Sunday, January 03, 2016

Reader Feedback: What place does Gen-Fed have in our personal research goals?

In response to my post NIGR Renamed Genealogical Institute on Federal Records (Gen-Fed) Diane Goodboe writes "I've never heard of this group and after reading the first three pages of their web site I still don't entirely understand their mission. Or whether what they do is accessible to the general public. 

I've had varying degrees of luck with my NARA searches, despite some extremely helpful archivists, one of whom called me personally to explain her research. Is this Gen-Fed something I should try to understand for my own direct access? Or is that restricted to professionals?
The Genealogical Institute on Federal Records is a intensive, week-long course, held in-person in Washington DC. It's available to the public, but like most genealogy institutes, Gen-Fed is recommended for experienced genealogists. You do not need to be certified or accredited to attend. What makes Gen-Fed unique is its focus on federal records coupled with in-person visits to the repositories in question.

Mr. Myrt attended several years ago and benefited greatly. He considered the tuition fees nominal compared to most continuing education courses required by his employer. Gordon gained insights to specific record groups. He learned how to order textual records (not microfilmed or digitized) from NARA I & II in particular. This facilitated his intensive work on federal land, military service and pension files. He also learned about the three Library of Congress buildings and their holdings. Arguably, LC has the single largest historical map collection in the world.

The Gen-Fed course also takes in a valuable local site that is not a federal repository. The library and technology department at the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution was something Mr. Myrt hadn't considered, since it is a women's organization. Yet, through his institute studies at the DAR Library, he made significant research breakthroughs.

Having cut my genealogical teeth living in the greater DC area for many years, Ol' Myrt here is familiar with the research facilities experienced by Gen-Fed attendees. Yet, I am sure I would benefit by setting aside a good solid week and taking this institute course. I know the majority of the course instructors and recommend their work highly. These research experts are well-regarded in the genealogical and historical research communities. 

As with any archives or library, individual research assistance is not possible. It is incumbent upon genealogists and historians to become educated about any research facility they plan to investigate. This involves developing an understanding of the depth and scope of record group, why it was created, and what research methodologies may be employed to solve specific research questions. Periodic expeditions to Gen-Fed will equip researchers with these vital understandings.

Studying these sites will bring into focus the concept that only a tiny fraction of federal records are available online.
  • Library of Congress - Discover
  • Library of Congress - Visit  
  • National Archives (US) - Plan Your Research Visit
  • National Archives (US) - Prologue Magazine
    Here you'll find articles composed by NARA archivists reporting on their 'pet' record groups. These articles explain much of why a record group was created, and what researchers may expect to find therein.
  • National Archives (US) - Research Our Records
The following posts describe a few of DearMYRTLE's personal federal records research experiences.
Successful researchers need expert advice before tapping into the vast textual records maintained by the US government. Attending a week-long, intensive Gen-Fed Institute will improve our research skills.
Gen-Fed is just one of several institutes but is one of the oldest and most respected. What makes Gen-Fed unique is its focus on federal records. You can submit questions through the Gen-Fed website if you want to find out more.

Hope this helps you, Diane.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt     :)
Your friend in genealogy
Twitter: @DearMYRTLE
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