Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Top "Ten" Genealogical Websites

I'm a little behind in blogging about this, but I wanted to share a bit about the January 20th computer class. Every third Saturday (except in December) the Eastern Washington Genealogical Society offers a free computer class to its members only in the Gates Computer Lab of the downtown public library in Spokane. We have three hour-long sessions: one at 10:15 AM; one at 11:30 AM; and one at 1:30 PM. Each session can seat 15 people; 10 at computer stations, and five either sharing stations or simply taking notes at the back of the room. Our classes are generally booked solid, with names on standby. We take turns teaching the classes. Some of the instructors didn't really know much about the topic they chose, and educated themselves in order to help the group as a whole.

January's topic was the Top Ten Genealogical Websites, presented by our very own Donna Potter Phillips, a name recognized by many, I'm sure, as the author of numerous articles from various genealogical magazines. Although our area was hit with a nasty winter storm that day, we still had an average of eight students per session show up, regardless of the bad weather (that's how much we enjoy our classes!). I was expecting a review of the top ten websites that I'm familiar with (Ancestry, RootsWeb, Find A Grave, etc.), but was pleasantly surprised (with Donna, I often am!) that she had expanded the title to the following: The Top "Ten" New-Interesting-Fantastic-Exciting-Wonderful "New" Websites to Expand YOUR Online Research!

The "ten" websites (there are actually eleven) are listed below. Of course, to have attended the class and received the benefit of Donna's great tips, pointers, and enthusiasm, as well as a detailed syllabus, one must be a member of EWGS. I don't think Donna would mind for a moment, however, that I shared the URLs of the following sites with you.
Now, if you are an EWGS member and took Barbara Brazington's class on doing Boolean searches back in January 2006 (repeated by popular demand in September 2006!), you would know how to use Google to benefit your research.

Our society has found that these educational classes not only benefit us in our research, but have increased our membership. Flyers posted in the library have caught the eyes of many potential members, and they are only too eager to join in order to learn more about Internet genealogy! We've booked classes through the end of 2008, with a growing list for our 2009 program. If your society is dwindling in membership, perhaps you ought to try offering something similar. For a list of past, present and future classes, check out our Special Classes page.


Jasia said...

I think your group has the right idea with teaching internet genealogy classes. I definitely think that is the future of genealogy. It's what people want.

Anonymous said...

I'm thrilled to see the American Memory (Library of Congress) site finally getting recognized for the amazing resource it is! It's long been one of my Top 10, but so few others seem to lecture on it.

Another very beneficial site (beginner or not) is 1930 Census which actually covers all census years for U.S. and some info for other countries. Well organized, great tips.
Bill W.
Brighton MA

Randy Seaver said...

Excellent list of classes! May I ask how many people are in your society, and how many attend these classes?

We have a monthly computer group meeting but it is free form - some of us help others find stuff on the computer. Little teaching goes on.

I will do one web site a month at our Research Group meetings in order to help the members improve their knowledge and skills, using pretty much the same sites on your class list.

You might want to go look at the self-learning site www.learnwebskills.com/family/ - I really like it.

Miriam Robbins said...


Without a conversation with our society's membership chairman, I did a quick look-through at our 2006 directory (the 2007 one is yet to be published), and crunched some numbers.

In 2006, we had 258 households (couples and individuals) as members. Of those, 103 were couples, bringing our total membership to 361. Although many join as a couple (the cost is the same), only a handful of couples attend; usually it is just the one spouse that is interested and participates in the society. Our normal monthly meeting size is generally around 100 - 120. Winter meeting attendance tends to be lower, due to poor driving conditions and "snowbirds" enjoying their sunny climes.

Our society's range covers a large locale: members hail from many Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho county residents, and of those, many also are involved with their own home county genealogical societies. Since Spokane is the commercial hub of the Inland Northwest (Eastern Washington, Northern Idaho, Western Montana, Northeastern Oregon, Southeastern British Columbia and Southwestern Alberta), often out-of-town members will come to Spokane for our monthly meetings, then stay to do research in the genie room of the library and/or get shopping/business done while in the city.

About thirty of our members live beyond the 100-mile radius of Spokane (either out of area, or out of state altogether), and they include those residing from Hawaii to Virginia, Montana to Ohio. Of course, large workshops like our Spring Seminar (usually held in May or June) and the October Workshop, bring in not only long-distance members, but many non-members as well (that is how I got involved with the society). These workshops generally feature a nationally-known genealogist, and we easily see attendance swell above 200 - 250. When Michael John Neill spoke last October, we had visitors from the Seattle area (300 miles away/6-hour drive).

As I mentioned in the blog, we have had membership rise due to the computer classes, and as people have connected in the small groups (10 - 15 people in each session, 3 sessions per class), we've seen attendance at our monthly meetings rise as well.

Thank you for sharing the Learning Web Skills site...it is fascinating, and I'll be sure to send a link to my friends who are interested in genealogy, but haven't seem interested in attending society meetings.