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From the Green Valley News, Wednesday February 8 2006, page B5

Genealogy Today, by Betty Malesky

Genealogy: A Continuous Learning Experience

Tracing our family’s ancestry is a continuous learning experience. As our research experience increases we need additional education to cope with the inevitable problems encountered.

Genealogy is an art not a science. The application of knowledge learned to achieve a goal is "art." In order to become better "artists," we need an ongoing educational program to propel us toward the goal of producing as complete a family picture as possible. The success of any artistic pursuit escalates as the time spent learning and practicing it increases.

We need to know how to use library catalogs, reference books, manuscript collections, and archives to further our research. We study history, geography, and social patterns to understand our ancestors in the context of their times. We must have an awareness of the records available in different time periods and different areas and the laws pertaining to those records. Good computer skills are required to make use of Internet opportunities today. In order to meet our goals, we may need to learn to read old handwriting and possibly to translate records written in other languages.

Retention studies indicate that we retain only 5% of what we hear and 10% of what we read. If we attend an audio-visual lecture retention jumps to 20%. If we immediately use the information learned, retention increases to 75%. Continuing education is the only way to combat our low retention rate. Why not take advantage of some of the following learning opportunities.

One way to learn is from each other. Talking to another geneaphile may provide a solution to a problem that has brought our research screeching to a halt. At a local meeting place, such as Green Valley Genealogical Society, we can meet with other members and brainstorm our problems. Monthly speakers come from varied backgrounds and share from their wide-ranging experiences.

The local society offers seminars, workshops and classes to enhance members’ general knowledge of our discipline. Our annual all-day seminar presents new methods and skills to use in conducting research more successfully. Amy Johnson Crow, seminar speaker on February 18, 2006 will discuss substitute records, those often overlooked when the census and vital records traditionally used are missing. Another topic will be evaluating the records we find, and the fourth will cover putting information found online into perspective.

The seminar cost including lunch is $35 for members or $40 for non-members. You may download a registration form at Please contact me at 399-9372 or by email at for further information.

In March, we’re offering a series of four basic genealogy classes free to the public as well as to members. Learn how to begin, what to do after you’ve begun, and how to keep your research on track. If you are new to genealogy or would just like to brush up on basic genealogical methods and concepts you’re welcome to attend. Classes will be held weekly at the Green Valley Public Library from 1 to 3 PM beginning Tuesday, March 7.

As genealogists, we can be name collectors or we can be family historians. The former are interested only in adding more names to their family tree. Today as family historians, we attempt to learn as much as possible about our ancestors in order to write interesting narratives that other descendants will want to read and cherish.

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