Thursday, January 7, 2010

Final assignment for NGS HSC CD 1: Vital Records

Sounds pretty self-explanatory, right? I figured the assignment would be to dig out a vital record from your collection and then go over its contents. Yikes, was I wrong!

The final topic of the NGS Home Study Course is Vital Records and the highlights of the lesson are brought to life with the inclusion of three, count them, 3 assignments. The first is another great example of "Why didn't I think of that?" You dig out your first four-generation pedigree chart again and go through each ancestor with your copy of Ancestry's Redbook (boy am I glad I was able to pick this one up on ebay over the summer!) and your computer, writing down where records recording each person's vitals (birth, marriage, and death) can be found. Once again, it's not just a lesson is how to handle the records, it's also a lesson for me in organization and keeping master lists of important info together. I'm one of those people that has little scraps of paper everywhere and then when I need the info I've written down, I can't find it. So this was a really great exercise.

The second assignment for this lesson is to actually order a new record. I was a "hobbyist" genealogist for about 10 years or so before I started to actually think more seriously about it as a profession, so between my Mom and I, we've managed to collect almost every vital that we could handle. However, we have left some select few that were either too pricey (the ones that are $20/$25 and up) or those where we needed to research things a little more before chancing a wrong date and/or location and getting one of those dreaded "no results found" certificates. So now I'm kindof in a quandry about what to order. I have a few options though which I'll probably relay in the next post. In any case, the purpose of the exercise is to familiarize yourself with the request letter and/or the forms required by the County Clerk/state Health Dept, etc.

The final assignment for this lesson is a "Marriage Records Survey". I'm really excited about this one. The assignment requires that you go to a nearby County Clerk's office, or some other repository near you that maintains marriage records, and record the information found; whether they have the marriage records in those big ledgers, or even loose pages, while others (like Chicago, which would have been my first choice), have microfilmed the info to save space. Some things to look for while working on the inventory include: the earliest record, type of records (ie, license, bond, application, register, etc.), any marriage record loss, records for any period that may be held "off-site", and info provided on the records. It is also suggested that we look at records from the earliest time to the more recent and compare the available information, trying to figure out when the changes may have taken place. This is also an assignment that suggests you turn in examples of what you find along with your inventory and subsequent report, along with their correct citations of course.

This third assignment is going to be a large one, and I haven't chosen a repository yet. I don't think I'm going to be going to Cook County for this, as mentioned above, they have microfilmed their records and public access tends to be restrictive and I'm not sure whether they would allow me to just pull random film (or have the staff pull random film for me), so I'll probably need to stick to one of the counties closer to home. I'll also need to find a day where I'll have a little extra time to do this. I'll definitely post about the experience though, it should be an interesting day. I love when I'm able to get back into a courthouse and see those old pages!


  1. Thanks so much for starting this blog. I have been debating for some time whether I want to take the NGS course. After reading your posts, I'm seriously leaning towards taking the course. I'm guessing from your posts that you are somewhere in Illinois. I'm originally from the Chicago suburbs, but now live in Central Illinois. You are welcome to check out my main genealogy blog at If you'd like to chat, you can email me from my blog.

  2. Hi, Julie. You should definitely take the plunge on the course. The main roadblock for me was the cost-cost always takes a front seat for just about everything but the key is really just in planning and saving like a mad person. I also bit the bullet and decided it could only work for me by purchasing the 3 CDs separately, spreading out the cost, rather than purchasing the whole lot in one fell swoop. It's a little more doing it this way, but at least the cost is broken down into more affordable payments that I can handle. I'm planning on covering the entire set on the blog so people can see what all that money will get them. I'm glad the blog is helping you make a decision about it. I'll be sure to check out your blog today too. Good luck and let me know, or post on your blog, if (or should I say, when) you start the course.

  3. I actually decided to move forward with the National Institute of Genealogical Studies certificate program. My classes start 2/1. It's more expensive than the NGS study program, but I think it will suit my needs a little better. We can certainly compare notes ;)