In my last couple of posts, I have been taking a look at the state of my own genealogy education, and sharing some of the educational opportunities out there that I have learned from or hope to learn from in the future. Here are a few more types of activities that can help to strengthen genealogy knowledge and skills.
I have found that watching webinars can be a great way to get a better understanding of a particular record type or resource or of research methods or other aspects of genealogy research. Some organizations present webinars and have the recordings available for later viewing. Often access to these webinars requires a subscription, for example Legacy Family Tree Webinars, and the Virtual Genealogical Association. These and other organizations sometimes have sales with reduced subscription rates (for example during the RootsTech conference, or sometimes for Black Friday), and even at the full subscription price, getting access to their webinar content for a full year is often a good value.
Regional/local genealogical societies often have webinars available to their members as well. As another upside to more virtual content being available lately, I can view webinars recorded by various societies whose meetings I might not have not been able to attend if they were only held in person.
I have also watched a number of freely available webinars through the FamilySearch Learning Center (see also https://www.familysearch.org/en/wiki/Classes_in_the_Learning_Center). The online access to FamilySearch’s educational videos currently seems to be a bit awkward to use, but the list in their Wiki (second link above) appears to contain links to more than 2,000 videos in various languages. These videos discuss many different basic genealogy topics, as well as information about researching in different regions across the country and around the world.
Blogs & Other Online Article Series
I enjoy reading a number of genealogy blogs, and I appreciate seeing others write about problem solving in their research or learning about techniques and resources. Many blogs focus on research in certain parts of the world or using particular types of sources or analyses (e.g. DNA).
There are some blogs/series of articles out there that are written especially for enhancing research skills, though. A couple of examples of these are on my list to read more:
- BCG ‘Ten-Minute Methodology’ Series
- Elizabeth Shown Mills, QuickTips: The Blog @ Evidence Explained
I also try to read genealogical journal articles, such as those in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly and in The Record from the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, for examples of solid case studies and family lineages.
With so much educational material available online in lecture, course, video, blog, and other formats, it can be easy to overlook the idea of reading books. Published material, especially any that covers online resources, can become out of date before long. Books that discuss fundamentals for genealogy research, though, can have a lot of good advice. BCG has a recommended reading list that I’m certainly paying attention to as I determine what I need to (re)read. Plus, there are books reviewing types of records or sources available for particular geographical locations that can be very helpful, not to mention books about the history of certain times and places. As much as I enjoy collecting books on my shelves, I know that growing a personal library can become expensive. Luckily, used versions of a lot of relevant books can be purchased, and libraries may also hold or be able to get them. Don’t forget WorldCat as well, as a way to possibly find books that may not be in every library – you can even create a free account there and create lists to keep track of library materials.
Learning through practice
Lastly, one of my favorite ways to push my own genealogy skills to the next level is to try to improve through practice. I love reading, and I appreciate seeing others explain concepts, but for me, there’s nothing like actually trying something on my own. For one, it can often be much easier to understand a method or type of source when I’m using it myself, with a particular question motivating my efforts. Plus, by actually trying to produce high quality genealogy research work, incorporating skills and knowledge that I have learned, I can figure out if I fully understand what I’m trying to do, or if there are concepts that I need to learn or work at more. And many activities (genealogy research, analysis, and writing included) can get easier through practice.
Much of the above list describes experiences that I am familiar with first-hand or that have seemed particularly interesting to me for one reason or another. This is certainly not an exhaustive list of ways to learn and improve genealogy skills (Cyndi’s List has more than 150 links pertaining to Genealogical Education). I also completed the Boston University Certificate in Genealogical Research Program, there are and other similar in-depth certificate and/or degree programs. I found the BU course to be quite valuable as well, but programs like that one are much more time- and cost-intensive than a lot of the other opportunities listed above. There are many other online and in-person training courses, workshops, and resources that can help people to learn about genealogy.
What are your favorite ways to improve your genealogy education?
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