Online family history talks & courses


22 July 2020
Chatting to some of our friends and family it’s clear that the clock can tick very slowly for many people during lockdown. However, if you’re speaking to a family history enthusiast, then the chances are that they will be brimming with information about the new discoveries they’ve made, the long-awaited projects they’ve finally had the time to concentrate on, and the many online learning opportunities that they may well have taken part in. And there are many...

With lockdown, the dedicated talks, workshops and courses that family history organisations have been laying on for decades as real-world events have taken to the digital sphere with gusto. Research premises that formerly weren’t easy for all to attend are now accessible to those wishing to learn more about family history from wherever they are on the planet.

What opportunities do online courses offer?

The new online family history learning opportunities range from free talks and conferences, such as the Family Tree morning conference on 14-16 Septemberto paid-for tutorials and presentations that last an hour or more; and courses that run over many weeks allowing you to dig deep into a specific topic. There are the academic and professionally recognised qualification courses too, which continue to be taught online as usual.

It feels as though the opportunities for learning more about our family history, improving our skills and our knowledge base, have never been so possible and so enticing. With murmurs of another Corona spike near the end of the year, and local lockdowns closer on the horizon too, now is the perfect time to escape into the digital world and make good use of the time we have. What will you choose to learn?

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Keen to learn more online?

Join in with the Family Tree morning conference, 14-16 September 2020.

Following on from the first-ever Family Tree Academy Conference in July, the September Morning Conference (14-16 September) will take you on your next steps in your family history.

One of the first events to be announced is Dating and Understanding Your Victorian Family Photos with Jayne Shrimpton. 

In this online talk Jayne Shrimpton will cover the range of Victorian photos from ambrotypes and daguerrotypes, to Cabinet cards, cartes des visites and tin-types too.

Learn how to analyse the format of the photo; discover ways to trace the photographer; and begin to master the clues that can be gleaned by studying our ancestors clothing in Victorian times. 

To find out more and book a ticket, click here.

To keep up to date with our announcements and to be the first to view the programme details, please sign up to our free email alerts.

The presentations and panel discussions will be streamed on the Family Tree Facebook and YouTube channels.

What are the online talk and course experiences like?

We caught up with some of those who have been running courses to find out their thoughts.

DNA specialist Michelle Leonard, Genes and Genealogy, who presents in the Legacy webinar series: “I have been heavily involved in creating and delivering webinars for a number of years so it has been fascinating to witness the recent explosion of online content in the genealogy world. Although this expansion has been forced upon the community by unforeseen circumstances, I think it will have positive long-term effects and has motivated family history societies and other groups who did not previously offer online services to move into this sphere.”

Amelia Bennett, trustee and tutor, Society of Genealogists: “I’m loving getting a chance to share my enthusiasm for genealogy and DNA with more people than at a traditional lecture and with such a diverse audience from around the world.  The interactions chatting before the sessions start and the variety of questions and debate at the end injects real life into the sessions. It actually feels more interactive than when standing up in front of people in a room. Although I’m looking forward to some face-to-face contact again, I hope that the online talks will continue long into the future too.”

Les Mitchinson, Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies, Director of Education: ''The introduction of Zoom has enabled the IHGS to engage with its students in a variety of ways. A series of workshops, tutorials and revision modules has enabled students to come together and to discuss a wide-range of topics that may never have been raised pre-zoom.  There is also the bonus of students meeting each other and sharing similar experiences. Today it is possible for the IHGS student from Sydney, Australia, to say hi to a fellow student from Brighton in Sussex. All of a sudden the world has become much smaller.'' 

Karen Cummings, Director of Pharos Tutors since summer 2020: “I’ve taken the helm at Pharos at a great time for online genealogy education. If recent events have taught us anything it’s that far more can be achieved remotely than we ever thought possible. As this continues, our familiarity with various platforms and the quality of what can be delivered can only grow. At Pharos we already have an amazing team of tutors delivering high quality course content and our possibilities for the future are very exciting indeed!”

With such positive experiences it seems that we can look forward to Zoom & co remaining a permanent fixture on the family history scene long after lockdown has ended.

Where can you find online family history talks & courses?

Online learning has been available to family historians for many years, but the 2020 lockdown has led to many talks, courses and events becoming virtual events. Some of these are arranged by leading family history institutions or organisations and many independent genealogists are also providing online learning experiences, from presentations to full blown courses. Here are a few examples:

Pharos Tutors – provides online courses on specific topics. Courses run from 3 to 6 weeks, and prices vary slightly between courses, but typically are £49.99 for many of the 5 week courses.

The School of Family History at the Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies – provides online tutorials and workshops, 10-module courses from £135 to £150 taking in a range of topics and the (estimated three year) Correspondence Course (£2,340)

The Society of Genealogists – provides online talks and a 13 week evening skills course online (£225)

Professional house historian and author Gill Blanchard has launched a new 15-week online house history course (£450) and also teaches modular 10-week courses on how to write family history (£150)

Genetic genealogist Michelle Leonard is an established webinar presenter, notably speaking on DNA.

International researchers Michelle Patient and Fiona Booker of Talking Family History host fortnightly online chats about New Zealand, Australian and UK family history, plus DNA and digital scrapbooking. 8.30pm NZ time (9.30am Friday morning British Summer Time). 6 month subscription providing 12 online sessions costs NZ$60. 

Check out the links above, and you're sure to be inspired to dip your toe in the online learning pool. The wealth of shared knowledge, enthusiasm and expertise that is represented by these courses and talks has got to be one of the silver linings to the Covid-19 cloud.


Image: Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

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