Category Archives: Curriculum ideas

Intermediate Resources: A Conversation with Brenda


Dear Colleagues:

The hardest part about climbing mountains is getting out of the rut. Your many private responses have revealed there is little or nothing being done at the intermediate level in genealogy classes across the continent to teach the average genealogists to distinguish between sources, ideas, and evidences. Nor are these people being taught the genealogy proof standard.

There is a huge need for teaching and guided learning in these areas at the intermediate level. All falling in my book if I ever get it done. There will be useful instructions on how to teach and learn these things. Thank you so much for your insights.


Dear Ken,

When you say little or nothing is being done to teach the distinctions between sources, information and evidence .. and people are not being taught the GPS .. are you including or excluding the National Institute’s 6-part Methodology courses, and the 3-part Analysis & Skills Mentoring program? Both sets are compulsory for certificate students.

I know you’re very aware of what’s involved in the A&S program, because your part in it is so important (I have even *more* respect for you–if that’s possible–now that I’ve had a couple of scholarly article chats!). But I don’t know if you are aware that the Methodology series includes exactly that which you are (rightfully) promoting. Information-sources-evidence are introduced in Meth-1 and Meth-2. By the time they get to Meth-6 they are being tested on case studies.

Your message today (16 December) mentioned that [evidence and analysis] skills should be introduced in “the first 20 weeks of instruction.” It’s hard to relate that to our kind of online instruction which does not go on
for 20+ weeks.

I hear your disappointment that most current teaching apparently does not deal with the GPS and evidence analysis early on. This is something that I’ve worked on since I began with the Institute and while it sometimes takes a frustratingly long time to get the changes & additions into the online course material, I plug away at it.

I’m curious enough to ask the question above (1st paragraph) because I’d like to know from you how the Institute rates in this regard. Or yourregard. I know there’s much more we can do, but so few hands for so many tasks.


Dear Brenda and Colleagues:

The challenge of introducing more complex concepts in genealogy research like the GPS and evidence analysis over 6 to 8 weeks of instruction, is to realize that you can only introduce increments. You build that increments like a spiral, so each new level builds on the old level, so ideas can be introduced,.planted, reinforced, applied and build on, but not necessary instantaneously. For example, I heard Helen Leary demonstrated how to teach sources information and evidence concepts as if it were in the first three hours of instruction, simply by using the students’ own documents, from their wallet or purse.

Would they have a perfect knowledge? Of course not, but the terms would be introduced and bit by bit could be planted, etc., as the ideas revisited in the later instructions. This is sometimes called spiral approach to curriculum development.

Many of the core courses taught by the national institute for genealogical studies: Brigham Young University; National Genealogical Society correspondence courses use this approach at least in part in many classes. However, most genealogists who pick up two or three classes in their local colleges rarely benefit from such thought out instructions, so that is where my comments to you, Brenda.


Evaluating Genealogy Textbooks

I found the most useful discussion on evaluating potential genealogical textbooks was a chapter in Kory Meyerink’s book, Printed Sources: A Guide to Published Genealogical Records (Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1998). Chapter 2, written by my colleague Sandra Hargreaves Luebking, entitled “Instructional Materials” pages 68-92. There is a large table comparing the contents of beginning genealogy texts, and interesting section on how to evaluate and genealogy how-to book, and bibliographies and more bibliographies. Continue reading

Creating and teaching a course, simplified.

Years ago a professor of mine told me about creating a course for a group of English language teachers in Italy on a shoe string. It was simple, but creative. There were about a dozen in the group and they met monthly. Sounds like a small genealogy society, doesn’t it. They had one copy of a good book and built the course around the book. Thats sort of backward, but it worked. Here’s what it might look like for a genealogy class. Continue reading

Models for Building Web-based Instruction


While researching “learning dyads” I found this interesting paper on approaches to on-line course design. Click here if you are curious enough to read an academic paper. What do you think?

Apprentice Adventures #8


This week we are looking at another article. My apprentice has been reading and re-reading Kay Germain Ingalls great article, “Cherchez la femme! Looking for Female Ancestors” in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly Vol.88, No. 3 (Sept 2000) pp. 165-176. Her assignment was to create questions to be used either in a discussion group, or in multiple choice form for use in a test, or on-line course situation. The task of creating questions causes the reader to read a little closer. Continue reading

Workbooks: Another Look at a Useful Tool


A good workbook can reinforce or expand on your lessons, workshops or lectures by reviewing and expanding on concepts you introduce in your aural presentation. It does this by asking each learner personally to respond to your questions. Lets explore this a bit. Continue reading

Thinking in New Paradigms: Course Corrections

picture-130.jpgI’d like to blame Dean Hunter, Past President of the Federation of Genealogical Societies for planting the doubts that led to changes in my thinking, but to be honest, the doubt was percolating on the back burners of my mind for some time. It was at the National Genealogical Society conference in Milwaukee in 2002. Dean and I shared a room. One evening he told me about a conversation with his friend David Rencher, about what they were taught in their beginning genealogy classes. We were on our way to dinner with David in a great seafood restaurant. “What were you taught?” David and Dean asked. Continue reading

Apprentice Adventures 5:


Events of this past week have dramatically shown me  the need to shift what my apprentice does up a pace. The challenge is to get her into a more productive pattern that provides mutual benefit. tomorrow we meet again and here’s what we’ll do.

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Family Lore from Heritage Books, Mug Books and Local Histories


Genealogy teachers and lecturers often tell people about the marvellous discoveries awaiting in heritage books, mug books and local /county history books. They less often teach how to use those effectively. In an excellant article by Connie Lenzen, “Heriage Books and Family Lore: The Jackson Test in Missouri and Idaho” she teaches some key points I’d like to emphasize.

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Using Recorded Genealogy Lectures to Supplement Classes

Ken profile.jpg

My friend Pat Ryan was telling me about a six lecture series she is doing at Regina Public Library. As I thought about similar courses I had taught I recalled how often I wished there was time to explore more aspects of these lassons. Here is one idea to supplement the regulr course classes.

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