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  • Learning Support: Scholarships, Grants, and Fellowships of Interest to Family Historians

    Erika Dreifus

    Of course, we all know that historical research is rewarding in and of itself. Family history and genealogical researchers, in particular, understand how satisfying it can be simply to discover something new about an individual or collective past. Still, sometimes it can be affirming—and helpful to our budgets—to receive financial support for our endeavors, especially if we're seeking to improve our research skills or delve much further into a specific project or topic.

    Lucky for us, support is available, in many forms. If you're hoping to attend an institute or take courses to expand your genealogical knowledge base, you may be interested in a scholarship. If you're focusing on a specific research area or long-term project, you may want to investigate available grants or fellowships.

    This article offers a sampling of such possibilities to explore online. Note that deadlines (and guidelines) for each opportunity may vary, even from year to year. If a program that interests you is no longer open for applications this cycle, be sure to bookmark the site and recheck it in the future!

    Scholarships for Educational Programs, Institutes, and Conferences

    Several scholarships are available to researchers in genealogy and related fields. Many are connected with specific conferences and institutes. Here are some samples of standing scholarship programs.

    If you locate a conference that interests you but cannot find specific scholarship information on the conference website, don't hesitate to contact the director and ask about funding opportunities. Sometimes travel grants and similar programs may be finalized later in the conference planning process.

    American Society of Genealogists (ASG) Scholar Award
    ASG Scholarship Committee
    2324 East Nottingham
    Springfield, MO 65804-7821

    This award provides a $500 scholarship to "a developing scholar" who will attend one of two eminent training programs: the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research (IGHR), held each June at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, or the National Institute on Genealogical Research (NIGR), which takes place annually in July at the National Archives in Washington, DC.

    Brian W. Hutchison Genealogical Scholarship
    Alberta Family Histories Society
    712 – 16 Avenue N.W.
    Calgary AB T2M 0J8

    Inaugurated in 2004-05, this scholarship of up to $500 is available to Canadian residents to "encourage Canadians to pursue formal study of genealogical analysis, research, evaluation, and documentation methodologies and standards." The scholarship funds are to be applied toward tuition and book costs connected with study in the field of genealogy/family history "in a recognized educational or accreditation program." See the website for further information about "recognized" programs as well as for the application form/details.

    Richard S. Lackey Memorial Scholarship
    National Institute on Genealogical Research (NIGR) Alumni Association
    PO Box 14274
    Washington, DC 20044-4274

    Awarded to "an experienced researcher employed in a paid or volunteer position, in the services of the genealogical community," this $500 scholarship covers tuition at the NIGR, plus attendance at the Alumni Association dinner and some hotel/meal costs. The award winner "will automatically be accepted" for the NIGR. “The program takes an in-depth look at federal records of genealogical value located primarily in the Washington, DC area.” Download the application form at the website.

    Oral History Training Institute
    Ohio Humanities Council
    471 E. Broad Street #1620
    Columbus, OH 43215
    Tel. 614-461-7802 or 800-293-9774

    Open to "paid staff and dedicated volunteers from local historical organizations, libraries, schools, and colleges and universities, and civic groups" who seek formal training in oral history, this institute will be held at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, June 7-9, 2005. Participants receive an "intensive three-day introduction to the theory and practice of oral history." Ohio residents may apply for scholarships of $150 from the Ohio Humanities Council to cover most of the institute fee. More information and application form at the website.

    Brigham Young University Continuing Education
    136 Harman Continuing Education Building
    Brigham Young University
    Provo, UT
    Tel. 801-422-4853

    Family history-related conferences that offer scholarships include the Computerized Genealogy Conference (held in March) and the Genealogy and Family History Conference (held in August). Contact the Continuing Education program directly for the scholarship application form. Award amounts vary.

    Fellowships and Grants

    If you have a specific project in mind or underway, you may be seeking funds to facilitate your work. Many research collections (and even some individuals and other organizations) offer grants and fellowships for these purposes. Here are some examples:

    Baylor University Institute for Oral History Research Fellowship
    Rebecca Sharpless, Director
    Institute for Oral History
    Baylor University
    One Bear Place #97271
    Waco, TX 76798-7271

    This fellowship program enables scholars an opportunity to work with oral history materials in Baylor's Texas Collection special library, which has particular strengths in Central Texas history and in religion in the Southwest. An online "Guide to the Collection" provides more details to topics in Baylor's oral history collection. The fellowship provides a stipend of $3,000 plus office space and computer support in the Institute for Oral History. The fellow is expected to spend at least two weeks researching at Baylor. More information is available at the website.

    Seth and Mary Hinshaw Fellowship
    c/o Gwen Gosney Erickson
    Librarian and College Archivist
    Friends Historical Collection
    Guilford College
    5800 W. Friendly Avenue
    Greensboro, NC 27410

    Sponsored by the North Carolina Friends Historical Society, this award offers up to $2,000 to facilitate research at the Friends Historical Collection "to study an aspect of Southern Quaker history." According to the posted fellowship notice, it is expected that "the most competitive applications will involve innovative projects of the many concerns to which Friends have turned their attention, including literature, women's issues, family history, and race relations, as well as religious doctrine and controversies." Additional information and application instructions are available at the website.

    Honoring Our Ancestors Genealogical Grants

    You may know Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak from her genealogical writing and research. You may not know that she also offers grants, each month, to genealogical societies, libraries, and individuals. Check her website to see examples of projects that have won awards, and to submit your own application online.

    Donald Mosher Award
    c/o Merrill Hill Mosher, CG
    90286 Cape Arago Highway
    Coos Bay, OR 97420

    Honoring the memory of Donald Mosher, this award provides a $500 grant to facilitate research on Virginia families. Projects may fall within one of three broad categories (family genealogy; studies that focus on immigrant origins; publication plans that will make available previously unpublished records from 1600s or 1700s Virginia). See the website for full information and application tips.

    Additional Opportunities from Historical Societies, Archives, and Museums

    Many historical societies, archives, and museums offer funding to help facilitate research in their collections.

    You'll find a good list of state libraries at the Library of Congress's State Libraries page. The Indiana Historical Society maintains another very useful directory, with a comprehensive list of historical societies.

    Here's a sampling of programs you'll find by checking the institutions listed at these sites:

    Weston A. Cate, Jr. Annual Research Fellowship
    Vermont Historical Society
    60 Washington Street
    Barre, VT 05641-4209
    Tel. 802-479-8500

    This annual $1,200 fellowship honors the Society's former director, Weston A. Cate, Jr., and is intended to encourage original research in Vermont history. The Fellow's research should result in a paper to be considered for publication in Vermont History magazine, or in another form that may be exhibited or viewed publicly. The annual deadline is the third Friday in March; contact the Society for updated fellowship guidelines and application form.

    Anna K. and Mary E. Cunningham Research Residency Program in New York State History and Culture
    New York State Library
    Cultural Education Center
    Albany, NY 12230
    Tel. 518-402-5437

    As a depository for both New York State and Federal Government documents, the New York State Library "has extensive holdings in state and local history and genealogy." The Cunningham Research Residency Program is open to "academic and public historians, graduate students, independent researchers and writers and primary and secondary school teachers." The program includes four awards of $1,000 plus access to photoduplication and other Library services. More information and an online application are available at the website.

    Massachusetts Historical Society Fellowships
    1154 Boylston Street
    Boston, MA 02215-3695
    Tel. 617-536-1608

    The Massachusetts Historical Society administers many fellowship opportunities, including a program of "short-term research fellowships" whose typical applicants "include but are not limited to independent scholars, advanced graduate students, and college and university faculty in all disciplines." Other fellowship programs include specific opportunities for K-12 teachers and educators.

    E. Geoffrey and Elizabeth Thayer Verney Fellowship (Click on "Research Assistance")
    Nantucket Historical Association
    Attn: Georgen Gilliam Charnes, Curator of Library & Archives
    PO Box 1016
    Nantucket, MA 02554-1016

    The Nantucket Historical Association's Research Library's collection "contains more than 5,000 volumes and 45,000 photographs, as well as, archival documents such as ship's logs, account books, family papers, and scrapbooks." The Verney Fellowship supports research in the Association's collections and other local repositories; it is open to "academics, graduate students, and independent scholars." The Fellow receives housing for up to three weeks, a stipend of $300 per week while in residence, and travel expenses up to $600. The Fellow is expected to produce an article appropriate for publication in Historic Nantucket, the Association's quarterly journal. More information and application instructions are available at the website.

    Erika Dreifus (Ed.M., M.F.A., Ph.D.) earned her doctorate in history from Harvard University. Her articles on family history research have appeared in Ancestry, Family Chronicle, and Family Tree Magazine’s Trace Your Family History. Visit her website at .

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