Online Options for Family History Education

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Computers and Genealogy


This article is part of a series.

Overview of Computers and Genealogy
The Internet and Family History
NGS Guidelines for Publishing Web Pages on the Internet
Family History Software
Collaboration and Sharing
NGS Guidelines for Sharing
Online Options for Family History Education
Security Concerns with Technology and Family History
Other Gadgets and Helpful Technology
Topics

This article originally appeared in "Computers and Technology" by Juliana Smith in The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy

Family history is an unending learning process. As each generation takes us back, possibly to new geographic locations, we find the need to learn about a new era in history, what record types were available for that time and place, and new techniques to address these changes in venue. Fortunately, in this new so-called “Information Age,” the know-how we need can be as close as our home computer.

Major websites of all kinds now offer helpful tutorials and articles aimed at helping family historians find their way around the resources they have to offer. This includes some library and governmental websites, commercial sites, the websites of genealogical and historical organizations, and the websites of individuals. With the wide variety of offerings, even the greenest of newbies can learn necessary skills.

Contents

Digital Newsletters

There are a growing number of digital newsletters available from commercial websites, volunteers, and individuals who like to share their experience. Among the early newsletters, Dick Eastman’s first newsletter appeared in January 1996 and went out to about 100 people, most of whom were members of CompuServe’s Genealogy Forum. The newsletter now has a standard edition and a plus edition, which goes to subscribers who pay a minimal subscription fee.

Ancestry.com launched its first newsletter, the Hometown Daily News, in 1997. It evolved into the Ancestry Daily News and continues to evolve with new technology, including how-to articles and tips, information on the company’s latest offerings and news from the genealogical community.

The premier issue of RootsWeb Review was published on 17 June 1998. This weekly e-zine provides news about RootsWeb.com, its new databases, mailing lists, homepages, and websites. It also includes stories and research tips from its readers around the globe.

There are a number of other genealogical newsletters, including the National Genealogical Society’s UpFront, Avotaynu’s Nu? What’s Nu? (Jewish Genealogy), New England Historic Genealogical Society’s NEHGS eNews (full text of most articles are only available to NEHGS members), and the genealogy newsletter of About.com. A good way to browse through a list of the newsletters that are currently available is through Cyndi’s List: Magazines, Journals, Columns and Newsletters.

These tools give readers an enjoyable and easy way to learn a little at a time on a daily or weekly basis, and in most cases, there is no cost associated for the user.

Magazines and Periodicals

Magazines and periodicals have long offered genealogical advice and tutorials, and as research methods have evolved using new technologies, so have these publications. Both commercial offerings and periodicals from non-profit organizations now offer helpful information on the latest technologies and tools.

Ancestry Magazine regularly features articles about using current technology and the latest Internet resources. Back issues of the magazine can be found in the online library at Ancestry.com, along with columns and tips from Ancestry.com newsletters.

Family Chronicle also regularly includes Internet-related articles and maintains an online archive of back issues. The Family Tree Magazine website also features portions of articles from its magazine, as well as a large number of blank research forms for download.

Blogs

More recently, genealogy “blogs,” or “web logs” are being launched online. Similar to newsletters, blogs typically contain helpful news and information, presented in a diary-like format. The author, or “blogger,” posts items he or she finds interesting, often inserting commentary, with the most recent posts appearing at the top of the page. Some blogs allow for replies to be posted by readers, while others are restricted to posts by the author or a group of authorized contributors. The headlines or snippets from blogs are sometimes available in formats (RSS or Atom XML format) that can be fed to news aggregators that will collect and display feeds from your favorite blogs.

Online Chats=

Internet chats provide a way for participants to communicate in real time with others who share an interest. There are a number of genealogical chat forums available, some through various websites, and some through Internet Relay Chat (IRC) channels. Depending on the venue, sometimes users will need to download an IRC client, or chat program.

Typically an expert is called in to discuss a particular topic and a moderator helps steer the conversation through the chosen topic. Participants type in their questions and the guest expert answers them electronically. Through these chats, users get to interact with professionals and learn in a kind of virtual classroom.

To find out about genealogy chats that are available, see Cyndi’s List: Chat & IRC.

Online Lessons, Distance Education, and Online Classes

The interaction allowed by websites, e-mail, and chats have also given birth to a whole new way to take classes. There are a number of lessons and educational opportunities that can be found on the Web, including some that offer college credits. Many universities also offer independent study courses and some now offer genealogy classes. Brigham Young University has several covering a range of genealogical topics.

The National Genealogical Society also offer an eighteen-month home study class called American Genealogy: A Basic Course, as well as several online courses, which include Introduction to Genealogy, Federal Population Census Schedules, and Special Federal Census Schedules.

Many of the educational opportunities available require tuition, which varies in range from around thirty dollars to several hundred dollars. There are also some free options, including online lessons at Genealogy.com.

Reference Materials for Sale

While there are plenty of educational opportunities available online, there are some topics that require the more in-depth coverage afforded in reference books. With many genealogical vendors online, it is possible to shop from home, with descriptions and sometimes excerpts of publications online. The ability to surf from store to store also allows customers to compare prices and get the best price on products.

References

Coming soon...

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