I am Teaching a Graduate Level Genealogy Course for the San Jose State University School of Information

San Jose State University iSchoolI am excited to announce that this June I start teaching a summer session course in genealogy for the graduate School of Information (iSchool) at San Jose State University.

I have known about this since September, but did not want to post anything until I had my course details and outline all sorted out (my Summer Session 2016 syllabus went live today).

It is a thrill to combine genealogy with academia, and to teach future librarians about it. This opportunity is all the more special because iSchool is my graduate alma mater (then called the School of Library & Information Science, abbreviated as SLIS). Go Spartans!

The program is allowing me to design the course from scratch, focusing on any topics and assessments of my choosing.


One Size Has to Fit All

This flexibility is awesome, but it really challenged me to develop a graduate-level course that provides a comprehensive introduction to genealogy, crammed into a 10-week long abbreviated semester. On top of that, because this needs to be a single course offering (not a series of courses), I had to design it in a manner that provides good instruction to those who may never have practiced genealogy, while also challenging students already experienced in it, and focusing considerably on the professional librarianship side of genealogy.

I have to thank my friend and colleague Drew Smith, MLS (MALIS), for helping me meet this challenge. He teaches a similar class at his university and kindly shared his course outline, assignments, and rubrics. Drew is an academic librarian, professional genealogist, and author, who is in high demand as a speaker at genealogy conferences. He is also the 2016 recipient of the Filby Award for Genealogical Librarianship, presented at the National Genealogical Society annual conference (awarded just yesterday!). Drew’s mentoring has been invaluable.

And It’s 100% Online

Another challenge is that the course is 100% online, with students located all over the world. Back when I attended the program, although the program was not yet 100% online, the majority of my particular classes already were by then. I am very comfortable and structured as a student in an online environment, and have taken quite a number of continuing education courses in this format (including genealogy classes).

But this is my first time teaching in a full online environment. My profession makes the technology aspects of online instruction come easy to me. However, I am used to being able to see the facial expressions and other non-verbal communication signs in my students, and to assess progress synchronously in-person at workshops, lectures, etc.

The Program provides exceptional support and training for new faculty, and I am confident the course format will go very well.


I set out to design the course that I wish had existed:

a) when I began researching my family history 18 years ago, and

b) had been offered when I was a graduate student in the program.

A course like this back then would have saved me years of frustration in my own research, and would have made me an even better librarian in terms of the type of research assistance and programming that I provided in public, special, and academic libraries.

I think I have accomplished that goal. However, I won’t be able to gauge that until I see how this all plays out during summer session, and evaluate the assignments and course feedback from my students.

About the Course

Course Description

This course presents an overview of research methods and resources for conducting genealogy in the United States, and will equip students with a strong foundation for providing library services to genealogy patrons. While genealogy is an incredibly popular hobby, will we also look at genealogy as a scholarly pursuit and as a profession.

The course will proceed along two parallel tracks:

  • Basic genealogical research and methodology. Lectures, required readings, discussions, and assignments will support your learning in this track.
  • Librarian-specific topics that have to do with what librarians need to know in order to serve genealogy patrons. Guest instructors, facilitated Q&A discussions, and assignments will support your learning in this track.

Course Assignments

Information about the assignments can be viewed on my course syllabus.

Course Outline

The course consists of ten weekly modules:

  1. The Foundations of Good Research
  2. Genealogical Records
  3. Genealogical Records, Part II
  4. Genealogical Records, Part III
  5. Genealogy Reference & Instruction, Collection Development, Programming & Outreach
  6. Technology Issues and Trends
  7. Issues and Trends in Preservation and Access
  8. Scholarship, Publishing, Academia, Intellectual Freedom
  9. Digging Deeper: Populations, Partnerships, Opportunities, Strategies
  10. An Introduction to Genetic Genealogy

With a Little (More) Help from My Friends

I am a librarian and professional genealogist, however I have not worked as an actual genealogy librarian in 11 years, nor have I done traditional reference and instruction since 2007. So I coaxed a bunch of talented dynamic friends and colleagues to help fill that void, each giving up one week of their time for free, to serve as guest instructors, sharing their professional expertise and answering what I am sure will be many many questions from the students.

I extend a big thank you to:

  • Ari Wilkins, Library Association, Dallas Public Library Genealogy Section.
  • Sue Kaufman, Manager, Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research, Houston Public Library.
  • Stephanie George, Special Collections & Archives Librarian, Leatherby Libraries, Chapman University.
  • Drew Smith, Librarian, Academic Services, University of South Florida (USF) Tampa Library, and co-owner of Aha! Seminars.
  • Amy Lenertz Coffin, Owner Raincross Genealogy.

Stephanie and Amy are both SLIS alumna, like me. Go Spartans!

I look forward to this new big adventure this summer!

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4 thoughts on “I am Teaching a Graduate Level Genealogy Course for the San Jose State University School of Information”

  1. Of all the thousands people who attempted to organize and contain the world of genealogy in makes sense only in retrospect that it was a librarian.

    I’ve been doing genealogy for 25 years but your suggestions allowed me to organize and retag everything I have in Evernote. it is so tidy, organized and workable I just open Evernote and marvel.

    1. Thanks for the kind words, Tyler!

      We librarians generally are pretty good at organization things, except when it comes to our homes, of course! 😉

    1. I am teaching the same course again this summer, and it’s available to anyone (if there is space available) to register in via the Open University program.

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