Education, Wiki’s, and Blogs
I consider free genealogy websites in three different categories. First are sites that have data that are sources for facts. The second are sites that provide links to sites that have the data. Third are education, general information websites, and Blogs. All three are essential but used differently.
I have a regular task in my genealogy activities that tells me to do an hour of training or education every week. I keep up with it, and if I miss a week, I’ll do two hours the following week. Certainly, I have done some paid training. I’ve taken the Genealogy course from Great Courses and few courses from the National Institute for Genealogical Studies. But, the vast majority of my regular genealogical training/education is via online website videos.
- Roots Tech – Due to Covid-19, the 2021 RootsTech conference will be free and electronic. If you haven’t registered yet, do so. It is a fantastic set of presentations and training. They also have a video archive of past sessions. These presentations are from the top genealogists in the country and provide top-quality information. Watch the past videos in anticipation of the 2021 conference in February.
- Legacy Family Tree Webinars – Legacy Family Tree Webinars is a paid site. However, the Webinar Library contains the last couple webinars and are typically free. Additionally, the “Upcoming Live Webinars” are excellent, and you may register to see them for free. If you miss the live presentation, it will be available in the previous webinars list for a short time. If you find the free webinars aren’t enough, you can subscribe to all the Legacy webinars.
- Ancestry Academy – These are typically 3 to 6-minute presentations focusing on a particular topic. For example, the “Newspapers.Com” set includes 11 videos about using Newspapers.Com (owned by Ancestry). There are also video sets about the U.S. Censuses, Population Schedules, and a host of other topics.
- YouTube – Of course, YouTube has some excellent material and you can learn about just about anything on YouTube. In your search, include “Genealogy” and then any topic you are interested in learning more about. My search for “Genealogy X-Chromosome DNA” yielded dozens of fascinating and potentially useful videos about the topic using Family Finder, GEDMatch, and 23 & Me.
- Library of Congress – There is an amazing number of films and videos available through the Library of Congress. A search for “Genealogy” yielded 114 items available online. Some were things like “Shakespeare’s Genealogies,” but the majority were items about our kind of genealogy, including an excellent presentation on “Family History in the U.S. Church Records.”
Don’t forget to look for videos that may be available through the local historical society, county society, or state library in the area your ancestors lived. As an example, I’ve posted nearly two dozen videos for the Scarborough Historical Society to YouTube on topics such as “Barns in Maine,” “Tide Mills,” and “Scarborough’s Black Point; a Century of Conflict.”
- Wikipedia – Not specifically genealogical, but filled with encyclopedic information. A search for “1820 Census” quickly reminds me the census was conducted on 7 August. An article for a place like Scarborough, Maine, tells me much of its history, including what counties it was in. Often, I’m looking for a neighborhood in an area, and Wikipedia provides the answer.
- Family Search – I find the FamilySearch Research Wiki to be the most valuable wiki for my use. When I have completed my phase 1 and phase 2 research, I will typically go to the Family Search Wiki. I’ll enter a place my ancestor lived, for example, Scarborough, Cumberland County, Maine. I will then go through the websites and information there, then I’ll go through the county page, and finally the state page. Besides being a site of links, it tells a lot of information about the town, county, and state, when and where various records might exist.
- RootsWeb – The Rootsweb Wiki is now the Ancestry.Com Family History Wiki. There is a lot of background information about military records, state records.
- DNA Painter – Not actually a wiki, but DNA Painter provides tools and information I often find useful in my understanding of DNA. Blane Bettinger’s Shared cM Project tool is my most used DNA tool. It provides the means to quickly see the possible relationships given a specific amount of DNA. Invaluable.
There are hundreds of blogs and podcasts that relate to Genealogy. First, it makes sense to subscribe to the blog or podcast for any site you pay for a subscription. It is always good to see what they are posting as new or interesting. So, I receive regular blog postings from American Ancestors, Ancestry, Newspapers.Com, etc. That said, I like, and pay attention to, several free blog sites.
- The Legal Genealogist – My favorite free blog is Judy Russell’s “The Legal Genealogist.” She focuses on Genealogical issues, ethics, and events. Her blog does an excellent job of alerting its subscribers to problems occurring in the genealogy world. I love it and her perspective on things. She is always thoughtful in her analysis and causes you to think.
- Genealogy à la carte – Although the focus of Genealogy à la carte is Canadian, I find that Gail Dever does a great job of keeping the topics interesting to me, who has no known Canadian ancestors.
- Genea-Musings – Randy Seaver provides excellent material about what is new and available in news, articles, and record collections. He gives ideas for your research and links to podcasts and videos. His write-ups regarding his ancestors are excellent examples for you to use in your ancestor biographies.
- The Ancestor Hunt – As probably my favorite site that provides links to other sites, I’m always interested in what Kenneth R. Marks has added or updated to The Ancestor Hunt. I always check out his articles for places I’m researching.
- DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy – It is hard to keep up to date with the latest in the ever-changing world of Genetic Genealogy. Roberta Estes does a great job of keeping folks informed using understandable writing. Her writing can challenge my understanding, but I like that. Her blog helps to keep me up to date in my genetic genealogy comprehension.
I didn’t write about podcasts in this list. Sadly, I don’t listen to them very often. Some people find them useful, but I am more visual in my preferences. So, I’m much more likely to do videos than podcasts. Even if the video is a “talking head,” I prefer that to a podcast. In any event, Randy Seaver’s Genea-Musing can point you to lots of great podcasts, if that is your preference.
Keep climbing your trees,