Growing up my dad would often quote the English proverb,“If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.” Well, if wishes could make it happen, I would attend every genealogy conference, institute and enroll in Boston University’s Genealogy Certificate program today! In order to get where I want to be in my genealogical education, I have put myself on a stiff genealogy education plan that expands across the next 5 years. While those plans include the major conferences and institutes, those plans are also subject to the funds available at that time. Which means – if I want a quality genealogy education now – I am going to have to get way more CREATIVE!
While not everyone wants to become a professional genealogist, I would think anyone who does their own family history research would desire to be more effective – wanting to spend the precious time they have to devote to genealogy research to be more focused and more successful.
So here are some ideas to create your own genealogy education plan:

  1. Take an Inventory of What You Know. I made a list of every class I attended, every podcast listened to, every webinar and video class I viewed, every course I have taken in the last year (you can do it for longer time period if you wish – but my list in a year was getting quite long!). This alone was very worthwhile. It helped me to see what areas I am strong in and which areas I could use some improvement in. For example, I have taken a lot of classes that relate to genealogy and technology, but I realized I need more information on specific US records. With this information in hand, I have a better idea of what classes I should sign-up for in the future or attend at the next conference.
  2. Prioritize Your List. Do you need to focus on Military Records, US Census Records or How to Organize your Research first? When you know what is most important that you need to learn about, you can next determine where you are going to learn it from.
  3. List Your Educational Options. Determine what your choices are, and who are going to be your teachers. Since this post is about getting a great genealogy education for cheap, I am not going to mention the major genealogy conferences and institutes – even though they are invaluable and worth the expense when you can swing it! Listed below you will find some other options to consider.
  4. Join a study group. There are various study groups out there, one group that I belong to is studying the book Professional Genealogy – A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lectures and Librarians, the group is called ProGen and is really a great group to challenge you. ICAPGEN has a mentoring group for those preparing to become an Accredited Genealogist and you can view some of their mentoring classes for free from FamilySearch. Or, create your own study group – I would like to find a group to study the classic book by Val Greenwood: The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy.Locating like-minded individuals through Facebook, Google+ or Twitter is only a click away. 
  5. Listen to online radio genealogy programs like geneablogradio or podcasts sites like Genealogy Gems or the Genealogy Guys. This is a great way to listen and learn from many different genealogy guests.
  6. Volunteer. Einstein said “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” Volunteer at a local Family History Center, society or schools. Teaching someone else is one of the best way to become a better student.
  7. Make friends with other genealogists and network. Asking other genealogist questions on list-serv groups like transitional-genealogists or just learning from them by reading their blogs, their writings and getting to know them can add much to your education.

Valuable FREE or Inexpensive Genealogical Education Sources:
FamilySearch is by far the leader in this category. From professional genealogy experts like Dr. Thomas Jones, to the many experienced researchers from FamilySearch, The National Archives, The Library of Congress and MidWest Genealogy Center – you can’t go wrong with any of them. FamilySearch has created a tremendous resource for free and is offering video instruction courses on a wide variety of genealogical topic, often with handouts and some are inter-active! Check Back Often on the courses – as they are consistently updating and adding to the list! AND don’t forget the underused FamilySearch Wiki! Great information about localities, research skills and techniques, etc. and again check back often as it is always be added to! Spend some time going through it and you will be amazed at what is there. Check out FamilySearch Forums too!
UGA (Utah Genealogical Association) is adding some exciting things for free, as well as for the relatively low cost of a membership! In cooperation with ICAPGEN (International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists) UGA is introducing a Training and Tutorial Library (UGaTT). According to the UGA website, “the UGaTT is arranged in three levels, Bronze, Silver, and Gold. The first level allows the beginning genealogist to improve their skills and prepare for the more advanced Silver and Gold levels. Participants earn pins and certificates for program completion. Parts of the Bronze level will always be free to the general public, with the more advanced Bronze, Silver and Gold Levels available to UGA members as they are completed.” The UGaTT will allow for self-testing to track your understanding and your improvement. They plan on having over a 100 video course and have just rolled out the first few courses in the Bronze level, which are free right now. UGA is also presenting a 2 day Family History conference on Aug. 19-20 in Sandy, Utah for the ridiculously low price of $20 for members and $25 for non-members and INCLUDES the Syllabus CD…it might as well be free! They are offering 140 classes in 13 tracks – from novice to pro. GO UGA! Yes, I am a member and am proud to support their efforts to share genealogical education – check out their Virtual Chapter presentations each month! A free webinar on a variety of topics. This month’s presentation will be by Todd Bingham on July 21, 7:00pm MDT. The webinar is entitled Descendancy Research, Finding the Past in the Present. Past presentations are only available to members, so join or watch it live!
Legacy Family Tree is also producing some great webinars! They are free for a limited time, after that they can be purchased for less than $10 and included handouts. Check out their website for the listings or go to to check out all the genealogical webinars – some free, some not.
Check out your local genealogical society, they often have great resources (like access to online databases), speakers, conferences and mentors that worth more than their yearly membership fee. Cheap when you compare what you get. Check out the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) listing of member societies by state to locate one near you.
Not So Cheap Sources: offers a learning center, that if you are already a member is worth checking out. If you don’t have a membership to – you can go to your nearest Family History Center which you can locate here, and use their membership for free.
Memberships to National Genealogical Society also offers some free and some not for free genealogical courses. National Institute of Genealogical Studies offers great genealogical courses when purchased separately does not hit the pocket book so hard as does forking out the big lump sum for their certificate program or the big ticket Boston University program.
In a perfect world beggars would ride – but in the mean time, we do what we can with what we got…and be grateful to all of those who share their knowledge! My pocketbook thanks you too! Would love to know your cheap ways to getting gen smart, hope you leave a comment and share!
©2011, copyright Valerie Elkins