It used to be that if you wanted to learn anything related to genealogy, you had to physically attend classes at a national conference or one of the institutes, fighting crowds and maybe not even being able to find a seat. Now, it’s becoming easier to find more educational opportunities online. Let’s be honest; if you had the opportunity to attend a genealogy class/lecture/workshop and the only choice you had to make was whether you wanted to put on pants … well, I know what my choice would be.
Here are my Top 5 online educational resources (pants optional):
Webinars are probably the most well-known online learning platform. Many genealogy societies, libraries, and archives offer free webinars from time to time. Even some software developers are offering free webinars – at least for a period of time before they go behind a pay wall. Some of these include:
Legacy Family Tree – these webinars are free to view live and for roughly one week after the live broadcast. After that, the webinars are only available with a reasonably-priced monthly or annual subscription.
FamilySearch – they’ve changed their site a little recently. The Learning Center is now the “Help Center” and you just have to type in what you want to learn about it you’ll get a list of available articles and lessons provided free of charge.
Ancestry.com – Ancestry offers free webinars on various topics from specific record groups to DNA through their Ancestry Academy.
Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) – BCG offers free live webinars. Most are available for purchase after they have aired, but some remain free.
Several genealogical and historical societies offer free webinars. These are just a few:
Minnesota Genealogical Society
Illinois State Genealogical Society
Southern California Genealogical Society
Check out GeneaWebinars for a constantly updated calendar of events.
A wiki is a website that allows collaborative editing of content and structure by its users. This can be good or bad. Just like our genealogy research, it all depends on the validity of the information, whether sources are provided, and whether those sources can be verified. Here are just a few:
FamilySearch – many of the wiki pages are sponsored by local genealogical or historical societies, and many include links back to record groups within FamilySearch.
Wikipedia – not genealogy-specific, but it does come in handy when researching historic events or places.
Ancestry.com – In addition to Ancestry content, Ancestry’s wiki includes full text of both The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy edited by Lou Szucs and Sandra Luebking, and Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources edited by Alice Eichholz, PhD, CG.
National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) – NARA is holding their 4th annual Virtual Genealogy Fair October 26-27. Each lecture in the event is free to view live on YouTube, and then the entire day will be available for free on YouTube afterward.
DearMYRTLE – She really does so much for the genealogy community, including her “Wacky Wednesday,” “Genealogy Game Night,” and “Mondays with Myrt” hangouts. She has also done study groups covering (among others) Elizabeth Shown Mills’ QuickLessons, British Military, and both the Mastering Genealogical Proof and Genealogy and the Law books. Her hangouts are interactive and continue to feel that way if you’re not watching them live. Highly recommended.
Family Tree DNA – their webinar schedule has been suspended for a while, but their previously recorded webinars are available for free.
SecondLife – a virtual world where you can attend genealogy chats and study groups and be whoever you want to be. A Family History Chat is held on the 1st and 3rd Sundays and an NGSQ Study Group is held on the 4th Thursdays. You can learn more about SecondLife here.
Podcasts have become one of my new favorite free educational platforms. I can listen to them while I’m cleaning, driving, or walking the dog. Many genealogy-related podcasts are available through various smartphone apps such as iTunes, Audioboom, Stitcher, or SoundCloud, or online via the podcast website. Some can even be directly downloaded to your computer or other device for listening when it’s convenient. Here are a few that I listen to:
The Genealogy Guys – Drew Smith and George G. Morgan (authors of Advanced Genealogy Research Techniques) have had their podcast for over a decade – like, before it was even cool. Drew has another podcast called “Genealogy Connection” where he interviews leaders in the genealogy community.
Genealogy Happy Hour – Amy Crabill Lay and Penny Burke Bonawitz are “two blondes and a bottle” who discuss genealogy over a glass(es) of wine (each episode features a different bottle of wine, so … yes).
Genealogy Gems – Lisa Louise Cook is always on top of current technology and how we can use it for genealogy.
The Genealogy Professional – For those who are thinking about becoming a genealogy professional, or those who already are, Marian Pierre-Louis shares best practices through interviews with other genealogy professionals.
Cyndi’s List also has links to several genealogy-related podcasts.
Bonus: Digital Magazines
I might be a little bit biased, but the best monthly digital magazine for genealogy education is – without a doubt – Going In-Depth, with articles and regular columns about nearly every facet of genealogical research, from getting started to writing your family history and everything in between. (Psst … the bi-monthly Getting Started column is especially spectacular!)
Feel free to comment with your favorites!