AGS: The Basics

American Genealogical Studies (AGS): The Basics

Course Overview

AGS: The Basics (revised 2018) is the first of four AGS courses that are self-paced and online, in the cloud. This course focuses primarily on providing a solid foundation in genealogy for beginning researchers or serves as a refresher for the intermediate level researcher. The concepts and techniques taught in this course help to prepare you to build your skills in all the more complex areas of genealogical research and to successfully advance to the next three course levels in AGS.

Author: NGS
Prerequisites: None
Course: Online, cloud based
Price: NGS Members $45 Non-members $65

Course Description

AGS: The Basics teaches concepts and techniques including recognizing and identifying the kinds of family papers and memorabilia with useful genealogical information. Learn to record and evaluate the value of what you discover; how to develop and write a research plan; understand the difference between the most widely used charts and forms in genealogy, including the pedigree chart and family group sheet, and practice using them. You will also learn to identify the difference between sources and citations and why citations are so important to genealogy. Additional areas of learning include locating and testing records to verify family stories; interviewing relatives; posting a query; analyzing family bible records; and applying the internet and technology to genealogical research.

The course is divided into modules with multiple sections, which include reading and reference lists, web links, self-correcting quizzes, and a glossary. A full syllabus is provided to course registrants. The course modules are as follows.

  • Module 1—Getting Started
  • Module 2—Create a Research Plan
  • Module 3—Home Sources
  • Module 4—Family Traditions and Connecting with Others for research


American Genealogical Studies series NGS Members Non-Members
AGS: The Basics (Revised 2018) $45 $65
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Since the online courses under the American Genealogical Studies category are cloud-based, you can take the course from home, or anywhere, at anytime. You need either a computer or tablet with an internet connection to access the lessons, examples, exercises, and quizzes. No software or material is loaded onto your computer or tablet.

To optimize your online learning experience, see more about the Canvas system

NGS grants a license to an individual to take the course shown above. This grants the individual a personal, nonexclusive, nontransferable right to the course materials for that student’s personal educational use only. All students work independently.

How Long Does It Take to Complete an Online Course?

The American Genealogical Studies series courses have no set time or date for weekly attendance. These online courses are geared toward individuals who have varied schedules that may include their work, volunteer pursuits, and or family obligations. You prioritize your time management and your learning, so your course work can be scheduled at your own pace.

Upon registration, you have access to the course for six months from the date of registration. If you need extra time, a one-time extension of three months is granted by contacting the NGS Course Administrator.

When Can I Start the Course?

Within three business days, you receive two separate emails, one that confirms your registration and one that provides login instructions.

Do I Need Anything Further?

NGS strongly recommends the book Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace and QuickSheet: Citing Databases and Images by Elizabeth Shown Mills.1

Note: If you plan to take AGS: Guide to Documentation and Source Citation or AGS: Beyond the Basics, or AGS: Branching Out, Evidence Explained is required.

After taking one of the American Genealogical Studies series courses, am I a certified genealogist?

Although the National Genealogical Society has a variety of courses available to help you learn about the methods, skills, and standards for certification, NGS is not a licensing body. Therefore, no formal genealogical credential or accreditation is implied. Please refer to the websites of the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) or the International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists (ICAPGen) for their policies or standards for certification or accreditation.

Letters of Completion and the Certificate in American Genealogical Studies

Each student who successfully completes each course in the American Genealogical Studies series receives a letter of completion. Letters are mailed out once per month. If you complete the course by the 20th of the month, we mail your letter out at the end of that month. We use the same schedule for your final certificate in American Genealogical Studies. If you complete all four courses in the AGS series you will receive a NGS Certificate in American Genealogical Studies after your final, fourth letter of completion.


Here is a link to the American Genealogical Studies: FAQs. If you have further questions, please contact the NGS Course Administrator.

1 Elizabeth Shown Mills, Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace, rev.ed. (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2012) and QuickSheet: Citing Databases and Images, rev.ed. (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2012).