Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Free Online Classes Help People Climb Their Family Tree

Genealogy is one of the most popular hobbies in the world, and new online classes from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints make it easier than ever to search for your ancestors from the comfort of your own home.

Through the nonprofit FamilySearch organization, the Church provides records and resources to help people with their family history. This effort stems from the Latter-day Saint belief that families can be together after this life, but the Church provides access to genealogical information to everyone, regardless of religious affiliation. These offerings now include a growing collection of free online classes that anyone can access on the Internet at their convenience. These classes help people get started in genealogy, learn how to use different types of records or research in a specific area.

FamilySearch instructional designer Candace Turpin says there are currently about 140 classes available on the website, and that number is growing every month. The variety of classes offers something for everyone, from experienced family historians to curious novices.

“The goal of the initiative is to educate more people worldwide about how to find their ancestors,” Turpin said. “We do it by filming the experts teaching a particular class of interest and then offering free access to that presentation online — complete with the PowerPoint used and any electronic handouts that the user can download or print for future reference.”

FamilySearch uses viewing software that splits the viewing screen (sort of like the picture-in-picture features on some smart televisions) so the user can watch the video of the presenter while also seeing the PowerPoint presentation. Most courses are 30 minutes in length. Unlike live classes, viewers can fast forward through the online course or pause or stop and finish watching it later.