Saturday, January 21, 2012

Learning Genealogy via the Internet

I have always loved learning. The first time I stepped across the kindergarten room threshold at John Palmer Elementary School in Chicago, IL, I knew I had found paradise.

And of course you know the old saying about teachers. Genealogy offers so much opportunity for learning.
But sometimes we all get frustrated by the dead ends and brick walls we face.

We wish we could have a helping hand, maybe in the form of Mr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. , the renowned Harvard scholar and genealogist.

I was reading Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter for January 4, 2012. Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s new series Finding Your Roots was showcased. I have thoroughly enjoyed Gates’ previous series, “Who Do You Think You Are?” on PBS, and learned about different sources that genealogists used on the show to trace the ancestry of several famous people.

I have also wished that I could afford to hire a team of genealogists to help me in my search for my ancestors. Some people have complained that the show makes it look too easy to find family history records. A Mr. Carl H. Bloss posted this comment on the Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter:

“It is hoped this new series will portray genealogy differently than WDYTYA. It's nice ... (to) use more famous people to investigate. But things become unrealistic ... not showing the true skills needed. Just how much does it cost to get this searching done? Where do I have to go to find the answers? Who can help me if I'm stuck...” Carl

I agree with Mr. Bloss that it would be wonderful if Mr. Gates could have a companion piece to his series that would be just about the actual research methods, that would walk us through the entire process each researcher followed to find the answers that often shocked but always pleased the people whose families were the subject of the study.

But we don’t have to wait for outside help in our genealogical pursuits. There are so many avenues offered today, many available on the internet, that can assist us in sharpening our research skills.

In this post, I am going to concentrate on one format of online learning that is tailor-made to help us increase our genealogy skills. This is the webinar which the wiki site describes as “…a Web-based Seminar, a presentation, lecture, workshop or seminar that is transmitted over the Web.”  A great feature of the webinar is that you can watch in real time or tune in at a later time that is more convenient for you. Many of these webinars are free but some are available only for a fee. Where can you find these events?

I use Legacy Family Tree software to organize my family history. I became aware of Legacy webinars through a newsletter, Legacy News, that Legacy sends its customers. One of the upcoming webinars on the Legacy schedule is one you won’t want to miss. Thomas MacEntree, creator of, will be presenting  “Are you Ready for the 1940 U.S. Census Images?” on Wednesday, February 29, 2012.

DearMyrtle, one of the premier genealogy blogs written by Pat (Player) Richley-Erickson under her pen name "Myrtle",  has a specialized blog which functions as a webinar clearinghouse where she summarizes current offerings from many sites.

Another great resource for genealogy webinars is Family Tree Magazine whose offerings are a mixture of free and fee-based. I definitely want to look at this recorded webinar by Maureen A. Taylor, Photo Detective who “has been solving family historians' photo mysteries for years. In celebration of National Photo Month, she offers advice for identifying family photos in this free webinar.”

The Learning Center at FamilySearch offers free short courses, although not technically “webinars” but videos, on many different countries, in different languages, and on different genealogical skill levels. One intriguing title is: “5 Minute Genealogy Episode 1: Find a Record in Five Minutes” .

With this cornucopia of knowledge just waiting on the internet, we can all increase our skills and advance our research at our leisure.

Categories: genealogy education

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