Thoughts Of A Relaxing Postgrad Student

Yesterday I submitted my final assignment for the Postgraduate Certificate in Genealogy, Palaeography and Heraldry with the University of Strathclyde. It’s been an interesting 9 months, not without struggle, but I am pleased to be done and (although I am waiting on a final mark) I am very proud of what I have achieved.

I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis at the end of 2015 and since July of last year have been dealing with quite severe symptoms of this disease. When I began the PG Cert I did consider whether or not it was a wise decision, given what I was going through and what was likely to come but I decided to give it a go.

The support I received from the staff at the University was nothing short of amazing. They were completely understanding, flexible and gave me great advice all along the way. I had a couple of bouts of being in hospital (including one where I got a lumbar puncture which resulted in me not being able to sit or stand for more than 10 minutes at a time for a week). This flexibility is the main reason I have been able to successfully complete the year and I am immensely grateful to Toni, Tahitia and the other staff at Strathclyde for their continued assistance.

Having been an amateur genealogist for over 20 years I admit I thought the course would be more of a refresher than anything. Boy, was I wrong. I learned so many new things, new research techniques, new repositories of information and new tips. I also learned more about where my strengths and weaknesses lie, but how to overcome any hurdles I may encounter in my future studies and career.

Citation – courtesy University of Strathclyde


The course is extremely broad and covers topics such as: genealogical ethics, standards and professional practice; referencing, record keeping and indexing; civil registration in England, Wales and Scotland; census records, census substitutes and Poor Law records; copyright law, Freedom of Information and Data Protection laws; Burghs, burgesses and guilds; genetic genealogy; local directories and newspaper archives; armed forces; Irish, American and Canadian sources; feudalism, nobility and landed gentry; wills and inheritance; ecclesiastical law; palaeography; landholding and land records; heraldic devices, composition and law; heraldic registers and visitations; Latin for genealogy and family history.

All this in 8-9 months. *mops brow*

One of the modules towards the end of the course year was on Heraldry. I knew a bit about this art and science but nothing beyond “oooooh, pretty”. Well, I am now hooked. I love everything about Heraldry and have discovered I’ve quite a knack for blazoning. So much so I decided to go with a rather difficult achievement as part of my final assignment. I had to blazon 5 different arms and describe the differences between the five, including familial links, etc.

Henry Howard, 3rd Earl of Surrey
(European Heraldry)

Blazoning this particular achievement took a lot of time and research to discover who owned the arms in each quarter but I felt like a genealogical/heraldic Velma from Scooby Doo. In fact, I am a genealogical/heraldic Velma from Scooby Doo.

So, would I recommend this course? Yes, absolutely, but with a few words of caution:

  1. This will take over your life. The course recommends 25 hours of study/work a week but I found (and others on the course with whom I have spoken) that I was doing much more than that. This is a really important thing to consider, especially if you work full time. You will spend your evenings and most of your weekends doing course work and assignments.
  2. Consider doing one of Strathclyde’s online genealogy classes which are not part of the Postgraduate program but which will give you an idea of how studying online works.
  3. If you have your heart set on the Postgraduate Certificate and time is a concern, sign up for the Modular option. This will be a workload of around 14 hours a week and means you can complete the Cert over 2-3.
  4. Jump into the Genealogy: Researching Your Family Tree free online course. This has just started so there’ll be a bit of catching up to do, but it is being run by Tahitia McCabe from Strathclyde and covers a lot of topics and will help you develop your genealogical research skills.

So what next? Well, on to the Postgraduate Diploma from October for me. End goal is to do the MSc but that’s some way aways so I won’t get ahead of myself just yet. In the meantime, it’ll be nice to do some genealogy just for fun. It’s been a while and my ancestors are waiting.

5 thoughts on “Thoughts Of A Relaxing Postgrad Student”

  1. Wow, you are so inspiring. With everything you face physically, your enthusiasm for Geneology pours from every word written. I really admire your dedication and love the new look of your website. Xx

  2. Hi Erin
    I've really enjoyed reading your blog. Congratulations on completing the postgraduate certificate course. I too have been enjoying it and hope to go on to do the diploma next year. You must have amazing strength and determination to cope with all that you have, get through all the assignments and assessments and create a brilliant blog as well! Well done you!

  3. Thank you Erin for this blog.

    I finished the diploma last year, and I remember how I felt after completing the course. I agree the tutors are wonderfully supportive.

    The Diploma is even more fun as you can chose your own assignment topics. One tip – try to get some idea of what you want to do your dissertation on before you start the diploma course, as the preparation starts almost immediately.

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