So let’s say you want to dive into your family history and you don’t know where to start. Or you’ve already begun with the initial steps that I outlined in my first post in this series, last week, but you’re not sure what to do next. The resources on Ancestry’s website can be quite intimidating. They have millions of records, and so many different types of records that you may not know what to do first. Like a kid in a toy store, your eyes are going everywhere at once. I’ve spent a lot of time researching my family, and I still get that feeling.
Ancestry has a new service that they offer called Ancestry Academy. It is a series of online classes, kind of like MOOCs, some of which are free, and some are not. If you’re just getting started with your family tree and aren’t ready to sign up for an Ancestry subscription yet, I highly recommend going through the free classes. They show you how to use the Ancestry site, what kinds of records are available, and how to work with others to look for answers to your family tree mysteries. Some of their free classes include: Learn About Your Ancestors Using the Latest from Ancestry, Navigating Wills and Probates on Ancestry, Exploring Your English Roots on Ancestry, Finding Your Military Veterans on Fold3, and DNA 101: An Insider’s Scoop on AncestryDNA Testing.
If you want to dig into meatier topics, you’ll need a subscription. You can get a stand-alone subscription to Ancestry Academy for a monthly or annual cost, or, if you have an Ancestry World Explorer Plus membership, Ancestry Academy (as well as many other resources) are included in your subscription. Lest you think you’ll run out of material to study, they are adding new classes monthly.
Even though it’s a relatively new service, Ancestry Academy has plenty of paid classes to get you started, and will teach even the most seasoned genealogist something new. Almost my entire maternal line is from Ohio, so I watched all of the lessons in the “The Buckeye State: Researching Your Ohio Ancestors” class. It went through the history of Ohio’s settlement, teaching where different kinds of documents are currently stored and what documents are available. It was very Ohio-centric, rather than Ancestry-centric, which allowed them to teach from the point of view of helping you get all the possible information for Ohio ancestors, rather than just promoting their other products. I have a long list of resources to check out now, most of which I didn’t know existed.
Some of Ancestry Academy’s other membership-only classes are: The Records of Death: Using Probates in Family History, Finding Ethnic Origins and Passenger Arrival Records, Mining Obituaries for New Evidence, Public Libraries: Mining Untapped Genealogy Resources, and Don’t Let Your Research End Up in the Dumpster: Preserve It!
You can find all of Ancestry Academy’s classes listed in their Course Library.
At the end of each class, there is a quiz you can take, after which you can print out a certificate showing you’ve completed the class. There are also class materials to save or print for later use. The Ohio class had a fantastic reference document that I wish I’d seen before I started taking lengthy notes while I watched; most of what I typed was in the class materials!
If you want to get a glimpse of some classes that are coming soon, check out their website. There are many future classes listed along with their current offerings.
I’ve taken a few of the Ancestry Academy classes so far, and I have to say, I feel a lot more confident about my ability to not only fill in my extensive family tree more completely, but also to add so much more information to my ancestors’ stories, and build much more complete pictures of their lives.
But, one of the problems with genealogy is that for every mystery you solve, one or two more will pop up. Why did my great-grandmother and her sister travel by boat from Hamburg, Germany to the United States in 1936? Had they been over there on vacation? Why would they travel there at such a time? Were they traveling alone? I may never find out.
(Check out Part I of this series, Ancestry.com Continues to Expand and Deliver.)
Note: I was given access to Ancestry.com’s databases and sister sites for the purposes of these reviews.