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January 16, 2018

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Week-long convention had valuable information

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Stefani Evans

I went to Washington, D.C., and I didn’t get a lousy T-shirt.

But I did pick up a lot of information. The National Institute on Genealogical Research (NIGR) ( provides intensive, week-long instruction in navigating research pathways at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

The NIGR was founded in 1950 and incorporated as a not-for-profit corporation in 1989. The course usually runs in mid-July, and the 2009 Institute, directed by Patricia O’Brien Shawker, CG, was held July 13-17.

Attendees heard presentations by Claire Bettag, CG, CGL, on records of the Department of State, federal land records, and bounty land records; Tom Shawker, M.D., on 19th-century non-population schedules, and Marie V. Melchiori, CG, CGL, on basic military records and pension records at the National Archives.

Archivist Trevor Plante presented information on finding Marine Corps enlisted men 1798 to 1904; Marian L. Smith of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) lectured on immigration documents since 1892 and naturalization and citizenship documents since 1906.

Attendees heard from Reginald Washington about finding African Americans in Southern Claims Commission and Freedmen’s Bureau records, and from John Deeben about how New Deal relief records can shed light on 20th-century research.

At Archives II in College Park, Maryland, James Hastings, director of access programs at the National Archives of the United States welcomed NIGR students. Hastings estimates that the Archives holds nine billion pages of records in the Washington, D.C., area alone.

Participants explored cartographic materials with Kimberly Davis Cardwell, learned about American Indian research from Kenneth W. Heger, Ph.D., and had a behind-the-scenes tour that included the extensive photograph and film collection.

Thomas W. Jones, Ph.D., CG, CGL, FASG, presented information and answered questions regarding genealogical certification. Coursework finished Friday afternoon, and students enjoyed a banquet Friday evening with alumni attendees and featured speaker Henry B. Hoff, CG, FASG. Participants had the options of attending evening introductions to the Library of Congress and the Daughters of the American Revolution Library.

Forty-three course attendees representing most U.S. regions included librarians and archivists, staff genealogists from lineage societies; Library of Congress and National Archives staff members, current and former officers of genealogical societies, and a Naval architect with the Department of the Navy. Despite diverse backgrounds the students shared a desire to learn how to direct their own research in the National Archives.

Staff archivists help researchers navigate paths through finding aids to locate such items as pension files, service records, and court-martial case files from various wars, records of the New Deal, and homestead case files. The institute offers an incomparable learning opportunity for researchers to utilize records stored in our nation’s premier repository; the institute also allows participants of different backgrounds to renew old friendships and form new ones.

Visit the NIGR Web site to request a registration form. Registration for the one-week institute opens in February and fills quickly. Applicants must complete a registration form and submit it via postal mail; the first applicants who return their registration and tuition reserve one of the coveted institute spots. For researchers who wish to explore the records of the National Archives the course provides valuable guidance.

Stefani Evans is a board-certified genealogist and a volunteer at the Regional Family History Center. She can be reached c/o the Home News, 2360 Corporate Circle, Third Floor, Henderson, NV 89074, or [email protected].

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