Tag Archives: Genealogy Education

25 Essentials for Genealogy Research

It’s been years since I wrote about Essential Websites for Genealogists, so it is time for an update. However, instead of limiting my suggestions to websites, this list will be a bit more inclusive.

In order to keep the length of this post somewhat in hand, many items will be links to explore with little or no commentary.

All the Essentials in this list are free, aside from #1 and 25 (if you purchase). I have purposely omitted the big subscription websites.

My “rant” will be limited to the first item in this 2022 list:

1. Genealogy Software Program – I cringe when I still hear people bragging that their one and only family tree is found on a paid subscription site or on a one-universal-family tree site.

Sharing is wonderful – we never know where the next big clue will appear or when chinks in the brick wall will start falling out. However, it is imperative to keep control over your own research. They only way to do that, and not lose access to your work, is through the use of a genealogy software program housed on your own computer.

There are a number of programs available (In ABC order – Ancestral Quest, Family Historian, Family Tree Maker, Gramps, Heredis, Legacy Family Tree, Reunion for Mac and  RootsMagic are the most popular, but there are others, so check out GenSoftReviews.

However, CHOOSE ONE OF THEM! Okay, rant done. Now that you have a software program on your home computer, we can continue.

2. Web Clipping Tool – Many, but not all items found online can be downloaded and saved to your computer.  A web clipping tool is a genealogist’s best friend. Some browsers, like Chrome, have built-in free clipping tools. IrfanView is a free program and is the one used at the Family History Library. It’s easy to use and is a good choice for beginners to add to their genealogy toolbox arsenal. I use Snagit, which is getting expensive (over $60 now), because I can use the tools to manipulate and mark images.

3. Research Log – Keeping a research log, which is a list of all the sources viewed or research contacts made plus search results, is essential for two reasons. First, it documents records and repositories searched. Second, it documents people you’ve contacted, either by email or snail mail and allows you to follow up with those who haven’t replied.

The simplest research log is simply the use of paper and pencil. There are downloadable free forms that can be printed, designed especially for genealogists.  For those who want to decrease the paper pile on their desks, Excel is an obvious choice. Most genealogy software programs also have places for research notes.

4. Source Citation HelpsZotero, EasyBib and templates in stand-alone software to document where you find information.

Now, you have the basics to gather and record information about people in your family tree. What next? After recording basic information about yourself, immediate family, parents and grandparents, it’s time to look online.

Not everything is online, nor will it ever be! That is because of governmental laws to access, copyright issues and accessibility to records in private hands. However, there are MANY resources available.

5. FamilySearch Research Wiki

6. Digitized BooksInternet Archive, World Cat, Google Books, HathiTrust, FamilySearch Books and links to my U.S. County Histories project.

7. Maps, etc.David Rumsey Collection, Sanborn Maps, Atlas of Historic (U.S.) County Boundaries and Meyers Gazetteer (Germany). Many others online. Search your place of interest.

8. U.S. Library of Congress

9. NARA Access to Archival Databases (including SSDI)

10. CemeteriesFind A Grave, Nationwide Gravesite Locator, BillionGraves

11. DNA InfoISOGG Wiki, DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy, DNA Painter, Leeds’ Method

12. Church RecordsAmerican Baptist Historical Society – why the Baptist church is NOT helpful for genealogists, Archdiocese of Chicago, Illinois Catholic Cemeteries, Digital Quaker Collection, , Friends Historical Library, Quaker Information Center, The Archives of the Episcopal Church,  Congregational Library and Archives, Mennonite Church

13. U.S. Military ServiceNARA, DAR Library

14. Thousands of Categorized LinksCyndi’s List, Linkpendium

15. U.S. State Digital Collections – Search “state of interest” digital collections

16. Historic NewspapersChronicling America, The Ancestor Hunt

17. Photography History and Vintage PhotosDeadFred, Ancient Faces, Tin-Eye Reverse Image Search, Google Images, Photo Tree

18. Local Genealogy & Historical Societies – Search your places of interest. Many societies have some free online databases and resources

19. Immigration & Passenger ListsOlive Tree Genealogy, Ellis Island

20. International Resources – There are a number of foreign repositories that are accessible for free by everyone, but are PAID databases on the big genealogy sites. Check out Library and Archives Canada & the Provincial Archives where your ancestors lived. Others:  Danish National Archives, the National Archives of Norway and the Swedish National Archives, British National Archives, plus many others.

21. feedly – Add blog urls (up to 100 free, I believe) and follow your favorite genealogy bloggers. Feedly will note any new posts in your list so you don’t have to visit 100 sites to find 65 have new posts.

22. Genealogy on Facebook by Katherine Willson – PDF list of genealogy and history FB groups

23. Conference Keeper – Calendar of upcoming genealogy webinars and conferences. Many webinars are free to attend live. Fees required to register are noted.

24. Reference Library – Build a home library and expand as needed. Three excellent books to start are The Source, Evidence Explained and The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy.

25. EBay – There are books, photos and mementos waiting to be found that tie into our ancestors’ families.

There are many more other terrific free resources available online, but this list will certainly get you started.



More Free Quality Genealogy Education Opportunities: American Ancestors

October is Family History month and as a follow-up to my Genealogy Blog Party post a week or so ago, I realized that I needed to share another, lesser known, resource for some free genealogy education.

I am a long time member of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, which, yes, is a fee membership. The society’s online website is the well-known AmericanAncestors.

What I think many don’t realize is that American Ancestors offers monthly online lectures that are free and open to the public.

There is an Events tab on the website’s home page. Click on that and scroll way WAY down to:

Now, click on the Go to Events Calendar and upcoming lectures which are open for registration will appear. Don’t be put off by the ones that have required fees.

Generally speaking (not an absolute!), if the event is described as a SEMINAR, there is a fee. However, When described as a LECTURE, attendance is mostly free, but there are some exceptions.

The latest issue of my American Ancestors Magazine recently arrived with a full calendar of upcoming events, all the way through August of 2023!

Here are the free lectures on the schedule:

November 2022
Nov. 10; Migrations from New England To and Thru New York
Nov. 17: GEDmatch Basics

December 2022
Dec. 1: What’s New at American Ancestors
Dec. 8- Stories from the Archives: Family Recipes

January 2023
Jan. 19: Basics of Jewish Genealogy
Jan. 26: Deciphering Old Handwriting

February 2023
Feb. 2: Getting started in Scottish Reseach
Feb. 9: DNA Consultations at American Ancestors
Feb. 10: Weston Park: The House, the Families, and the Influence
Feb. 16: Using the Great Migration Databases on AmericanAncestors.org
Feb. 17: The Houses of Parliament, 1086-2086

March 2023
Mar. 23: What’s new at American Ancestors

April 2023
Apr. 6: Pennsylvania Genealogy: Go-To Published Resources
Apr. 7: Murray Pittock with Scotland the Global History, 1603 to the Present
Apr. 14: Neoclassical Berlin
Apr. 20: Searching Journals on AmericanAncestors.org

May 2023
May 11: Huguenot Family History Resources
May 25: Getting Started in Lithuanian Family History Research

June 2023
June 8: What’s New at American Ancestors
June 15: Understanding Calendar Systems in Family History  Research

July 2023
July 6: Researching Black Patriots and Loyalists During the American Revolution
July7: Stories from English Country Houses
July 20: Getting Started in Ohio Research

August 2023
Aug. 10: Stories from the Archives: Scrapbooks
Aug. 24: Applying to Revolutionary War Lineage Societies

You might notice that there is quite a mix of topics in this FREE list! In addition to traditional genealogical topics, American Ancestors has a few self-promotional lectures, e.g. What’s New at American Ancestors, but they often have frequent talks on historical homes and places, particularly in the U.K. However, I see one coming up in April on Neoclassical Berlin, which I am guessing will be on German architecture in the city of Berlin.

I often attend these free lectures, even when I think I already know a lot about a specific technique or location. However,  I have to admit I ALWAYS come away with at least one new idea or resource to check out.

One important fact to remember, though, is that American Ancestors event registration generally opens just one month before the scheduled lecture. So, right now, November events can be booked, but nothing further in advance of that.

Summertime Genealogy Education

Summer is almost here. Have you made plans for your genealogy education?

Here are a few ideas with costs ranging from free to a bit expensive:

The best deal in town are the webinars hosted by Legacy Family Tree and state genealogical societies because they are FREE if you register and watch them live. The only downside to free is that if you are not a member of the hosting organization, you may not access handouts.

Visit Legacy Family Tree Webinars and GeneaWebinars for topics coming up soon.

The Family History Library also offers free classes online every month.

Next, bookmark Conference Keeper, a free calendar of genealogical presentations, both virtual and in-person, free and paid. Many organizations add their events to the Conference Keeper calendar and many are free if viewed live.

Legacy Family Tree Webinars has a library of literally well over 500 webinars and offers several new webinars each week. A yearly subscription is $49.95 – a bargain for all the access.

If that stretches your budget to much, how does $9.95 sound? Legacy Family Tree also offers a monthly subscription. Sign up for just one month for $9.95 and binge-watch all the webinars you can fit in 30 days – plus access all the handouts – and you will have honed your research skills immensely!

Not inexpensive:
If you are ready to splurge and tackle an institute – a one-week class on a single topic, there are several summertime offerings. Registration for each opens months beforehand. However, you might find a class spot open here and there. Otherwise, add it to your 2023 calendar.:

IGHR (Institute of Genealogy & History Research)

GRIP (Genealogy Research Institute of Pittsburgh)

SLIG (Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy) – SLIG is held in January, but registration opens in July and fills up quickly

Gen-Fed (Genealogical Institute on Federal Records)  – Because of the pandemic, Gen-Fed was not held in 2020 and those who had registered were carried over to 2021. These seats go really quickly, so if you are interested, bookmark the page and watch for 2023 information.

As you can see, there is no reason why everyone can’t hone their genealogical research skills this summer!