September is the traditional time that everyone heads back to school for the new educational year.
It shouldn’t be any different for genealogists, who should keep their skills sharp and knowledge up to date.
Aside from the biggies like Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy, Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh, Texas Institute of Genealogical Research, and Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research, plus large genealogy conference and college level courses, there are many inexpensive – and even free – ways to significantly sharpen our genealogical research skills.
Journal Articles – Do you live near a library or family history center that houses a genealogy collection? If so, set aside some time to really browse their shelves. You are likely to find past issues of professional journals like The Register, published by the New England Historic and Genealogical Society and the NGS Quarterly, published by the National Genealogical Society. There will also be miscellaneous magazines and newsletters from other societies, back when they would often “trade” issues of local publications to be housed in other repositories. If you are really lucky, you might find some tidbits relating to ancestors in your own family tree.
Books – As with Journal Articles, libraries and societies often have some excellent books in their collections. Many books are considered references, so they can’t be checked out. However, books are meant to be read and you can do that for as long as you like. You might even discover a book that must be in your own home collection.
Webinars – If you prefer watching, listening and taking notes, then webinars and online videos (think YouTube with thousands of results just with “genealogy”) are for you! With the pandemic, many genealogy organizations were hurled into the 21st century! They’ve discovered that an online presence via free webinars has brought many benefits, not the least of which are new, dues paying members. In fact, the online platform has been so successful that many societies are now hosting hybrid meetings – with members attending in person, if they choose, or online. Either way, there are webinars on practically any topic one might think of and speakers run the gamut from first time presenters to well-known faces in the genealogy world. The only downside to viewing for free (e.g. with no membership) is that handouts are often restricted to members only, thus the need to take your own notes.
Conference Keeper is my favorite website for finding and registering for all these free talks. The Calendar tab on the home page includes a drop down choice for Virtual Events Only.
Although paid conferences are also on the Conference Keeper calendar, the majority of monthly genealogy society online programs are also listed.
FamilySearch Wiki – Do you need to become an expert on resources extant for a particular locality? Then you’ll want to visit the FamilySearch Wiki! The wiki is an ever-growing catalog of any and all types of records located for a given place.
Searches may be entered by county, state and country. Town searches tend to bring up the county page in which the town is located.
Each entry has a long list of record types matching your search and they are in ABC order. The entries are not only for Family Search records – they also include other websites such as Ancestry and Find My Past. Dollar signs indicate subscription sites.
Last, but not least, if you are looking for specific local history that ties into tourist places of interest today, contact places like chambers of commerce, historical societies and even the National Park Service if an event of national importance took place there.
All of my suggestions so far have been free to access and add to your genealogical education.
Now, let’s assume that you have a fixed amount set aside for yearly education expenses, say $250.
That amount of money will provide membership access to many genealogical societies. Yearly dues generally range from $20-$50 per year, with a handful, such as the New England Historic Genealogical Society, coming in at the more expensive rate of $89.95 per year.
Membership in local and state societies are important not just to support local entities, but also to access resources behind the member wall online. This is especially helpful if you don’t live in the area where the society is based.
For example, the Massachusetts Society of Genealogists has digitized their publication MASSOG – all 45 volumes of it back to 1976 – which are readable behind the members’ wall.
A yearly membership is only $25.00.
If you want the best bang for the buck, consider a subscription to Legacy Family Tree Webinars. For one month’s access to ALL the hundreds of recorded webinars PLUS all the handouts, the viewer can binge watch as many sessions as he/she wishes for the unbelievable price of $9.95. Yes – less than $10.00!
In fact, if a person watches one free webinar and notes the coupon discount code that Geoff shares near the end, a 5% discount can be applied towards any purchase, even the one month membership.
If there are too many great webinars that you want to attend, a full year’s membership is just $49.95 (with the 5% discount code applicable here, too).
It is easy to see just how far a small genealogical spending budget can be stretched.
I have to admit that there are some memberships I’ve kept through the years – those that most closely pertain to my ancestors and places they lived – but there are many more organizations that I’ve joined for just a single year in order to take advantage of the members’ benefits.
I hope I’ve given you many ideas on how to expand your genealogical research skills while not shrinking your wallet too much at the same time.
They are MANY great opportunities for genealogy education out there. I hope everyone takes advantage of them.