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

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Digging For Roots Online

By Dennis L. Maness, MLS

You’ve probably already visited YouTube and you’ve been either amazed or bored by cats playing pianos, the latest viral video, your favorite music, or flashmobs. But I’ve found another use for YouTube—as a genealogy and family history tool!

The site says that, “48 hours of video are uploaded every minute, resulting in nearly 8 years of content uploaded every day.” This means that the chances of finding something on our favorite subject (and you know what that is, don’t you!) are pretty good.

I started out by doing a search for “genealogy or geneology or family history research”. And yes, I needed to include the spelling “geneology” because it’s found much too frequently in our subject! Interestingly enough one of the first things I found was a video on  Geneology-Why Do We Tend to Spell It Wrong?
But I digress.What I found were videos in these areas: How To…, explanations of genealogy computer software, and genealogical inspirational videos.
All of the major players in the family history field are represented with “channels” that you can subscribe to. They have videos that show not only what they can offer but also videos on research techniques that can be used by researchers on both their site and in non-computer related settings. Let’s look at a few of the “channels”:

FamilySearch channel:

Here you will find such topics as Creative Ways To Honor Your Ancestors, video presentations from RootsTech 2012, an excellent series to introduce non-genealogists to our favorite subject--Genealogy in 5 Minutes, Using Name Variations To Find A Record, and Societies and Archives. And that’s just the start of 60 videos! channel:

Uniqueness in the Ordinary”, My Jewish ("Polish") and Hispanic ("Dark Irish") Story, Using Search To Successfully Tell Your Ancestor's Story, Star of Your Family Story Contest: Free Blacks in the South, and many more.

NARA (U.S. National Archives) :

George Washington and the Paparazzi, Pearl Harbor: In Their Own Words, Passport Applications, 1795-1925, Immigration Records at the National Archives, Military Research at the National Archives, etc.

Family Tree Magazine:

City Directories on Internet Archive, How to Use Digital Magazines, Organize Your Hard Drive, Hairstyles in the Family, Spitting Images: My First DNA Test, Making a Protective Book Box, Using Google Books Search.

Lisa Louise Cooke’s GenealogyGems:

Military Records, Newspaper Research, Obituaries: Clues to Look For, Interviews with Genealogy Experts.

National Genealogical Society:

NGS has a series of what I consider inspirational videos that encourage me and make me want to go on when I hit those brick walls. Here are some examples: Helen F.M. Leary: Stories from My Research, My Life in Genealogy with David Rencher, Paths to Your Past with Elizabeth Shown Mills, Thomas W. Jones, David Rencher, and other experts, and Genealogy for Teens by Thomas Adams, recipient of the NGS Rubincam Youth Award


You may notice that I use both “genealogy” and “family history” in my posts. I think of them as different but complementary ways of looking at our heritage. This video, while biased towards the “family history” side and with a British slant, discusses the differences:

If you were fortunate enough to be with me at the National Genealogical Society annual conference for 2010 in Salt Lake City, you’ll remember the fantastic program presented by FamilySearch/LDS. The wonderful and inspiring videos shown there are also here on the FamilySearch channel: Woven Generations, Letters from Estonia , Searching for Emma, Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory, (I think the entire audience was crying at the end of this one when the Mormon Tabernacle Choir started to sing it!) and my favorite, Clan McCloud. (Full disclosure: being of Scots descent I’m biased towards bagpipes.)

For additional inspiration, you can watch many of the episodes of the British version of Who Do You Think You Are?

My favorite is the JK Rowling episode but they are all good even though I don’t recognize many of the people who are featured.

And finally, there are various videos that you won’t find with the “genealogy or geneology or family history research” search but just may be what you need to put “flesh on the bones” of your ancestors.

Look for what they may have done for work (Coal Mining in Early America), or their health  (Healthy Living Conditions in the 19th Century). How did your great-great grandmother dress (19th Century Women's Clothing ) or what kind of music did great-great granddad listen to (Brass Band Music of the mid-19th Century and the American Civil War- North & south)? What were our ancestors’ lives like in Colonial America 17th century Colonial America)? Did they participate in one of our wars (War of 1812 Katzhütte, Großbreitenbach, Böhlen) or live in early 1900s Ireland (Ulster Folk and Transport Museum)? Did they survive the plague in medieval Europe (The Plague) or the1918 Flu epidemic (The Influenza Pandemic of 1918)? Since we’re thinking much about 1940 these days (remember the census?), what were schools like in Appalachia in the 1940s (The Children Must Learn: Education in Appalachia)?

I believe that if you dig into YouTube you will find that there is more than just “ Double Rainbows”.
Remember, as Legacy Family Tree’s Geoff Rasmussen says,
“Life is short; do genealogy first!”

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