Monday, May 4, 2015

Genealogy and Continual Learning

The more we learn about our family roots the more we realize that what was taught in our high-school history class just scratched the surface. Events like how a nation was formed or the major events in our ancestors lives were often distilled down to a few key dates and a page or two in the history text book. So where can we go to learn more about historical events, those apparently tiny (yet important) changes in borders, or the changes to village and town names?

We are fortunate that there is a wealth of information and videos being made available to us. Here are just some of the sites I go to when I'm seeking help or just wanting to learn about genealogy research tips.

Wikipedia: This is a community built encyclopedia where anyone can create and edit articles. I often go here to quickly check the history of places and dates of events. Of course, with anyone being able to edit the articles, you need to verify the sources used to make sure you aren't being led astray.

FamilySearch Family History Wiki: This is another site that has community build content much like Wikipedia. Here though you will find articles of a more genealogical focus. A big plus with this site is that in addition to a bit of history the articles will also point you to where you can find those documents you need to prove you are descended from a Loyalist. You will also find articles on how to do genealogy research. Perhaps you are looking for ideas on how to look for information from American places where the records have been destroyed due to fire. The article "Burned Counties Research" might just hold the clues you need to go around that stubborn obstacle in your research. Maybe you are just starting your family history research and you are using Ancestry for the first time. Then drop by the Learning Centre for tips on the collections and how to use the search features.

Ancestry Wiki: For some unknown reason the Ancestry Wiki doesn't appear on the Learning Centre page for the Canadian version of Ancestry. But don't worry since you can access it by going to Like Wikipedia and the FamilySearch Family History Wiki content can be created and edited by just about anyone. However, there are two key books that have been added that are invaluable when doing research on our ancestors that lived in the United States: The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy and Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources. What is really great about the Ancestry Wiki is that you don't even need to be an Ancestry member to access it.

GENUKI: For those doing research on their ancestors in the United Kingdom and Ireland then GENUKI is the place to check out. There you will learn a bit about the history of that tiny village that almost no one has heard about plus a synopsis of what records may be available and where the records are kept.

Ancestry Webinars: This is an archived collection of various Ancestry videos with subjects like "Common Surnames: Finding Your Smiths" to "Finding Collections with State Pages".

Ancestry Academy: Here you will find both free or member only tutorials on a wide range of genealogy subjects. If you already have an Ancestry account (not necessarily a subscription) you may already have access to the free tutorials. For the non-free courses you can subscribe to the Academy for $11.99 per month or $99.99 per year. The Academy subscriptions include unlimited access to all of the courses.

Legacy Family Tree Webinars: In addition to creating the Legacy Family Tree software Millennia also has the Legacy Family Tree Webinars hosted by Geoff Rasmussen. The webinars are usually held on Wednesdays and Fridays and are available for free for 7 days after they are held. A monthly membership to view all the webinars is normally $12.95 with an annual membership of $79.95 (but they sometimes hold sales).

YouTube: For videos YouTube has become one of those go to places on the Internet. Search for subjects like "Genealogy OGS" to find videos of the various Ontario Genealogical Society meetings or "genealogy webinars" to find Lisa Louise Cooke's Genealogy Gems or DearMyrtle as a few examples.

Of course, don't forget about visiting or contacting the local library, archives, historical association, or museum. There you will find people knowledgeable in the local and often unwritten history of the place. They may be able to point you to books on the subjects you are interested in or introduce you to the local people that are the subject matter experts.

Finally, attend genealogy and historical society meetings and conferences. There you will have the opportunity to directly interact with the speakers and experts that are interested in the same genealogy subjects that fascinate you.

No matter what you do just keep in mind one thing:

Keep Learning!

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