Am I too old to go back to school? Lots of older adults wonder that question. I think the underlying question is: Will I have the time to use what I learn or will the expense be worth the short time I have left on earth? I’ve wondered those questions. Ultimately, deciding to go to college or take other education programs comes down to:
1) Do you want to learn and grow?
2) Will it enhance your life or the lives of your family?
3) Does it enhance your financial situation?
4) Do you just want to ‘cuz? 😉

Grace Under Pressure podcast promo cartoon

When is too old to go back to school?

I knew I wanted to get more education, but I couldn’t decide on the major—English, psychology, theology… I already teach writing, write books, teach lots of fun techie stuff, and even took some classes to see if I wanted to become an ordained pastor. But nothing quite fit…Nothing clicked inside, deep inside.

Until…I started doing some serious genealogy. I mean serious. Like sitting in the Pennsylvania State Library and State Archive searching records, scanning books for names and dates and…whew! Hard, hard sleuthing! And I LOVED every minute. If you know I live in Montana and flew to Pennsylvania to speak, but added on the extra 3 days to do all this research, then you also know paying hotel/food/etc. to do research had to be a passionate hobby, right?

A few weeks after coming home, I casually searched online for programs. I’m an empty-nester mom, right? I have a well established home with my home office. I travel all over the country (and sometimes other countries) to speak and research. So what in the world was I thinking? I let it be for a few more weeks. But I kept searching. And I kept getting frustrated with my lack of knowledge.

I ran into walls in my research that I couldn’t get past because of what I didn’t know or the slow progress because I needed to know more methodology, more and better ways to search. A mystery can’t be solved if the detective doesn’t have the tools. This little detective is going to get some better tools and skills. I registered to take online classes to become a genealogy expert 🙂 When I graduate, I’ll have an expertise in English Records, possibly Scottish and Irish as well with this little designation added to my name: PLCGS (Professional Learning Certificate in Genealogical Studies). The only problem is that I keep forgetting what those letters stands for when I tell people about it, lol! But it means I’ll be an expert—and that means I’ll know a little more than I do now so I can dig into those family mysteries!

Getting this kind of education is so much fun as it’s something I’ve been doing as a passionate hobby. Now the additional education adds to my ability to research for the novels I write and to solve those mysteries (when possible) for my own family searches too. One day I’m going to solve the mystery of my 4th and 5th times great grandfathers’. Where did they go? Why did they die? Why is there no found record of their deaths when we know they fought in the Revolutionary War? (And we know more, but we can’t prove through paperwork that they are the ancestors we believe them to be.) Some records were burned during battles, some men died of small pox (but no record of burial?) and some men died battling in pioneer/native skirmishes. Were any of these the cause? I so want to know!

I’m enrolled to start my first class in July to become a professional genealogy lecturer and expert. The majority of my education will be online and in materials. Attending part-time lets me continue with the books I’m contracted to write. I think this is going to enhance the future of my career. But I’m excited because I know it will enhance the kind of research I love to do. I might even be able to help others with it sooner than you think. And graduation? I can’t wait! It’s in Toronto 😀 I haven’t been there yet. 

If you could go back to school, what would you study???
Where would you choose to go?
Did you do what I did and wonder, “Why would I do this at my age?” or “Am I too old to go back to school?”


My dad with his parents, Myron and Cleo Bigelow

My dad with his parents, Myron and Cleo Bigelow

Recently I went to a local family history center. They’re run by the LDS church (and no, I’m not LDS). There’s small libraries in a lot of the LDS facilities around the country (and world) that can help people trace genealogy. A couple of older ladies took me under their wings and started me off using Now I knew about that site, and already had a membership, but I didn’t know that it had some extra options and how to use those options to find more information. I found out that even though one tab might hold information, another tab doesn’t cross reference it. That’s a major tip! I hadn’t realized I’d need to do the search for names/dates/etc. on both tabs!

Fun thing I learned while doing family research:

I found out my third and fourth great-grandfathers’ correct names on my dad’s side. There was a little confusion in the paperwork I’d inherited so the wrong man’s name was listed with a question mark. Neither, however, had anything to do with coming from Scotland. But getting those names did help me solidify that particular branch of my lineage. I’m pretty excited about that since that research gets me a little closer to finalizing my D.A.R. membership application. All the little details add up, you know.

The local history center library offers hours to the public and there are folks that really enjoy digging into the mysteries of genealogy with me. That’s just plain fun! What I’m after is the ability to tell the stories behind the names, not just the names. I think it will be a lot of fun to see if my ancestors left family lines behind in Scotland, Ireland, England, and Sweden for me to trace to people alive today.

If you’re tracing your genealogy, what sites have actually provided documentation that proves relationships?

If you’re interested in tracing your lineage, how far have you gotten?

Have you traveled to any of the places your family hailed from?