Friday, December 4, 2009

Podcasts and Videos

The Internet has continued to marvel me with the continuing opportunities for learning. As technology advances, it is becoming simple to find new and improved forms to gain a better understanding and new knowledge of all things genealogical.

With the digitization of historic documents and books ever increasingly making these resources available on-line, the Internet continues to be a fabulous source for findings items of great research value. But from a learning perspective, perhaps one of the still most under-utilised sources of education for family historians are the videos and podcasts that are now available.

I used to think of YouTube as a website for the marginal and bizarre. The site where you could find short video clips of something strange, presented through grainy cell phone images. If it ever was that, it has advanced and been embraced by genealogists in large numbers. Type the words "genealogy" or "family history" into the YouTube search box and you will find more than 125,000 links to videos that will provide everything from beginner's lessons to advanced tips and techniques.

But one of my favourite 'new media' resources are the podcasts. These are essentially audio files, like a recorded radio broadcast, that cover just about every topic imaginable. For the family historian, I think you're really missing out if you are not taking advantage of these, primarily free, resources. Although the name 'podcast' is derived from Apple's iPod, you don't have to own an iPod to listen to them. Podcasts can be played right from your computer (or any mp3 audio device) if you want and finding podcasts is easy. You can download the free iTunes software from the Apple website and then, after opening the iTunes program, click on the Podcast tab, search for "genealogy." You'll be amazed at the number of 'shows' that are available. By simply clicking on the 'subscribe' button, your iTunes software will download each new episode of your selected podcasts as they become available. You can also listen to any episodes that you might have missed by clicking on the 'get all' button. And don't limit yourself just to genealogy - by searching under 'history' or for the history of the country of your ancestral roots, you may find even more to help set context for the lives of your family members.

I happen to have access to an iPod and I have a one hour commute to work and back home. This provides me with two hours of education each day. So here are a couple of my favourite podcasts with links so you can enjoy them as well.

The Genealogy Guys podcast, the longest running, regularly produced podcast, is available for free. Hosts Drew Smith and George Morgan cover a range of topics, always offering expert advice and tips on research and the use of technology by family historians. They even mentioned this blog in one of their episodes, so what's not to like. The 'Guys' have also produced a number of video interviews with a variety of experts that are available at http://genealogyguys.blip.tv/.

Another real favourite is the collective work of Lisa Louise Cooke who just has to be one of the busiest genealogy educators in the world. Lisa's podcast, Genealogy Gems, is a treasure trove that blends tips and techniques with news, crafts, and most importantly, fun. As for the busy part, well, in addition to the free Genealogy Gems episodes, Lisa now offers extra 'premium members only' shows through her site, regular Family History: Genealogy Made Easy episodes for Personal Life Media, and produces a series of videos for her Genealogy Gems YouTube 'channel' in addition to a monthly podcast for Family Tree Magazine.

Finally, a third suggestion to consider and especially if you have British roots, the National Archives of the United Kingdom offers a series of podcasts that deal with the history and records of the UK. I don't have a significant family connection in the UK but the historical context to what life might have been like in the past that these podcasts provide is not only very informative but often provide suggested research tips and strategies that can be applied in other areas.

Give these a try and let me know what you think or share your favourites in the Comments section below. As always, I can also be contacted at ian.hadden@rogers.com.

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