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Courtesy Story Co. Genealogical Society

Introduction to Genealogy
Every family has a story to tell. Learn the basics to get started in this satisfying and fascinating pursuit. Content includes “Five Steps to Family History Success”:

  • Get started: glean information from home and family
  • Organize your family information: pedigree charts, family group sheets, computer software
  • Fill the gaps: Sources and resources for learning more about your family
  • Document your findings: Basics of source citation
  • Share what you learn: Tools for telling your family’s special story

Research Plans & Research Logs: Where are you going? Where have you been?
Just as it is necessary to map the route for a road trip, your genealogical journey will be more satisfying and successful if you set out with a solid research plan. Content includes:

  • Understanding why research plans and logs are a necessary part of every project
  • Formats & templates for basic research plans & research logs
  • Putting together a basic research plan
  • Using a research log to keep track of your findings—even negative results!

Documentation & Citation: Buckle up and Cite Your Sources!
Keeping track of information sources contributes to the success of any family history project and it’s not as difficult as you might think. Geared to beginners, this presentation seeks to de-mystify the process by addressing the basics of documenting and citing sources. Presentation includes simple, practical examples and step-by-step practice. Content includes:

  • Definition of a “source”
  • Why source documentation is necessary
  • When a source citation is needed
  • Strategies for keeping track of sources
  • Key elements to collect for sources
  • Hands-on practice with commonly-used sources


Making Sense of the Shambles: Organizational Tools for Genealogy
As family historians, we tend to be “Keepers of Everything,” from treasured original family documents and photographs to printed copies found online and at repositories. It’s easy to become overwhelmed and disorganized. When you reach the point that it’s easier to print new copies of records than to find your old copies, you know you’ve arrived at critical mass and it’s time to take action. Content includes:

  • Software tools for organization
  • Computer filing techniques for documents, photographs & records
  • “Hard copy” options: files, folders & binders
  • Archival storage for original documents & photographs

Tools of the Trade: Timelines, Tables, Templates and More!
Basic computer word-processing and pencil-to-paper templates can help you organize, analyze and understand genealogical research. These simple tools and techniques are powerful and effective, yet easy to master.  Content includes:

  • Using timelines to create an effective research plan
  • Organize, compare, and contrast research results using tables, charts and graphs
  • Developing templates to streamline the research process and provide uniform formats for presentation


The Genealogical Proof Standard: Put the Power of GPS to Work!
This introduction to the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) looks at the development of modern genealogical standards, their importance for all genealogists, and the effective application of common-sense standards during the research process. Content includes:

  • What is the GPS and where does it come from?
  • Why are standards important for all researchers?
  • Discussion of the five step research process
  • Case study: the GPS at work

The “Reasonably Exhaustive Search”: When is Enough, Enough? 
To meet accepted genealogical standards, research must be as thorough as possible. But how do you know when you’ve met that standard? When is enough, enough? This presentation explores the “reasonably exhaustive search.” Content includes:

  • Asking a focused research question
  • What is meant by a “reasonably exhaustive search?”
  • Identifying sources most likely to help answer your research question
  • Putting together a research plan to locate the sources you need
  • Tips & techniques for efficient, effective searching

Documentation & Citation: Keep Calm and Cite Your Sources!
Documenting and citing information sources is an important step in the research process, and it’s not as difficult as you might think. Learn the basics for documenting the sources you access for family information. Presentation includes practical examples and step-by-step practice.  Content includes:

  • Definition of “source” and  different types of sources
  • Why source documentation is necessary
  • When a source citation is needed
  • Key elements and standards for source documentation
  • Hands-on practice constructing citations for commonly-used sources

Grains of Salt: Analyzing Sources, Information & Evidence
Healthy skepticism is a valuable attribute in genealogical research. Careful evaluation of sources, information, and evidence leads to reliable answers to family history questions. Content includes:

  • Basic terminology
  • Analyzing sources, information & evidence
  • Tools and strategies for correlation of research results
  • Determining when a conclusion is reached or when more research is needed

Therapy for Troubled Evidence: Resolving Conflicts
Different sources often provide different answers to the same question. How do you separate what’s valid and what’s not? This presentation discusses strategies for resolving conflicts in evidence and for reaching a “well-reasoned conclusion.” Content includes:

  • Define what is meant by conflicting evidence
  • Understand different types of conflicting evidence & when conflicts require intervention
  • Explore strategies for resolving conflicting evidence
  • Learn how to explain your resolution and conclusion

Written Conclusions: Share What You Know
You’ve asked a focused question about your ancestor, conducted a “reasonably exhaustive search,” analyzed, correlated and resolved all the evidence. Now share what you know! Content includes:

  • Presenting a conclusion when all the evidence is in agreement
  • Presenting a conclusion based on direct and indirect evidence
  • Presenting a conclusion based entirely on indirect evidence
  • Presenting a resolution of conflicting evidence

It’s a Numbers Game! Understanding Recognized Genealogical Formats
True genealogical writing is based on standardized numbering systems and formats. Learn to understand the numbers you see in published genealogies and how to present your own findings in recognized formats. Content includes:

  • Basic genealogical numbering conventions, including NEHGS Register system, NGS Quarterly system, and Sosa-Stradonitz System (Ahnentafel)
  • Numbering European ancestors
  • Commonly-used genealogical formats– ascending & descending styles
  • Standard family history formats — lineage histories, pedigree histories, genealogical histories

Become a “Legal Eagle!” Basic Legal Context for Genealogists
To effectively assess and use the records created by our ancestors, it’s necessary to understand the legal and historical context that created those records. Learning the basics is not hard and many helpful resources are available as we endeavor to become “legal eagles.” Content includes:

  • How laws influence records & genealogical research
  • Resources & strategies for understanding legal precedents
  • Basic legal terminology commonly encountered
  • Overview of historical laws impacting genealogical records

Feminine Mystique: Finding Female Ancestors
Who was she? Who were her people? Identifying and understanding female ancestors is often a challenge. Thoughtful research strategies reveal these hidden lives. Content includes:

  • Using legal and historical context to develop a research plan
  • Locating relevant records that provide clues to identity
  • Strategies for determining kinship: who were the men in her life?
  • Case-study examples

Journey to Certification
What does it mean to be a “Board-certified genealogist?” This program details Alice’s personal journey to achieve genealogical certification and how you can do it, too. Content includes:

  • Brief history of the Board for Certification of Genealogists
  • Introduction to the Standards Manual and the Genealogical Proof Standard
  • Advantages of certification
  • Educational and experience guidelines for certification
  • The portfolio application process


Each of the following case studies tackles a genealogical puzzle and works through to a solution. Join in the fun and the challenge of solving these genealogical mysteries! Classes participate in analyzing the problem, searching for clues, resolving conflicts in evidence and reaching reliable conclusions.

A Mother for Charles
The family always knew Charles was the son of Louis Edwards. But who was his mother? Come along for the surprising answer to this genealogical mystery!

Black Sheep
Every family has a black sheep, and middle child Patterson was the black sheep of the Hoit family. Tradition states he was a western outlaw who hanged as a horse thief. Learn the true story of this lost black sheep.

Did He Really Do That?
Family tradition states that during the War of 1812, Pennsylvania blacksmith Josiah Martin fought the Indians and helped cast the anchors for Perry’s Lake Erie fleet. Is it truth or tale? Help search for answers to this military mystery.

Finding John Johnson
Help identify John Johnson, a Swedish immigrant with a very common name! We’ll determine which John Johnson is the “right” John Johnson, and then retrace his steps back through time to identify his family, parents, and Swedish origins.

The Truth about Henry
Elmira Bonnett married Nicholas Hoit in 1865 but he wasn’t her first husband. Who was Henry Myers and what happened to him? This case uncovers the truth about Henry!


Introduction to Federal Records
Records of the federal government, preserved by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) can provide new insights into your ancestor’s life experiences. Learn the basics of federal records research. Content includes:

  • An overview of federal government agencies past and present, and the records created
  • Strategies for researching your ancestor in federal records
  • Understanding and using NARA’s resources onsite and online

Federal Census Records: Pathway to the Past
This presentation explores the decennial federal census. Although the main focus is the population schedule, special schedules such as agricultural, industrial, mortality and statistical are introduced. Content includes:

  • Basic census terminology
  • What genealogical information might you find?
  • How can you locate you family on the census?
  • Where can you view census records?
  • How do you evaluate and use what you find?
  • What other types of census records are available?

Special & Non-population Census Schedules: Beyond Population
Among the most useful and least-used federal census records are those created as supplementary schedules. Not confined to population, these schedules provide priceless insights into how our ancestors lived, worked, and interacted with their communities. Veteran schedules, mortality schedules, agricultural & industrial schedules, statistical schedules, and more: explore the possibilities for your family. Content includes:

  • What types of special schedules are available?
  • What access options are available for special schedules?
  • What information might be found in these schedules?
  • How to interpret findings & next-step research ideas

State Census Records: Genealogical Jewels
Thirty-seven states have enumerated their citizens in years separate from the federal census. These genealogical jewels fill the gaps between the federal decennial years and provide a wealth of information about your family. Content includes:

  • Advantages of using state census records
  • Which states have extant state censuses
  • What might you find?
  • How to access state censuses
  • Understand & use what you find
  • Other types of censuses & substitute

Courthouse Research: A Treasure Trove for Family Historians
Learn the types of records available at a county-level, including vitals, property, and court records; and how to access these treasures for your family project. Content includes:

  • A basic overview of county-level records
  • Understand the differences between various state governments
  • Where to access the records: courthouse, microfilm, online resources
  • How to plan a visit to the courthouse; tips for contacting courthouse officials

Courthouse Research: Wills & probates
Your ancestor may or may not have left a probated will or estate. Learn the “hows” and “whys” of estate records and what they mean for your family history project. Content includes:

  • Legal terminology
  • Sources for legal & historical context
  • Analyzing wills & probates for genealogical clues
  • Case-study examples and hands-on activities to help develop and practice skills

Courthouse Research: Court records
Civil and criminal court records may provide new insights into your ancestor’s life. This class digs deep to understand the legal and historical context of civil and criminal court records. Content includes:

  • Legal terminology
  • Sources for legal & historical context
  • Analyzing civil & criminal case files
  • Case-study examples and hands-on activities to help develop and practice skills

Land Records to the Rescue!
Many genealogists avoid land research, but identifying and understanding the documents associated with your ancestor’s real property is an essential step in understanding your family and can help solve genealogical puzzles. Learn techniques for getting the most from land records research and see how they contribute to the breakthrough of a typical genealogical “brick wall.” This presentation provides a broad introduction to land records research. Content includes:

  • Differentiation between public land grants and private sales
  • Basic terminology
  • Resources for finding land records
  • Tips and techniques for effective land records research

Government Land Distribution: Public Lands to Private Hands
European lands were held by the privileged few for centuries. Laws of primogeniture meant few family members could inherit land. One attraction for immigrants to America was the prospect of acquiring land. Land ownership meant independence and the building of wealth for future generations. Content includes:

  • An overview of colonial, state, and federal land distribution practices
  • Resources for locating government land grant records
  • Basic terminology associated with government land transfers
  • Discussion of “metes & bounds” vs. “rectangular survey” systems
  • Understanding the land grant process & techniques for using land records in genealogical research

Local Land Records: Dig In!
Private land sales often provide more genealogical information than original land entry files, and insights into a family’s life experiences. Local land records include a variety of documents dealing with the real and personal property. Content includes:

  • Exploration of different types of property-related records
  • The general process of a basic land transaction between private parties
  • Understanding terminology associated with private land sales
  • Resources for locating local land records
  • Techniques for using local land records in genealogical research

Metes & Bounds Surveys – Over Hill, Over Dale… 
The original thirteen states and seven state-land states used a land survey system known as “metes & bounds.” Property lines tended to be irregular and defined by geographical landmarks. Understanding the basics of metes & bounds is essential to unraveling your ancestors’ property ownership records. Content includes:

  • Learn which states practiced metes and bounds survey methods
  • Define the basic process and terminology associated with metes & bounds surveys
  • Understand how to use these irregular-shaped tracts to help solve genealogical problems
  • Hands-on practice reading and platting metes and bounds property descriptions

Rectangular Survey System—Fair & Square
Federal lands have been surveyed according to a “rectangular” or “cadastral” survey system since 1785. If your ancestor patented public domain land, chances are his property was surveyed using this method, and probably was later sold or divided in much the same manner. Content includes:

  • Basic terminology associated with the “rectangular survey system”
  • Hands-on practice reading and platting rectangular property descriptions
  • Understand how to use land tracts research to help solve genealogical problems

Maps: Putting the Past in Place
Maps are a rich resource for family historians. They help us visual the spaces our ancestors inhabited and offer clues to their movements, property ownership and lifestyles. This class introduces basic map studies for genealogical research. Content includes:

  • Basic map terminology
  • Identify the types of maps most commonly used in historical and genealogical research
  • Explore online and offline resources for maps
  • Learn to understand and use maps to enhance family history


Citizen Soldiers: Militia to National Guard
From colonial militias to 21st century National Guard, Americans have a long tradition of voluntary service. Federal, state and local records help document your citizen soldier’s military experience. Content includes:

  • Timeline of militia history, transition from militia to state and federal Guard
  • Overview of National Guard organization and service
  • Identification of federal, state and local resources
  • Case-study example: A volunteer soldier’s story


Each of the following case studies explores a variety of records to reconstruct a soldier’s military experience and bring his story to life.

Father and Son: A Revolutionary Tale
William Hoit was well acquainted with British tyranny. When the call to arms came in 1776, he didn’t hesitate to join his son Benjamin in the fight for liberty. Together they endured the hardships and dangers of frontier warfare, and paid the ultimate price of freedom.

From Freedom to Frontier
Nicholas Smith Hoit enlisted to fight the British as soon as he turned eighteen. His Revolutionary journey would take him beyond the battlefield to western territory, where veterans guarded the new nation’s frontier on Ohio’s “Donation Tract.”


Iowa Ancestors: Research in the Hawkeye State
Whether your ancestors were Iowa pioneers or arrived more recently, records and resources can document their lives in the Hawkeye state. This is a general introduction to Iowa research. Content includes:

  • Timeline of settlement and county formation
  • Overview of Iowa’s ethnic heritage
  • Overview of Iowa’s religious groups
  • Discussion of records and resources specific to Iowa

Between Two Rivers: Territorial Iowa to Early Statehood
From the time of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 until Iowa attained statehood in 1846, the “Land between two rivers” has played its part in the settlement of the great American Frontier. Although legal settlement did not officially begin until 1833, the land was populated with Native Americans and trailblazing pioneers before that date and boomed in the years that followed. Documentary evidence for these earliest inhabitants can be challenging to locate, but rewarding in its discovery.  Content includes:

  • Timeline of migration and settlement in Iowa’s earliest years
  • Iowa’s earliest inhabitants: who were they?
  • Territorial records & resources

Prairie Patchwork: Iowa’s Ethnic Heritage
Iowa’s history is patterned with a colorful patchwork of ethnic immigration & settlement. These diverse groups have been instrumental in the development of Iowa from its earliest years to the present. Content includes:

  • Who were Iowa’s early immigrants?
  • What motivated them to choose Iowa?
  • Where did they settle?
  • What resources are available for exploring Iowans’ ethnic heritage?

Iowa’s State Censuses: Genealogical Jewels
From territorial times through 1925, Iowa has regularly counted her people. Of twenty-two authorized state censuses, fifteen survive for researchers. Each of these genealogical jewels is unique, and when combined with federal census research provides perspective for who our ancestors were and how they lived and interacted with their communities. Content includes:

  • Timeline of Iowa’s territorial & state census enumerations
  • Which counties have extant state censuses
  • What information was collected in each census year—understand and use what you find
  • How to access Iowa state censuses

Iowans Go to War
From 1846 statehood to the present, Iowans have has answered their nation’s call to arms. Federal, state and local records are available to document your Iowa soldier’s military experience. Content includes:

  • Timeline of Iowa’s military history
  • Strategies for determining military service
  • Sources and resources for Iowa-specific research

It Goes With the Territory! Finding Your Ancestor in Pre-statehood Records
From the Old Northwest to the Hawaiian Islands, the United States has acquired and settled new lands. If your ancestor pioneered pre-statehood territories, they may have left records valuable to documenting and understanding their lives. Content includes:

  • Timeline of territorial settlement and governance
  • Overview of available federal territorial records
  • How and where to access territorial records
  • Case study examples of territorial records in family research


Restoring the Past: A Pioneer Cemetery Speaks
Repairing gravestones is just a first step in restoring a neglected cemetery. This presentation chronicles a five-year project that revealed forgotten relationships and the shared experiences of a vibrant pioneer community. Content includes:

  • Brief discussion of the restoration project
  • Resources for researching communities
  • The story of “Six Mile”


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