A review of online genealogy discussions shows that Internet users want opportunities to further their genealogy education. Conferences and classes are nice, but location, cost and other responsibilities often prevent budding genealogists from attending face-to-face meetings. Fortunately, there is now a prospect for Internet users to explore the facets of professional genealogy at a deeper level in a network of like-minded peers.
What is The ProGen Study Group?
The ProGen Study Group takes its name from the book Professional Genealogy: A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers and Librarians. The book is edited by Elizabeth Shown Mills and includes chapters authored by several notable genealogists in the field. The 18-month program emphasizes collaborative study and discussion, an experience similar to those currently found in many academic institutions. There is no financial cost, though members are expected to pay their dues through hard work and ample contribution to the shared learning model.
Each class of approximately 30 members is divided further into smaller peer groups. The collective knowledge base includes varying degrees of genealogy experience and differing personal goals. The common ground is a desire for personal improvement and an interest in exploring the field of genealogy at a more detailed level.
Collaboration occurs mainly on the peer-group level. Participants read one chapter of Professional Genealogy per month and complete an assignment based on the topic covered in each chapter. Subjects are geared toward the issues faced by professional genealogists including time management, business maintenance and research strategies. Members share their work with others in their peer groups and offer feedback and guidance toward their colleagues. At a pre-set time each month, each peer group meets for an online chat of discussion topics under the guidance of the group leader and volunteer mentor who is either a BCG Certified Genealogist or ICAPGen Accredited Genealogist.
Varying perspectives and experiences brought by class members are just some of the values of the ProGen Study Group process. Each person shares their set of strengths with the group, in turn educating others. One need not be a records expert or genealogy veteran to succeed in this program. All that is needed is a commitment to the process and participation in it’s collaborative model for the benefit of one’s peers.
Goal: Becoming a Professional Genealogist
Many ProGen Study Group members participate in the class to satisfy their own professional genealogy goals. Tami Glatz, author of the Relatively Curious About Genealogy blog, joined a ProGen Study Group after reading the Professional Genealogy book. She appreciates the assignments and discussion with her peers that go “beyond the hobbyist level of family history.” Topics in the book such as time management, business promotion, billing, contracts and report writing are discussed within the group. The assignments combined with the perspectives of her peers assists Glatz in achieving her professional genealogy goals.
Goal: Improving Genealogy Research Skills
The discipline and depth of research analysis make the ProGen Study Group attractive to members with different types of genealogy aspirations as well. Randy Seaver, creator of the popular Genea-Musings blog, calls ProGen a “unique education opportunity.” He appreciates the interaction with his peers and mentor. Seaver has no plans to make genealogy his profession or take paying clients. His ProGen experience strengthens his skills to meet personal goals, including compiling and writing books as well as creating databases in order to delve into his own ancestral lines. He credits the monthly readings, assignments and feedback for helping to meet his personal genealogy objectives.
Goal: Networking With Other Genealogists
Though Glatz and Seaver are part of ProGen Study Group experience for different reasons, they both note and appreciate the networking and bonding opportunities shared within the classes. Members get to know each other with each chat and occasionally get the chance to meet in person at genealogy conferences. The ProGen class provides the foundation for a professional genealogy network of colleagues and friends. Currently, there are several ProGen meet-ups per year at various larger face-to-face genealogy conferences, allowing the different ProGen classes to mingle and socialize. Class members often contact each other with questions, work together on research projects and subcontract to each other illustrating the level of trust built on their ProGen relationships.
ProGen Behind The Scenes
Angela McGhie is the administrator for the ProGen Study Groups as well as creator of the official ProGen website. She says the most common question she receives about ProGen is “How do I join?” Such eager reaction from potential participants illustrates the demand by genealogists for more in-depth online learning opportunities.
The cooperative nature of the ProGen Study Group as well as the dedicated time commitment are important factors for the program’s success. “It is an 18 month study program that is dependent upon everyone working together in their group to discuss the material and develop the skills covered in each chapter,” states McGhie.
Administrator McGhie says that ProGen will continue as long as there is interest in the program and a steady pool of volunteers to run the process. Increased press and the establishment of the official ProGen website have shared the details of the program to interested eyes and ears throughout the world. This favorable response to online education ensures that the ProGen Study Group will continue to develop sound researchers in the genealogy field for the foreseeable future.