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Going for NIGR

The genealogical community talks a lot about giving back to genealogy. Because we all gain so much from the work of others, because we so often stand on the shoulders of those who came before, we all feel a strong desire to give back and help build. This blog, for example, is one way The Legal Genealogist tries to give back for all the help I’ve gotten over the years.

But sometimes it’s the genealogical community that tries to give back to individuals who are making a difference, to help them along and make them better at what they do.

And one wonderful example is the Richard S. Lackey Memorial Scholarship, awarded every year “to an experienced researcher employed in a paid or volunteer position in the services of the genealogical community” to enable that researcher to share in what has to be one of the most wonderful educational experiences genealogy has to offer: the week-long National Institute on Genealogical Research (NIGR) held each July at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

Let me tell you a little bit about NIGR, and then a little bit more about how you — or someone you know — can apply for the Richard S. Lackey Memorial Scholarship for the 2013 program.

The NIGR experience

NIGR — a non-profit group whose trustees come from the American Society of Genealogists, Association of Professional Genealogists, Board for Certification of Genealogists, Federation of Genealogical Societies, National Genealogical Society, and the institute’s alumni association — describes itself as “an intensive program offering on-site examination of federal records. Designed for experienced researchers, it is not an introduction to genealogy.”

I was fortunate enough to be able to register for NIGR in the summer of 2011. Competition for the limited number of slots each year is so fierce that you end up registering in advance to be sent a brochure, and then when you get the brochure, you fill out the registration form and send it off in the mail immediately. It’s first-come-first-served, and whoever’s application is postmarked first wins this race. You can register now to get the 2013 brochure at the NIGR home page — just disregard the fact that (sigh…) it still talks about the 2012 institute… The 2013 dates are July 15-19, 2013.

After an orientation meeting on the Sunday night before the program begins, you enter into a week-long in-depth immersion into the records of the United States. The basic ones are covered, sure. Land records. Immigration and naturalization records. Military and pension records. You may think you know those federal record groups. Trust me, you don’t. Not in the depth you will after NIGR. Not to mention the chance to spend time actually researching your own family’s records … and holding them in your hand in the research room.

But the program also touches on a wide variety of lesser-known records and record types. Things like postal records. The map collections at Archives II in College Park, Maryland, where you spend a day. Records captured in World War II.

There’s an evening at the Library of Congress. An evening at the DAR Library. An evening banquet in a gorgeous Virginia location with a nearly panoramic view and yet one last speaker.

It is, quite simply, one of the best educational experiences a genealogist can have.

So trust me… you want to do this.

But while it’s not horribly expensive — tuition is $350 for the week — it isn’t cheap, and you have to add your hotel costs and fees and travel expenses to the tuition in coming up with your budget. And sometimes for those who deserve a chance at NIGR the most, the expense is the sticking point.

Enter the Lackey Scholarship

The Richard S. Lackey Memorial Scholarship is sponsored by the National Institute on Genealogical Research Alumni Association (NIGRAA) — and yes, before you ask, I am a member and my dues help support this scholarship. Here’s what NIGRAA has to say about it:

This scholarship is awarded to an experienced researcher employed in a paid or volunteer position in the services of the genealogical community. The amount of the Scholarship is $500, which covers full tuition for the National Institute on Genealogical Research, attendance at the Alumni Association Dinner, and will partly defray hotel and/or meal costs.

And the application deadline for the 2013 Lackey Scholarship is Saturday, December 15, 2012.

A link to the application form is at the bottom of the NIGRAA website, and both the application and any supporting attachments have to be submitted in PDF or Word format by email to the email address listed in the application form.

The winner — who’ll be notified not later than the middle of February — is automatically accepted for the 2013 program, but will still need to submit the NIGR form (the one from the brochure).

So… do you qualify? What does NIGRAA mean by “employed in a paid or volunteer position” yadda yadda? The bottom line is that winners tend to be genealogical librarians or people very active in the genealogical community. The defining characteristic NIGRAA is looking for is that you’ll be in a position to help others using the knowledge you gain by attending NIGR.

Here, then, the genealogical community will give back to you for the work you’re doing now so that you’ll be in an even stronger position to give back to the community in the future.

Win-win all the way around.

The scholarship, by the way, is named after Richard Stephen Lackey (1941-1983), a noted Mississippi genealogist and historian who wrote and lectured on Mississippi records and on genealogical standards. He was president of the Board for Certification of Genealogists at the time of his death, and was elected to the National Genealogical Society’s Hall of Fame in 2001.

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