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.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Documenting the Family Home for Posterity

By Sarah Hill

When my grandpa passed away a couple years following my grandma, my mom and her siblings knew they would have to sell their childhood home. It was inevitable, but still sad. In a way, my mom was mourning the loss of her home along with mourning her parents. Wanting to somehow preserve the physical as well as the memories, my mom embarked upon a little project that became priceless.

Before cleaning out the closets and dividing up those things of sentimental value, my mom went around the house with her camera. She took pictures of everything: the furniture that was so outdated it was almost back in style; the vintage wallpaper; the stuffed animals now balding, the bookcases filled with Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, Anne Shirley and Louis L'Amour.; the height chart to which we always went, even years past we had quit growing, to see where we had been and where we were in comparison to our cousins; the avocado and citrus trees my grandpa painstakingly cared for; the rose bushes that were my grandma's pride. My mom photographed every corner of that home.

Then she enlisted each of the 27 grandchildren to write about a memory they had of going to my grandparents' home. Some wrote several paragraphs and most wrote a page or two. There were often similar memories, whether it was my grandpa's waffles with a "surprise" ingredient (spoiler: blackberries turn them purple) or having my grandma correct your hand position at the piano or grandpa's whiskers or grandma's ability to beat anyone at Rack-O. The underlying themes of the stories were the feelings we had in that home–something you couldn't photograph.

With the photographs and the stories, my mom compiled them all using an online publisher. She worked tirelessly on it, and the results justify that. Now, each of my siblings and I have a beautiful, professionally-printed hardbound book of pictures and stories about my grandparents' home that I can share with my children and my children's children. This project has inspired me to take pictures and document the smaller things that we often overlook. It took just a few days to put together, but I will cherish it forever–especially the picture of the wallpaper.