It has been one of my long-time goals to research my family history at the New England Historical Genealogical Society, and this month I was able to take advantage of the Spring Research Getaway offered each year by NEHGS. I classify myself as an Advanced Beginner in genealogical research, and I knew that I would benefit from an orientation and assistance in using the extensive collections at HisGen.
The three-day Spring Research Getaway promising guided research with one-on-one consultations and special access to the collections appeared to be well-suited for my needs, and I was not disappointed. My experience with NEHGS was very positive from my first correspondence in January. Questions were answered promptly, and information about the program was directed to help me be successful in my research goals.
I admit that I was quite nervous about attending the program; concerned that my research goals would be either too "big" or too "small." Although I have a graduate degree and know my way around a university library, I've always felt intimidated by microfilm readers and was sure that I would have an awful time with those monsters. I was also traveling alone for part of the trip, which is its own issue. Happily, by the time I left home for Boston I felt ready to research and confident that I would be able to accomplish at least some of my goals.
Shortly after registering for the program I recieved an email letter and several attachments from Ryan Woods, Director of Education. In addition to travel information, schedule, and liability waiver, the packet included a Participant Interest Sheet. The accompanying "Tips for Completing Your Partipant Interest Sheet" was a mini-couse in how to write research goals: what to include, what NOT to include, and samples of well-written research questions.
The schedule showed that we would have time for scheduled consultations with NEHGS experts, and time for personal research.
A few weeks before the program, I received a packet in the mail with a copy of each participant's research sheet, a list of the consulting staff with notes on their areas of expertise with accompanying Facebook-style photo, a guide to the library, and information about Boston and the library vicinity.
After laboring over my Interest Sheet I asked for a quick review from Midge Frazel, who has researched at HisGen. She gave me the go-ahead and a huge lead on our potentially-common ancestors.
I also spent some time online at the NEHGS website. As a member, I was able to access the database resources and do some catalog look-ups for books I might want to investigate. I also viewed the Library orientation material so that I would have some idea of what was available where.
I am glad that I took time to work on my research goals and review the program materials, so that I was able to move foward even after losing my laptop enroute to the program. Ryan Woods was helpful in working out alternate strategies for using computers at the library and took time to give me a brief tour when I stopped in the day before the program began. When I arrived on Day 1, I was ready to hit the ground running.
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