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Welcome to the course

Welcome to ‘Genealogy: Researching Your Family Tree’ - a six-week online course being run by the Centre for Lifelong Learning’s Postgraduate Programme in Genealogical, Palaeographic and Heraldic Studies at the University of Strathclyde.

Tahitia McCabe, Knowledge Exchange Fellow in Genealogical Studies at Strathclyde, will be leading us through the six weeks. Graham Holton, Principal Tutor in Genealogical Studies at Strathclyde will also be teaching on the course.

If you use social media you can follow us on Twitter @FLgenealogy and use the hashtag #FLgenealogy to follow the conversations.

We’d also be grateful if you could complete the pre-course survey to help us understand more about who’s taking the course and what we can do to improve it.

Throughout the course we will be following the development of a beginning family history researcher called Chris. So unlike some other FutureLearn courses, we open the course a week at a time to enable us to reflect on the progress she has made and also to give you time to digest the material. We also don’t want to spoil research discoveries made in Chris’ story by giving too much away too soon.

However, here is a week by week overview of what will be covered on the course:

Week 2 Effective Searching Techniques

You begin to think about how to define what you are actually searching for and we’ll introduce some key ways to think laterally about searching for your family information. Topics to be covered are:

  • How to create a research plan and what an effective search looks like.
  • Different ways to approach research: FAN/cluster techniques and mind mapping
  • Getting to grips with spelling and name change issues
  • What primary source databases are and how get the best out of searching them, including wildcards.

Week 3 Using Major Source Types

We’ll introduce the main source types used by genealogists including civil, church, census and military records. While some country specific sources will be detailed, primarily we’ll give a sense of the typical type of data these records contain and how to use them in your research. We will also ‘visit’ a local archive and explore what they (and other archives) have to offer. A review of major international and some more local and specialised databases will be shared and we’ll consider how to evaluate databases.

Week 4 Genealogical Proof and DNA Testing

Genealogists need to be sure they have found the ‘right’ person and we will cover some of the techniques used to decide on the best match. Also important is how to know when you’ve done enough research to come to a reasonable decision on a match. We’ll also introduce the use of DNA testing in genealogical research. Topics to be covered are:

  • The principles of the Genealogical Proof Standard
  • How to establish proof
  • How to evaluate evidence
  • An introduction to genetic genealogy with some case studies on using it to break down brick walls.

Week 5 Putting your Research into Context

Week 5 sees the focus shift to sources that put the flesh on the bones of the family skeleton. It’s the historical and social context coming from using secondary and other sources that bring an ancestor to life. This week explores the sources that help genealogists provide this context; considers their quality and how to find them. Topics to be covered are:

  • Useful types of secondary sources: local histories, ‘regular’ books on history, historical magazines, film, etc.
  • Other sources of context: newspapers, maps, images
  • How to assess the quality of these types of sources
  • Finding these sources; useful online databases.

Week Six Documenting and Communicating your Research Results and Sources

Week 6 introduces the main types of tools used by genealogists to store, track and analyse data along with an overview as to why such tools are useful. Paper based resources, genealogical software of various types and online tools will all be explored. We will explore what types of reports and charts are commonly used, different approaches to writing a family history and some specialist tools. Ways to protect your physical records and digital data will also be explored. Genealogists need to provide evidence that the statements and assertions they make are based on documents and other types of resources. We will explain the use of referencing in genealogical reports and charts and discuss various systems of referencing in use in the genealogical world.

We’re very happy to welcome all of you and hope that exciting discussions are generated throughout the course.

Get a Statement of Participation

If you complete the majority of steps on the course and attempt every test question, you will be eligible to purchase a Statement of Participation, which comes in the form of a printed certificate.

This is a great way to show your interest in the subject, your commitment to your career, or as evidence of Continuing Professional Development (CPD). A Statement of Participation is also a great souvenir!

Find out more

Statement of Participation

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This article is from the free online course:

Genealogy: Researching Your Family Tree

University of Strathclyde