Understanding the people leads to connection to—and enthusiasm for—Family History

Guest post by Jean Wilcox Hibben, M.A., Ph.D

For the past year, Gena Philibert-Ortega and I have been providing information on the social history that should accompany any research of one’s people. These can be accessed from http://genaandjean.blogspot.com. It is not enough to know the names, dates, and places; understanding why those place and those dates were of importance, and maybe even why those names were selected, can provide clues to genealogical research.

An example of this is what is called a “naming day.” When most genealogists look for their family members, they hope to find a birth certificate (though, in some cases, it is listing nothing more than “baby girl Smith” or “unnamed boy Jones” and the only clarification that the child is the “right” one is the listing of the parents and the birth date and place). A secondary option, though still usually considered a primary source, is a baptismal certificate. When a child is baptized, his or her name is entered into the officiator’s book and/or on a certificate that may or may not be filed with the church in question. Now the child’s name is known and it is expected that this baby will retain that name throughout his/her life (though, if a girl, may likely add a married surname). We all know that doesn’t happen, of course. People who don’t like their names might have them legally changed (as we see in the entertainment field) or a person might adopt a nickname to use even on legal documents. (A friend of mine always referred to her mother-in-law as “Betty,” yet on the census and other records, including her tombstone, her name is “Minnie.” When I asked for clarification I learned she was christened Minnie Myrtus Morgan and hated the name so had everyone call her Betty.)

But in some cultures, there is another day of celebration and it can happen nearly any time after the child’s birth: the naming day. Here is when the official name by which the person will be called is determined and set. The problem: it is not a civil ceremony that would garner a document filed in a court or government office and it is not a religious ceremony that would be recorded in a church record. But this name is the one the child will most likely use throughout life and that can create a major confusion. In an entire family in my line, the names with which the children were christened are different (in some cases, entirely different, except for the surname) from those given in the church baptismal ceremony and related record. Were it not for a series of letters from the family members and the repeated reference to one person’s “naming day” anniversary (some celebrate that anniversary instead of birthdays), I would still be in a quandary about this strange anomaly in my family.

Understanding the traditions and culture of a person’s roots may lead to previously unknown records. For more discussion on the importance of culture and folkways in one’s genealogy, the course “Learning About Your Ancestor Through Culture and Folkways,” goes into much more detail of how to use this tool and where to find information.

Bettinger’s “Visual Phasing” course has sold out!!

We regret to announce that Blaine Bettinger’s upcoming course “Visual Phasing: Mapping DNA to Your Grandparents” has completely filled and no further registrations will be possible.

Don’t worry though! Shortly after the conclusion of the course on May 27, we will make the recording package available for sale in the Virtual Institute Store. As soon as it is available, we will also announce it here.

While you are there, please feel free to explore our other available course recordings from some of the field’s best teachers.


Last chance to register for “Visual Phasing,” the new DNA course with Blaine Bettinger

Registration will be closing this Friday, 19 May 2017, for the next course being offered by the Virtual Institute of Genealogical Research: “Visual Phasing: Mapping DNA to Your Grandparents” with Blaine Bettinger, Ph.D., J.D.

For more details and to register, click here.

Visual Phasing is one of the hottest new tools in genealogy. It allows you to map the DNA of two or more siblings to the four grandparents, WITHOUT having tested either the parents or grandparents. As we’ll see, with enough siblings, it allows you to recreate almost the entire genomes of your four grandparents. You’ll also be able to quickly determine which of the four grandparents’ lines each of your matches share!

Blaine is an intellectual property attorney by day and a genetic genealogist by night. In 2007 he started The Genetic Genealogist (www.thegeneticgenealogist.com), one of the earliest blogs on the topic. For the past eight years, it has been his mission to bridge the gap between traditional genealogy and genetic genealogy. He has been interviewed and quoted on personal genomics topics in Newsweek, New Scientist, Wired, and others. He recently authored The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy and co-authored Genetic Genealogy in Practice with Debbie Parker Wayne, CG.

For more details and to register, click here.

Happy New Year from the Virtual Institute!

Happy New Year from all of us at the Virtual Institute of Genealogical Research!

It’s time to close the books on 2016. We’ve had a busy year, as have all of our instructors!

In September the National Genealogical Society announced the publication of Genetic Genealogy in Practice, its latest book release, written by Blaine Bettinger, PhD, JD, and Debbie Parker Wayne, CG. This year Blaine also wrote The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy, published by Family Tree Books.

Blaine has one upcoming Virtual Institute course: “The Essential Copyright Guide for Genealogists.”

On 6 June, partner Catherine W. Desmarais, CG, renewed her Certified Genealogist credential and began her second term as APG’s vice-president.

On 1 January Billie Stone Fogarty, M. Ed., began her first term as President of the Association of Professional Genealogists.

On 9 July Michael Hait, CG, CGL, renewed his Certified Genealogist credential and earned the Certified Genealogical Lecturer (CGL) credential. On 9 October Michael was re-elected to a second three-year term on the Board of Trustees of the Board for Certification of Genealogists.

In November Jean Wilcox Hibben, PhD, MA, CG, and her partner Gena Philibert-Ortega hosted the 2016 “Gena and Jean Genealogy Cruise,” a four-day Mexican cruise with two days of genealogy presentations.

On 22 September Melanie D. Holtz, CG, received the Grahame T. Smallwood Jr. Award of Merit from the Association of Professional Genealogists for her years of service to APG and her commitment to promoting professional development. In October she launched a new part of her business and now offers ancestral tours in southern Italy and Sicily.

Angela Packer McGhie, CG, earned the Certified Genealogist credential in January. In July Angela was appointed a trustee of the BCG Education Fund.

In October Donna Moughty led an annual research trip to Ireland, with stops in both Dublin and Belfast.

In June and July Elissa Scalise Powell, CG, CGL, and her partner Deborah Lichtner Deal organized the milestone fifth year for the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh. For the second year, GRIP was presented with two separate weeks of courses at LaRoche College. And for the first time, the Virtual Institute of Genealogical Research sponsored an evening lecture and broadcast it as a live webinar simultaneously!

In September Craig Roberts Scott, CG, FUGA, led the 3rd Annual Heritage Books Genealogy Conference and Cruise through the Caribbean, featuring speakers (and Virtual Institute instructors) Paul Milner; J. Mark Lowe, CG, FUGA; and himself, among others.

On 7 January 2016 the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society announced that D. Joshua Taylor would become the President of the society, effective 1 February. On 17 May the third season of Genealogy Roadshow premiered on PBS, with Josh continuing his hosting duties.

Be sure to support our instructors and their work by checking out some of their past courses—recordings are available for sale in the Virtual Institute Store.

We’ll be announcing our 2017 courses soon with more exciting news to follow. Be sure to subscribe using the button on the right so that you don’t miss a thing!

Have a happy and prosperous 2017!

Cathi, Michael, and Melanie


Last chance to learn online research from Joshua Taylor, host of Genealogy Roadshow!

Registration will be closing this Friday, 11 November 2016, for the next course being offered by the Virtual Institute of Genealogical Research: “Harness the Power of the Web” with D. Joshua Taylor, MA, MLS.

For more details and to register, click here.

The Internet has dramatically changed the way genealogists conduct their research. From hidden treasures found on the websites of local libraries to massive online databases gathered by subscription websites like Ancestry, there seems to always be something new to discover online.

This course shares techniques and tools to enable you to become an expert at online research. A specific focus is placed about keyword development for searching online databases, locating digital collections, and using common subscription websites effectively.

D. Joshua Taylor, MA, MLS, is a nationally known and recognized author, lecturer, and researcher and a frequent speaker at family history events across the globe. Passionate about family history, Joshua is the President of the New York Genealogical & Biographical Society (NYG&B) and former President of the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS). Joshua is the author of numerous articles, books, and a coordinator for courses at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy and the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh. He holds an MLS (Archival Management) and an MA (History) from Simmons College and has been a featured genealogist on Who Do You Think You Are?. At the present time Joshua can be seen taking America through their past as a host on the popular PBS series Genealogy Roadshow.

For more details and to register, click here.

“Back to School” Sale on Virtual Institute recordings!

back_to_school_3Celebrate the Back to School season with new course recordings from recent Virtual Institute courses!

From Friday, September 2, 2016, through Friday, September 30, 2016, you can save 10% on all purchases of course recordings. Just enter the coupon code “B2SCHOOL” (without the quotes) at checkout to apply the discount.

While you’re looking at our recordings, be sure to also take a look at our upcoming live courses. We have courses scheduled this fall focusing on Italian genealogy, copyright law, and online research.

We currently have recorded courses available from some of the best genealogical instructors working today:

Each recording package contains all six hours of instruction as well as all syllabus material and all practical assignments.

For more information and to purchase some of these recordings, visit http://vigrgenealogy.com/store

Registration open for Michael Hait’s “Working with Sources and Information”

MD State Papers Black Books 2(II)-18 bRegistration is now open for the next course from the Virtual Institute: “Working with Sources and Information” with Michael Hait, CG. The course will begin live on Saturday morning 4 June 2016 at 11:00am (U. S. Eastern).

This hands-on workshop will focus on the disciplined reading and evaluation of sources. Prior to each day of the course, students will be provided with a selection of records from around the world on which to exercise their analytical skills. These source selections will then be discussed in detail during the second session of each day.

Students who register for the Plus option will receive additional documents with which to practice the lessons. Those who submit their written source analyses will receive individual feedback from the instructor based on Genealogy Standards (Nashville, Tenn.: Ancestry.com, 2014). The separate Plus session will focus on source citations.

Click here for more information and to register.

Michael Hait, CG, is a full-time professional genealogical researcher, writer, and lecturer. He has written case studies for several genealogical journals including the Maryland Genealogical Society Journal, the New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, and the National Genealogical Society Quarterly. In 2012 Michael won 1st prize in the National Genealogical Society Family History Writing Competition for his article “In the Shadow of Rebellions,” exploring descendants of an enslaved woman living in 19th-century Maryland. Michael currently serves on the Board of Trustees of the Board for Certification of Genealogists (2013–2016), and formerly served on the Board of Directors of the Association of Professional Genealogists (2012–2013). For more information, visit www.haitfamilyresearch.com.

Looks like you have entered a product ID (43) that doesn't exist in the product database. Please check your product ID value again!