Many of us join a genealogical society to learn how best to track down our ancestors, organize the information we discover and compile that information into a format that keeps it within easy reach. Unfortunately most societies can only provide a limited number of presentations each year and in our busy worlds, we have less time to participate.
Fortunately we now have options available to us that can be accessed almost any time from just about anywhere. This is possible thanks to the growing number of online webinars, classes, hangouts and video presentations. This is the first in a series of posts showing how to take advantage of these resources to learn more about researching your family’s history.
To participate you will need either a desktop computer with speakers or a mobile device. This can include most mobile phones although their small screens will not be the most pleasant experience. A tablet such as the iPad, Kindle Fire, or Galaxy Tab would provide a more enjoyable viewing experience. A headset makes it easier to hear (and speak) when participating in a busy environment. One other necessity is a high-speed WiFi connection. If your Internet provider also provides cable and phone service, you’re good. If you connect to the Internet using your home phone, it’s probably too slow. If all else fails, your local library and a growing number of cafes and book stores offer wi-fi at no cost.
Okay, now that equipment and connections are out of the way, it’s time to see what’s waiting for us online. In this post, we’ll discuss YouTube. It’s a good starting place because it is free, easy and full of great resources to help your research efforts. Other resources will be discussed in future posts.
You can access YouTube on your desktop by using your browser to take you to https://www.youtube.com. YouTube costs you nothing to use – although there are “premium” services that will require a paid subscription. If you are using a phone or tablet, install the free YouTube app. It’s designed for the “small” screen.
For the most part, YouTube is not an interactive platform. You are watching video presentations that were posted to the site some time ago. That doesn’t mean it isn’t useful. YouTube is full of channels offering news, tips and tutorials from a number of sources.
In this example, I used YouTube’s search box at the top of the screen to find the Ancestry “page”. At the top of the list you see that Ancestry offers 728 videos and has more than 62,000 subscribers. A subscriber receives an alert when Ancestry releases a new video. Before you can subscribe to a source you find interesting, you will need to be logged in at YouTube. If you already have a Google account, use it to log into YouTube then click on the red Subscribe button. Each video has a “billboard” image on the left and an information panel on the right. These elements give you a description of the video’s content including topics being discussed, length of the presentation and when it was published. Click the image or the title to begin watching.
There are several controls you can use while watching the video presentation. When you move your mouse over the video “screen” a series of controls appear at the bottom of the screen. Use these to pause and restart the video, adjust the volume or change the video’s screen size. The thin red line you see progressing across the bottom of the screen shows how far along you are in this video. The white line moving in front of the red one shows how much “buffer” you have. Like our highways, Internet traffic doesn’t always move at a constant speed. This buffer serves to keep any speed bumps from impacting your viewing. Sometimes Internet traffic overwhelms your digital highway and the video you are watching may pause. When things settle down – usually in a matter of seconds – the presentation will continue. Note that you are more likely to see this when using public wi-fi services than on your home connection.
Here you see what YouTube looks like using the app on an iPad. At the bottom of the screen you see icons to help you navigate YouTube to find useful presentations. The Activity icon tells me if there are new presentations from any of my subscriptions and I see there is one. Tapping the icon displays a screen listing the presentations I haven’t yet viewed from my subscribed sources. Tapping the Library icon takes me to a list of videos I’ve viewed or liked. The Home icon takes me to my YouTube home page and the Trending icon offers recommendations based on the videos I have watched.
Now that you know how to connect and watch YouTube videos, here are some of the presenters you may find useful:
- U.S. National Archives
- Florida Memory
- BYU Family History Library
- Roots Magic TV
- Synium – MacFamily Tree
- Dear MYRTLE
- Lisa Louise Cook
- Photo Detective
- Lynn Palermo (Family History Writing Studio)
- Cousin Russ
So far this list is limited to genealogy-specific sources. There are a number of other useful sources worth checking out . . .
- Evernote users will find an impressive collection of useful information that can help manage your research. In addition to the Evernote source, you’ll find others offering useful tips and demonstrations for getting the most out of your account.
- Dropbox also has a YouTube presence with lots of tips and ideas for putting this platform to good use.
- Thinking about buying a Flip-Pal scanner, but want to learn more first? The Flip-Pal channel demonstrates how easy it is and offers tips for getting the best out of the scanner and its apps.
- Want to learn how to use Scrivener to manage and compile your family stories? The Literature & Latte channel is full of help.
This is just the beginning. You will find an amazing collection of demonstrations, lessons and tips covering a broad range of topics. You’ll also find some delightfully entertaining videos too. I highly recommend the JeanneRobertson channel. Here’s the video that got me hooked.