Podcasts & Webinars & Blogs, Oh My! Continuing Education In The Digital Age

by Claudia Breland | Apr 12, 2012

Claudia Breland

Genealogists are by their very nature lifelong learners - the drive to discover more about our ancestors also drives our desire to learn about new records, new techniques, and new discoveries that are happening around us every day. With the constant advance of computer technology, now you can listen, read, watch and learn, all while sitting at home in front of your computer!


Podcasts are fairly new, having come on the scene just a few years ago; the term "webcast" was changed to "podcast" with the introduction of the iPod. These are essentially radio broadcasts, which you can listen to on your computer or iPod. You can listen live by going to the website, or download the podcast using iTunes for later. iTunes is a staple on most computers, but if you don't have it, it can be downloaded here: Apple-itunes. After it's downloaded, you can click on iTunes Store, and search for genealogy podcasts.

Geneabloggers Radio was started by genealogist and fellow Archives.com writer Thomas MacEntee in July 2011, as a way to discuss newly broadcast episodes of "Who Do You Think You Are?" It's continued weekly, broadcast live on Friday evenings at 9pm Central time, with occasional guest hosts such as Dear Myrtle's Pat Richley-Erickson or Lisa Alzo. The website is here: BlogTalkRadio. Among the subjects discussed have been Genealogy Education, dealing with conflicting evidence, adoption records, embracing technology, and family reunions. Each show is an hour to hour and a half long, and you're sure to learn something new!

The "Genealogy Guys" are George Morgan and Drew Smith, owners of "Aha! Seminars", host the longest-running genealogy podcast. This podcast (which goes on hiatus occasionally when the hosts are traveling) features breaking news for the genealogical community, and answers questions submitted by listeners. You can find it at GenealOgyguys . Recent topics have been the recent upgrade by Cyndi's List, the Indiana Genealogical Society challenge to help fund the War of 1812 pension digitization project, using an iPad for genealogical research, and software for genealogy society websites.

And speaking of genealogy societies, the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) hosts a podcast for societies and society members, to address their special concerns, including digital publishing, websites, working with volunteers, and grants and fundraising. You can find it here: BlogTalkRadio .

Genealogy Gems was started by Lisa Louise Cooke about 2007, and it's going strong. You can access it here: GenealOgygemsPodcast . She broadcasts twice a month, and in addition to the regular podcast (which is free), there is a Premium subscription (access to premium podcasts and videos) for $29.95 a year. Recent episodes have covered PERSI, transcription software, online security, family history writing, military records and divorce research. She often broadcasts live from genealogy events such as the Southern California Genealogy Jamboree.


Webinars are another recent innovation in technology and learning. A webinar, or web-based seminar, is like attending a lecture at a conference, but at home. They present information through audio and video, showing as well as telling. This is a great way to learn a new tool or technique, such as how to use Evernote, using Weebly to set up a free website, or doing research in Connecticut records.

How do you find out about Webinars that are coming up? Well, one way to find them is to use Google to search for "genealogy webinars". However, if you don't want to go searching on your own, here are some suggestions. The GeneaWebinars Blog ( Blog. geneawebinars) has regular updates of upcoming webinars - most of them free. If you scroll down to the bottom of the page, there is a running calendar of interesting sessions to choose from - subjects like doing genealogy with a learning disability, or using Federal Land Records.

When you decide on an upcoming webinar, usually there will be a link for you to click on to register with your name and email address. If there is a small fee, you can pay that with PayPal or your credit card. You will receive an email confirming your registration, with instructions for the date and time of the session. You may get reminder emails the day before and a few hours before, with a link to click on to enter the website where the webinar is being held. It may be GoToMeeting or some other application, and you will get instructions if you need to download an application.

Before the webinar begins, there may be a screen with instructions on how to participate. You can listen to the webinar with headphones, or you can be a call-in guest using your telephone, in case you want to ask questions of the presenter. If you're using headphones, there will be a space onscreen for you to type your question or comment. Once the webinar begins, it will be just like watching a powerpoint presentation, with the presenter's voice coming to you live.

After the webinar is over, if you'd like to see it again (or if you've missed it the first time), they are usually archived, and you will be given the information on how to find it. Some websites that have archived webinars are Legacy Family Tree , the New England Historic Genealogical Society, and Thomas MacEntee's website, Hidefgen .


Blogs, or "weblogs" are a great way to read short articles that have been published online. To date there are over 2000 genealogy blogs - how do you decide which ones you want to read on a regular basis? And how do you keep track of them all?

As far as which ones to read, it depends on your interests. There is a directory at Genealogy Blog Finder: BlogFinder. You can look up blogs by type or by subject; be sure to note when the blog was last published, as there are some listed that haven't been updated for several years. Another great source is GeneaBloggers , which highlights a new blog every day. Randy Seaver writes GeneaMusings, where every Sunday he highlights the best of the genealogy blogs for that week.

Currently I'm subscribed to almost 40 different genealogy blogs, and it would take way too much time to visit each website individually to read them. Some of these are published several times a week, while others are sporadic. I keep up with them by using an RSS reader to collect them all into one place. I use Google Reader; you can also use Bloglines. When I find an interesting blog I want to follow, I click "Add a Subscription", and enter the web address. Voila!

If you can only manage to read one blog, make that one Dick Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter: Blog.eogn. He discusses new technology, new records, covers national and regional conferences, and interviews well-known genealogists. He reviews new products, such as the iPad, and new genealogy software. His blog is free; he also offers a premium edition for $25 a year. Other great blogs are written by DearMYRTLE . Harold Henderson writes about Midwest records, and Michael Hait writes about becoming a professional genealogist in Planting the Seeds: (WordPress). And Kerry Scott, writing Clue Wagon displays a wicked sense of humor!

You can find blogs written by genealogy magazines such as Family Tree Magazine, genealogy societies and libraries both national and local. No matter what your level of experience or enthusiasm, there's sure to be a blog for you to read and learn from!

And an article on continuing education wouldn't be complete without mentioning the FamilySearch Learning Resources: FamilySearchLearn. Their Research Wiki consists of articles written by experts all over the world. Typing "Michigan" into the search box results in 788 articles; adding "Manistee" narrows it down to 22. You can search for articles on church records, land records, Swedish Americans, or any other topic of your choice. Click on "Research Courses" and you'll be presented with an enticing list of classes you can watch on your computer. All levels of expertise are represented, from beginner to expert, and they range in subject from census records, directories, newspapers, town records to localities such as India, Portugal, Ireland, Italy and Canada. These classes are as short as 5 minutes or longer than 35 minutes. Most of them are in video format; many of them come with handouts you can download and save.

So, no matter what your learning style, your level of knowledge or experience as a genealogist, or the locality or subject you're interested in - there's a podcast, webinar, or blog that will fit your needs. There's something for everyone in today's technology!

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