“Webinar” is a term that evolved from “web-based seminar.” It is a virtual seminar, taking place live and online with a presenter and audience. The presenter and each member of the audience can be in a different location, connecting through the webinar program on the Internet. The audience can hear the presenter and submit questions and comments to him or her through either a chat (text-based) or voice feature. The benefits of webinars include cost, comfort, access, and archives. The cost of the webinar to members of the audience can range from free to approximately $100 per program. However, even with a fee-based webinar, it is cheaper than travel, lodging, and meals for a live conference. For the audience, there is definitely the advantage of comfort. One can attend while in one's pajamas, or head out to the deck (weather permitting) with a laptop! The access includes immediate answers to the participants' questions and comments from the presenter. Finally, some hosts allow access to archived webinars (in online video format) for further review, or for those who are unable to attend the live presentation time.
Genealogy webinars are sponsored by genealogical businesses such as Ancestry, Legacy Family Tree, and Family Tree Magazine; genealogical and historical societies and professional groups such as the Illinois State Genealogical Society and the Association of Professional Genealogists; as well as individual professional genealogists and genealogy lecturers, including Michael John Neill and Thomas MacEntee. Like any conference, the content ranges from "how-to" presentations for software and other technology to educational programs about methodology, ethnic research, record collections, or local history.
Pat-Richely Erickson (DearMYRT) created a blog, GeneaWebinars, to list all the genealogy webinars for one-stop each access and planning. Only the most recent post is listed on the main page. Click on the “older posts” link at the bottom of the article to view more listings of webinars, or click on the Calendar tab near the top of the page to see all the upcoming webinars in chronological order. Both free and fee-based webinars are included.
To attend a webinar, first find a site that has a webinar in which you are interested. Follow these steps:
- Sign up for the webinar and pay your fee, if applicable. You will receive a confirmation email and may need to click on a link to verify.
- Note the date and time of the webinar. If you click on the Calendar tab at GeneaWebinars, then click on your course of choice, you'll notice a button in the lower right corner of the course description that says "+ Google Calendar." This feature will not only add it to your calendar, but you can then choose to have an email, pop-up, or text (SMS) reminder sent to you.
- Make sure your computer is not downloading or uploading data or updating software during a webinar. This may slow down or interrupt your course.
- Turn on the speakers or plug in your headphones/earphones. If you plan to use voice features, make sure your microphone is working.
- Have an actual or electronic notebook ready to keep notes and have a list of questions ready for the speaker.
- Go to the website or click on the webinar link in your email ten minutes before it begins. Enjoy the webinar!
- Download an archived copy if you are allowed to do so. Some webinars also have additional information (notes, maps, slides) that accompany them.
- If your schedule doesn’t allow you to watch live, make arrangements to watch it later (this may involve a fee).
With major upcoming genealogical conferences like RootsTech, NGS, the Southern California Genealogical Society’s Jamboree, and FGS, be sure to check out their websites for live and archived webinars. Don’t forget non-genealogy webinars for courses that can enhance your research, such as the United State's National Archives website, the United Kingdom's National Archives website, history websites, and technology websites. Google the last two topics to find webinar sites for these.
Here are some links to popular genealogy webinar sites:
- Family Tree University
- Federation of Genealogical Societies
- Hack Genealogy Boot Camp - NEW! added 21 Sep 2014
- Illinois State Genealogical Society
- Legacy Family Tree
- Virtual Institute of Genealogical Research - NEW! added 21 Sep 2014
Don't forget to check out Cyndi’s List for many more links!