How Do I Know What I Don’t Know? (Part 4: Online Educational Options)

Continuing the conversation about genealogy education (from previous posts here, here, and here), there are many options available online. Here are a couple:

Photo credit: (original image: used under creative commons sharealike license)

Photo credit: (original image: used under creative commons sharealike license)


The most common option for online genealogy education is the webinar. Several genealogical societies offer webinars on a wide range of topics. There are some that require prepayment; however, most of them are free – at least to watch them live. Then some are placed behind a pay wall requiring membership or a subscription to view, but others remain free for a period of time before they are blocked. Some remain free for all time and are archived for later viewing.

Webinars are usually presented by someone experienced in the subject matter. They last about an hour with a brief question-and-answer session at the end. Occasionally, the webinar format is less of a presentation and more of a Q&A from start to finish, with viewer questions driving the direction of the instruction.

There are several platforms used for webinars. The most popular are GoToWebinar, WebEx, MegaMeeting, etc. Other platforms are more interactive, but are limited in the number of people who can participate – like Google+ Hangouts or Skype.

A “master” list of genealogy webinars can be found by using the FREE GeneaWebinars calendar. Keep in mind that this list doesn’t contain ALL genealogy-related webinars in the whole wide world, but it does manage to keep a size-able collection in a nice calendar format.

Photo credit: (original image: used under creative commons sharealike license) – must include link to

Photo credit: (original image: used under creative commons sharealike license) 

Online Classes

More and more colleges and universities are offering certificate courses (or even degree courses) in genealogy-related subjects. And even more of them are starting to offer an online option for their programs, ranging from a simple class-by-class approach to full-fledged degree programs. Brigham Young University in Idaho offers an Associate’s Degree in Family History Research. The BYU course is a 60-credit course, and is flexible enough to fit into your personal situation. A student can take up to 8 years to complete the program.

Boston University offers an Online Certificate in Genealogical Research. The course is offered three times per year. Boston University also offers a Genealogical Essentials course (non-certificate) for genealogy enthusiasts who want to become familiar with best practices or to prepare to take the certificate program.

Excelsior College in New York offers two different courses: Genetic Genealogy and Practicum in Genealogical Research. These are both 15-week courses aimed at more experienced researchers, with an expected time commitment of about 7-8 hours per week. Discounts are offered for NEHGS, NGS, or APG members.

Speaking of NEHGS (New England Historic Genealogical Society), the society offers several courses on various topics. The courses range from 3 weeks to 5 weeks and price depends on the number of weeks. It appears the classes are only live on Wednesdays, but the recorded sessions are posted to the course website. You must be a member to register for the classes.

The relatively new kid on the block is Genealogy Professor. They offer self-paced courses of varying topics (which are discounted 20% right now). The self-paced courses take roughly 8-10 total hours to complete, but can be done in smaller parts to accommodate your schedule. They also offer a Genealogy Masterclass, which is a more intense, in-depth option. The combine self-study and live online classes. They also offer one-on-one video conferences with the professor, which are recorded and provided to the student. This feature alone makes me want to sign up!

If you’re interested in furthering your education and simply don’t know where to begin, I highly recommend heading over to Cyndi’s List and checking out the online courses and webinars section (that link will take you directly to it). Look around and see what’s there. If you have any questions, ask on social media because I’m sure someone out there will have taken one of the courses and can give you enough of an overview that you can make an informed decision.

About Jenny Lanctot

Jenny Lanctot is a paralegal, genealogist, and writer. In addition to her regular column Getting Started in IDG’s digital magazine Going In-Depth, she writes her personal blog Are My Roots Showing? and is a regular contributor to the FGS Voice blog. Her articles have appeared in the Florida State Genealogical Society newsletter Florida Lines and the Chattanooga Delta Genealogy Society quarterly Southern Roots & Shoots.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.