Everyone is Welcome at the SoG!
This course is aimed at both prospective visitors to the SoG library in London and potential users of their website. The course is listed as being suitable for beginners and as an ‘enthusiastic amateur’, who is familiar with an archives environment, I would say it is pitched correctly. The course is largely text based and broken up into eight short sections. It begins with an overview of the different types of Archive repositories that can be found in the UK. It then provides a background to the Society of Genealogists and an outline of its unique record collections and how to prepare for a visit. The aim of this course is to introduce you to the Society of Genealogists and provide an idea of SoG holdings rather than the practicalities of handling old documents and using microfiche.
It took me about 45 minutes to complete but that required a degree of discipline, i.e., not exploring all the links in detail. If you prefer a more leisurely approach, then you could do it over a few hours or days. The course is certainly designed to facilitate both approaches. I recommend that you start with the video under the lesson How to prepare for your research trip. Don’t worry about understanding everything at this stage; just soak up the lovely warmth and enthusiasm exuded by Else and know that you will be made welcome. Then start at the beginning and work your way through the rest of the content.
The Society of Genealogists’ website looks easy to navigate at first glance but it takes a little digging to get to some of the details you may need. This course provides some very practical and common sense information along with links to key areas. Advice to bring a packed lunch was particularly sensible as there’s no canteen/cafeteria on site!
I think this course is particularly well suited to anyone who is apprehensive about whether they ‘belong’ in a place like the Society. Likewise, if you’re overwhelmed by the vast amount of information available on the SoG website and struggling to either navigate it or find the key pieces of information needed to plan a visit, this course helps you cut through to the essentials. This is something that I think this FTA course does particularly well. By far the best bit about this course, and I say this as someone who dislikes and will avoid YouTube tutorials, is the twenty minute video tour. The course concludes with a brief summary of topics covered and a quiz to underpin key points.
On completion a four page guide to the benefits of researching in archives written by top genealogist Chris Paton is available to download and keep. A stark reminder that ‘every record collection that is hosted by an online genealogy site is sourced from an archive repository somewhere’, and that records available online ‘are a drop in the ocean compared to what exists in the wider world’.
The only downside for me was the course title, Explore the Archives – Your guide to visiting the Society of Genealogists as I expected something different. However, the introduction set me straight: it is an “introduction to the Society of Genealogists’ unique library and archive”, rather than a practical guide. I think the title Explore the Archives – the Society of Genealogists might fit the content better, and set expectations accordingly. It is simply an introduction and it serves that purpose quite well.