pages. We’ll cover some of these amazing records, finding aids to assist in the search, and how to access these aids and the records.

1:00–2:15 p.m.  Newspapers: Not Just for Funerals (Stuart-Warren)
Think about your ancestors’ lives and in what they were involved. Might there be some record of them in a daily, weekly, or specialty newspaper or perhaps one for their religion, their ethnic group, their occupation, or political belief? We will delve into “other” types of notices and newspapers. Some indexes once only in print are now online. Frequent announcements tell us of new projects of digitized and searchable historic newspapers that improve our access and also preservation.

2:45–4:00 p.m.  Going Digital (Taylor)
Thinking of going digital? Organizing your research files electronically can speed up processing time, save space, and help anyone become a better genealogist. Learn how to take your paper research notes, logs, and documents and convert them into your own personal “digital archives.”

4:00–4:30 p.m.  Optional Problem Solving Discussion extending earlier topics


8:30–9:45 a.m.  Don’t Ignore Institutional Records (Includes Prisons, Orphanages, Asylums, and Poorhouses. (Stuart-Warren)
What affected members of your ancestral families that led to their time in these institutions? What laws, community discrimination, and other factors were involved? Learn about these and the significant details often found in records related to these institutions. We will also discuss locating the records and gaining access.

10:15–11:30 a.m.  Discovering Places of Origin: First Stop is in U.S. Records
Finding places of origin for your ancestors can often be challenging. Many genealogists fail to search all available records for each ancestor. Don’t isolate your ancestor; your ancestor’s place of origin may be in the records of another family member or in those of a neighbor. It doesn’t matter whether your mystery place of origin is in the U. S. or another country, the material covered in this session will open your eyes to a plethora of possibilities.

Institute Wrap-Up and Luncheon 11:45 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.