Genealogy learning in the time of coronavirus

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While genealogy is often seen as a solitary pursuit, the abundance of conferences, classes, and other gatherings is evidence that we also work and learn together as a community. Although the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted many planned events this year, the virtual learning goes on. This is a great time to acquaint or re-acquaint yourself with the multitude of high-quality free webinars available to anyone with an Internet connection. While we can’t list every single webinar, here are some good places to start:

Conference Keeper boasts “the most complete collection of genealogy events online!” This huge calendar advertises events from throughout the U.S., Canada, and other countries. New events are added often, so be sure to check frequently.

The New York Genealogical and Biographical Society hosts a multitude of webinars in March and April 2020. CGS past president Linda Harms Okazaki is speaking this Friday, March 27 on “A Japanese American Family from 1902-1992: Finding Records to Recreate the Hirai Family Story.”

Ancestry Academy is a huge repository of free lectures and presentations on everything from beginning genealogy to understanding vital records to specialized courses on Mexican Civil Registrations, Quaker Research, common genealogy myths and so much more. The web videos range in length from a few minutes to an hour or more. Browse the collection here:

The Family History Library in Salt Lake City usually hosts weekly or monthly classes and webinars year-round. As with Ancestry, its collection is huge and topics are varied. While the library is temporarily closed due to the pandemic, live webinars continue through March; this week they include presentations on Germans from Russia, Irish ancestry, and descendancy research. All web classes are archived and accessible at FamilySearch.

The BYU Family History Library at Brigham Young University also hosts regular free webinars on various genealogical topics, and keeps them archived on their website so they can be watched at any time.

RootsTech, possibly the largest annual genealogy conference in the world, makes its sessions available online during the event and keeps them viewable for free on its website afterwards. You can watch RootsTech sessions from 2015 through 2020 at their Video Archive.

Legacy Family Tree, partnering with MyHeritage, the Board for Certification of Genealogists, and other organizations, hosts free live webinars throughout the year, many led by some of the biggest names in genealogy. In the next few weeks, for example, Craig R. Scott speaks on “Using Fold3 to Your Advantage,” Rick Sayre talks about “The General Land Office Website: A Genealogical Gem,” and Rebecca Whitman Koford discusses the Maryland State Archives. Anyone may register and watch the live seminars for free, but you must pay an annual membership fee ($49.95) if you want to access instructors’ notes or view the recorded sessions afterward. The Webinar Library does contain many archived recordings that are free to the public.

The Southern California Genealogical Society offers webcasts once or twice monthly, on a model similar to that of Legacy Family Tree, where anyone may register to watch the initial broadcast for free. You must be a member of SCGS to view the archived broadcasts. Next up: Julie Goucher talks about “Foundations to Researching in Europe” on April 4.

American Ancestors offers webinars (free) and many online classes (for a fee) throughout the year. The next free webinar is scheduled for April 30, when Curt DiCamillo presents “Treasures of the New England Historic and Genealogical Society.” Learn more at

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