San Mateo County Genealogical Society's Blog featuring society events, projects, meeting notes and other items of relevance to genealogists.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Digging for Roots Online

By Dennis L. Maness, MLS

In the Blog  for April 10, 2012, Crista Cowan, in a post about the RMS Titanic, wrote the following:
“…I have come to know that family history is both personal and universal.  The things we endure, while filtered through our own unique perspective, are not really unique at all.  We are all born, we live, we love, we work, we die.  Taking the time to know and understand the experiences of others often helps us understand our own experiences, and those of our ancestors, better.
That is one of the reasons I take the time to study more about the history of the time and place my ancestors lived.  I learn about the things they experienced, witnessed, endured.  I look into the news they read, the politics they discussed, the religions they embraced.  I feel I know them better when I can start to see the world as they saw it – whether it was 72 years  ago or 100.  And that makes me feel a little bit like a voyager setting sail into the unknown.

(Used by permission, Crista Cowan,, Setting Sail Into the Unknown”.)
“Setting sail into the unknown” is an apt phrase that many of us could use when working on our family history. In this second part of a three-part series on the Learning Center on FamilySearch, we will explore the FamilySearch Research Courses and how they can help us navigate that “unknown.”
This announcement was written by FamilySearch on 20 April 2011 when they were just starting to enlarge and emphasize this area of  the Learning Center:

“SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH—Ever found yourself researching your family tree and discovering a new branch that extended to another country—and you are not familiar with that country’s records or language? Or perhaps you are a fan of the popular reality show Who Do You Think You Are? and wonder, “How do the producers know what public records to search to find all of those cool stories about that celebrity’s ancestors?” Maybe you’d like to learn more about how to do your family history research but don’t think you can afford to take a class. Thousands of individuals are now satisfying many of those needs through FamilySearch’s growing collection of free online genealogy courses.
In just one year, the number of free FamilySearch courses has grown to over 140—and new courses are added monthly….
“The goal of the initiative is to educate more people worldwide about how to find their ancestors. We do it by filming the experts teaching a particular class of interest and then offering free access to that presentation online—complete with the PowerPoint used and any electronic handouts that the user can download or print for future reference,” said Candace Turpan, FamilySearch instructional designer.

Turpan’s team films presentations made by its staff from the FamilySearch
Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, as well as special guests (the library is frequented by accredited researchers from all over the world). They also travel to industry conferences or other venues where record and research specialists gather. There they film specialists’ presentations and make them available online….

FamilySearch uses viewing software that splits the viewing screen (sort of like the picture-in-picture features on some televisions) so the user can watch the video of the presenter while also seeing the PowerPoint presentation. Most courses are 30 minutes in length. You can also fast forward through the presentation or presentation slides or stop and pick up later where you left off—a luxury you don’t get in the live presentation.

“Maybe you enjoy the thrill of deciphering or reading old records in other languages. FamilySearch also has free courses to help genealogy students understand key words and terms of older foreign alphabets and handwriting, including Gothic,” added Turpin. The intent behind all of these courses is to give people the keys they need to successfully find their elusive ancestors in historic records. “Sometimes they just need a new sleuthing skill or resource. These genealogy courses are perfect for those personal development needs,” concluded Turpin.

To get there go to FamilySearch , click on “Learn” at the top of the page, then click on “Research Courses”.  On the left are links to the Places included, the Skill Level, Subjects, the Format the lesson is in, and the languages in which the lesson is taught.

As of this writing (more are being constantly added) there are 193 lessons.

One of the “places” is listed as “United Kingdom; USA” which intrigued me. I clicked on it and found:

Now I may or may not ever use the knowledge I gained by watching the lesson but being a fan of the movie “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford and having seen the movie at least a dozen times I loved it!

But I digress.

The four formats include Audio, Interactive Slides, Video and Slides, and Video and there are 13 languages used including Chinese, Polish, Russian, and, of course, English.

As an example let’s click on a subject that I’m just starting to get interested in, the “Newspapers and periodicals” link.  

On the left of the lesson page there is a sidebar which tells the Place[s] involved, the Skill Level, the Subject, the Format, and the Language[s] of the lessons.

On the right you will find a list of the lessons which, in this case, include such things as an episode of the TV show Ancestors, two lessons on Finding and Using Historic Newspapers, Using the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library's Newspaper Collection to Assist with African American Research, and, for you Anglophiles, The London Gazette: Not Just the Brave and the Bankrupt.

When you click on one of these topics you will find a clickable “View this lesson”, and below that a link to any handouts, outlines, bibliographies, etc.

I just wish I had the time to watch all of the lessons but for now, I would suggest you dip into them whenever you run into that brick wall.

If you are really anxious for the volunteer 1940 census indexing project to finish you can keep up on its progress by going to Mouse over any state and a pop-up will appear showing you the percentage of records that have been indexed so far by FamilySearch.
Remember, as Legacy Family Tree’s Geoff Rasmussen says,

“Life is short; do genealogy first!”

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