National Genealogical Society

Educational Courses

Frequently Asked Questions
AGS: Branching Out

How does an online course work?
The NGS courses use a Learning Management System (LMS) to provide students with various materials needed for the courses, including web pages, videos, and websites. NGS uses the cloud-based, learning management system called Canvas by Instructure.
How long does it take to complete an online course?
These courses are geared toward individuals who require flexibility in their schedules and are motivated to learn. Since these courses do not have a set schedule, each student establishes his or her own timetable.

Each course has a set allotment of time. Please use the syllabus to help you determine your ability to complete the course term. See the individual course for the term and syllabus for the course. After registration, you have access to the course for a designated length of time.

American Genealogical Studies Series


The Basics

6 months

Guide to Documentation and Source Citation

6 months

Beyond the Basics

12 months

Branching Out

12 months

If you need an extension of time, please refer to Term of course section on the Branching Out course page.

What are the differences between the components (The Basics, Guide to Documentation and Source Citation, Beyond the Basics, and Branching Out) of the American Genealogical Studies courses?
The courses of the American Genealogical Studies series build on each other. They teach you a systematic method of investigating your family history by continuing to broaden your use of a wide variety of genealogical materials.
  • The Basics provides a solid foundation in genealogy.
  • Guide to Documentation and Source Citation helps genealogists understand the principles of citation for common sources.
  • Beyond the Basics helps genealogists understand evidence analysis and the differences between the types of sources, information, and evidence contained in genealogical records.
  • Branching Out teaches a systematic method of investigation using a wide variety of genealogical materials.
When can I start the course?
Upon successfully completing the prerequisites, the NGS Course Administrator ([email protected]) sets your profile to register for AGS: Branching Out. Please allow three business days to receive an e-mail from the NGS confirming registration and providing log in instructions. It is followed by a second e-mail from the NGS Education Department <[email protected]> linking you to the registration page.
What hardware do I need on my computer for the online NGS courses?
We recommend the following:
  • Operating System
    • Windows 7 (or higher)
    • Mac network connection
  • 56k modem connection
    • Broadband
    • DSL
  • Wireless high-speed connection
  • Scanner (for AGS: Branching Out)
What software do I need on my computer for a Canvas course?
We recommend the following:
  • Browser (see the question below)
  • Adobe Acrobat Reader
  • Scanning software (for AGS: Branching Out)
  • Anti-virus software (periodically updated definitions with regular scans)
  • Spyware removal software (periodically updated)
Which browsers work for a Canvas course?

To optimize your online learning experience, check for your browser compatibility, at for further information and details.

Please understand that some Internet providers (AOL, for example) do not work well with Canvas. If this is the case, you need to minimize the program and use an alternative browser to access the course.

How do I log in to Canvas?
Upon registering for the course, you receive instructions for logging in to Canvas for the first time. Please keep track of your password. If you misplace the web page for the login, you can find it on our website under the “Education” page on either the American Genealogical Studies or Continuing Genealogical Studies page. This login appears on the menu on the left side of the page. 
Why am I asked to “Log off” after each session?
NGS has a certain number of licenses to use the Canvas system. By logging off, you allow us to maximize the number of students using these courses. This in turn keeps course costs reasonable.
What software or additional hardware do I need for my coursework?
For the written assignments in AGS: Branching Out, you submit written reports.
You need a word processing program with a PDF (Portable Document Format) converting program.
If you want to include scanned documents, you need some type of PDFBinder to include these documents with your written report.
What types of computer skills should I have?
You should know how to use a Microsoft Word document (file types .doc, .docx) with footnotes and how to attach documents.
How much time does the Branching Out course take?
The Branching Out course requires a time commitment to take the course, do the research, and complete the writing assignments. The time commitment varies, depending on the student.
How can I get more time to complete the Branching Out course?
If you need extra time to complete the course, the course administrator issues a one-time extension of six months. Prior to your course expiration date, please contact the course administrator Please contact the course administrator at [email protected].
When will I get my Branching Out certificate?
Each person who successfully completes one of the components of the American Genealogical Studies series receives a certificate of completion. The Course Administrator mails out certificates at the end of the month for those who complete the course by the 20th of the month.
What is the refund policy for courses?
All course purchases are final. No refunds are issued.
What kind of tech help is available for Canvas?
Please note that Instructure provides NGS with the Canvas software. If you have questions regarding course content, please send an e-mail to Julie Miller at [email protected]. If you have questions about using the system, please send an e-mail to Susan Yockey at [email protected]. We try to answer questions promptly during office hours, 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. eastern time, Monday through Friday.
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.
What other courses does NGS offer?
Besides offering the American Genealogical Studies series, NGS has a variety of courses under the Continuing Genealogical Studies (CGS) series. These cover various topics.

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