Sunday, September 15, 2019

Back to School—for the Rest of Us, Too!

In every way I can think of—at least in my genealogy world—it's been back to school, and it feels so good to be back in the groove again.

Yes, back-to-school is considered the realm of the junior members of society, where kids from kindergarten through college head back to the classroom. We've seen plenty of that type of action in the school districts around here with their various start dates—some as early as the first week of August (and thankfully some traditional holdouts who still stick with the post-Labor-Day opening).

But there are others of us who have had back-to-school on our minds, as well. Anyone who is fortunate to have continuing learning programs in their community will know what I mean. In our city, we have two series of learning opportunities: one which is familiar to residents of many cities, known as the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, which focuses on "the joy of learning," and a second version which is homegrown and specific to our local residents.

I have taught genealogy topics for mature learners in each of these organizations, and it is indeed a joy to help launch others into their personal pursuit of family history. This semester in our city's program, for instance, I am team-teaching a beginner's course on using with my genealogy mentor, Sheri Fenley, after which I'll teach a brief series on how to use DNA testing in family history.

Even the libraries are gearing up for the return of learners of all ages. Our fall semester program for two local library systems is just now starting, and today brought in a new group of people interested in chasing their elusive ancestors. What is encouraging to see is that these classes bring in not only those who, after a long hiatus thanks to Life's detours, are returning to their love of family history, but also young adults who have always wanted to take up genealogy, but haven't yet learned just how to get started. Attendees like the young woman in my library class today remind me of myself, those many decades ago when I wanted to work on my family tree, but had no idea how to begin—or even what names would go in those slots on the pedigree chart. I love to have a part in launching young people on that path of discovery.

Learning comes in all forms, of course, and some people are quite happy to learn on their own, through books, websites, blogs (remember, I'm the genealogy guinea pig who hopes others learn by watching me stumble into uncharted territory in my own blundering way). Other people have benefited from the growing number of webinars now available via trendsetters like Geoff Rasmussen who, next Friday, presents Legacy Family Tree Webinars' 1,000th program. Still others are opting for the personal touch in a more advanced way, through genealogy institutes like the upcoming Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy where, next January, I'll be learning more about my Virginia ancestors.

No matter which version of "classroom" suits your learning style, I hope you are making plans for some way to expand your knowledge horizons—especially now, during this particular season when everyone is in the mood to get back to school.

Disclaimer: While I am certainly honored to be designated as an Ambassador for the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy 2020—and have shared about their impressive offerings for several years now—this year's designation comes to me with receipt of a modest discount to their registration fee. Nevertheless, my focus is on objectively sharing what aspects of the Institute readers at A Family Tapestry would likely find helpful, and I welcome the opportunity to continue serving as eyes and ears on site during this event for the benefit of my readers.


  1. Thank you for all you do. It was a two night library class that has inspired my search.

    1. Libraries have turned out to be a wonderful way to introduce people to genealogy. I'm glad you were able to find your inspiration through that library class!


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