Monday, April 25, 2011

Review of Family Tree University

This review was written by guest author, Michael Hait. Michael is a professional genealogist living in the Maryland / Delaware area. He can be reached at or

FAMILY TREE UNIVERSITY is a new online-based educational opportunity sponsored by Family Tree Magazine. Family Tree University debuted in 2010, and has since expanded their offering of genealogy educational opportunities. This evaluation uses FTU’s official website as its main source:

As of April 2011, Family Tree University offers several different options for its educational programs:

ONLINE COURSES: The online courses are led by “expert instructors” and last four weeks, “in a virtual classroom.” The courses generally cost $99.99 each, but there is also a “VIP membership” that offers discounted rates. The syllabi for all of these course is available as a PDF download from their website.

o “Advanced Google for Genealogists: Techniques to Take Your Research to the Next Level”
o “Build a Family Website: Make a Site for Your Family in Four Weeks”
o “Cemetery Research 101: Dig Up Your Family History”
o “Civil War Research: Find Your Ancestors in the War Between the States”
o “Computer Boot Camp for Genealogists: Become a Power User in 4 Weeks”
o “Creating a Family History Book: Start-to-Finish Guidance for Assembling and Printing a Family Keepsake”
o “Death Records 101: Find What Your Ancestors Left Behind”
o “Digital Photography Essentials: Techniques to Capture and Preserve Your Family History”
o “Discovering Your Czech and Slovak Roots: Strategies for Searching Over Here and Over There”
o “Discover Your Family Tree: Genealogy for the Absolute Beginner” (only $19.99)
o “Exploring City Directories: How to Trace Your Family in Yesterday’s Yellow Pages”
o “Find Your German Roots: From America to Deutschland”
o “Finding African-American Ancestors in Newspapers: Research Strategies for Success”
o “Finding Ancestors in the US Census: Online and Offline Research Strategies”
o “Finding Your Ancestral Village: Strategies and Tools to Pinpoint Your Family’s Place of Origin”
o “German Genealogy 201: Strategies and Skillbuilding”
o “Google Earth for Genealogists: Plot Your Ancestors’ Lives”
o “Google Master Class: Improve Your Online Search Skills in 8 Weeks” (8-week course, $199.99)
o “Google Tools for Genealogists: Four Resources to Enhance Your Family History”
o “Immigration Master Class: How to Find Immigrants, Ancestral Villages and Foreign Records” (8-week course, $199.99)
o “Land Records 101: Using Deeds, Plats, Patents and More”
o “Mastering Google Search: Secrets to Smarter, Faster Online Research”
o “Newspaper Research 101: Find Your Ancestors in American News Sources”
o “Organize Your Genealogy: Get Your Research in Order (and Keep It That Way)”
o “Organize Your Photos: Preserve Your Family’s Pictorial Legacy”
o “Published Genealogies: How to Use Others’ Research to Grow Your Family Tree”
o “Research in Foreign Records: How to Find Your Family Across the Pond”
o “Reverse Genealogy: Working Forward to Break Down Brick Walls”
o “Source Documentation 101: How to Cite Genealogy Sources Accurately and Effectively”
o “Trace Your Polish Roots: Strategies for Searching in the US and Poland”
o “Tracing Immigrants: How to Research Your Family’s American Arrivals”
o “US Military Records: Trace Your Ancestors’ Service”
o “US Vital Records: Researching Births, Marriages, Deaths and Divorces”
o “Write Your Family History: Create a Captivating Record of Your Family’s Story” (8-week course, $199.99)

INDEPENDENT STUDY COURSES: Many of the online courses listed above also have “Independent Study” options. These independent study courses contain the same material, without the guidance of an instructor. They can be purchased either on CD or as digital downloads. Both delivery methods are currently listed at a $99.99 price, but are discounted to $74.99. It is unknown whether this lower price is time-limited or a permanent sale price.

WEBINARS: The webinars are occasional one-hour presentations by the FTU instructors on various topics. They are presented live and consist of audio and video, using the GoToWebinar software. These webinars cost an average of $39.99. The webinars are also recorded and can be accessed “on demand.” Past and upcoming topics include:
o “Life in Civil War America Free Webinar”
o “South Carolina Genealogy Crash Course: Find Your Palmetto State Ancestors”
o “New York Genealogy Crash Course: Find Your Empire State Ancestors”
o “Georgia Genealogy Crash Course: Find Your Peach State Ancestors”
o “Historical Books on the Web: Millions of Tomes at Your Fingertips”
o “Pennsylvania Crash Course: Find Your Keystone State Ancestors”
o “10 Steps to Discover Your Roots”
o “Your Unofficial Guide to Tips, Hints and Hacks for Finding Your Ancestors”
o “Ellis Island: Finding Your Ancestor in a Sea of Online Records”
o “Brick Wall Busters: Solutions to Real-Life Stumpers”
o “Online Military Records: Document Your Family’s Service”
o “Making the Most of”
o “Photo Sharing 101: How to Organize, Archive and Share Family Memories Online”
o “Search Engine Tips & Tricks: Google Techniques to Boost your Research”
o “Organization Made Easy”
o “Photo Retouching”
o “Brick Wall Strategies”
o “Vital Records”
o “Online Immigration Records”
o “FamilySearch Essentials”
o “Finding Your Family in Old Newspapers”
o “Heirloom Preservation Made Easy”
o “Online Census Secrets”
o “Googling Your Genealogy”
Lisa A. Alzo
James M. Beidler
Charlotte Marie Bocage
Lisa Louise Cooke
Grace Dobush
Midge Frazel
Nancy Hendrickson
Ceil Wendt Jensen
George G. Morgan
Sunny McClellan Morton
Tim Pinnick
Diana Crisman Smith
Allison Stacy
Most of these instructors are either employees or frequent contributors to Family Tree Magazine. A few of the instructors are active members of national organizations such as the Association of Professional Genealogists and the Federation of Genealogical Societies. Several of them have relatively high-profile genealogy blogs. Only a few of them identify themselves as professional genealogists. None of the instructors are certified (CG) or accredited (AG) genealogists.


Family Tree Magazine can sometimes contain articles for “intermediate” skill level genealogists, but the majority of its content is aimed at beginners. Family Tree University appears to be focused on the same audience.

The faculty contains several recognizable names, but the skill level of the instructors also comes into question. Though these instructors have often contributed to Family Tree Magazine, they have not, to my knowledge, had case studies published in peer-reviewed genealogy journals. None of them have had their research skills otherwise evaluated by either BCG or ICAPGen.

Considering the focus of the courses, the questionable quality of the instructors, and the , the average cost of the online courses seems particularly high. The webinars are likewise priced extremely high when considering that most genealogy webinars by other companies are offered between $0 and $10.

These courses may be useful for beginners and intermediate genealogists, but would probably offer very little for advanced genealogists.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

New Course on Writing Family History

There is a new week-long seminar on "Writing Family History Narratives and Other Genealogical Works" coming this summer. It is sponsored by the Boston University Center for Professional Learning and will be held on campus in Boston from July 25 - 29, 2011. This course will be taught by Dr. John Colletta and Dr. Thomas Jones and will cover many aspects of genealogical writing. The fee is $795 for the five day course.

Here is the description of the new course from the website:

Taught by Dr. John Philip Colletta and Dr. Thomas Wright Jones, this course explores a broad range of genealogical writing, including genealogies and family histories, scholarly articles, reports and summaries, and guides and manuals; however, it focuses mainly on the principles and mechanics of writing and publishing narrative family history. Elements of grammar, syntax and vocabulary, forms of documentation, numbering systems, indexing, illustrations and other aesthetic considerations are all discussed and demonstrated with examples. Ways to organize materials, establish historical context and create vivid and engaging real-life stories are addressed. The mechanics of self-, subsidized and commercial publishing are explained, considering the option of publishing on paper or electronically. In-class exercises critiqued by the instructors allow students to apply the concepts taught, while reading assignments culminate in a class discussion of the broad literary possibilities of family history narrative.

  • Students should have completed the BU Genealogical Research Certificate Program or have comparable experience.
  • Familiarity with Evidence Explained by Elizabeth Shown Mills and Professional Genealogy manual
  • Prior to the course, students should read the Writing and Compiling and Editing and Publishing sections of Professional Genealogy manual

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

British Institute Announces Speakers for 2011

I received the following announcement and it  looks like there are some great programs lined up for the British Institute this year.

The International Society for British Genealogy and Family History Unveils Speakers for Upcoming British Institute

WESTMINSTER, Colo., 11 April, 2011—The International Society for British Genealogy and Family History is excited to announce its speakers for this year’s British Institute, to be held from 3–7 October in Salt Lake City. This year’s host hotel will be the Radisson Downtown, just a couple of blocks from the Family History Library. Registration is now open and class size is limited.

The Institute consists of three tracks:

Barbara Baker, AG will offer Finding Records of Property Ownership in England. There is no national registry of deeds in England until after 1862 and Barbara’s course will cover various types of land and records and where to look for the them.

John Kitzmiller, II, AG, FSA, (Scot), FSG (Eng.), will present The Amazing Honourable East India Company (HEIC). The HEIC was instrumental in making many a military officer or civil servant becoming quite wealthy during their tenure in the service. Learn the history of the HEIC, where to find the records and how to apply them to your research.

David Rencher, AG, CG, FIGRS, FUGA, will present Genealogical Research in Ireland-Advanced Methodology. This course will include Strategies for a Solid Beginning, Catholic Strategies and Research, Scots-Irish Strategies, Mining the Evidence and Drawing Conclusions from the Evidence.

More detailed information can be found at the ISBGFH’s Web site and you can register on-line, or print, fill out the application and mail to ISBGFH, PO Box 350459, Westminster, CO 80035-0459. If you have any questions, please send an e-mail to . When registering at the Radisson Downtown Salt Lake, ask for the British Institute conference rate.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Season Two: The Generations Project

The following announcement was issued by FamilySearch. I watched this show last season and really enjoyed it. I am looking forward to more stories of average people seeking their ancestors.
Season Two: The Generations Project

The second season of BYUtv’s The Generation Project premiers Monday, March 28 at 7:00 p.m. MDT. The Generations Project is a reality-based family history show that uncovers the remarkable stories and family histories of everyday people. The people take a hands-on journey to learn about their ancestors, and in the process they discover more about themselves.

The second season of The Generations Project “takes you from Germany to Holland to New York's 'Little Pakistan' and everywhere in between, following eleven journeys into the past: the Denkes explore the origins of their children’s life-threatening genetic disease. Kerry hopes his ancestors will help him find his estranged son, and Ty delves into his complicated heritage as a son of Nazi Germany. They along with eight other guests engage with the past to understand the present.”

BYUtv is available through many local satellite and cable companies. In addition, The Generations Project can be viewed live online at (you'll need to register for a free account to view the show live). All episodes are also available to be viewed immediately after airing at (no registration required).
A link to more information has been placed on the home page of the website. Please share the information in this e-mail with others.