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Sharpening your Genealogical Saw

The following are some ideas to help you make some new discoveries.


Content Details

Type: Article
Resource: GenWeekly
Prepared by:
Word Count: 865 (approx.)
Labels: Beginner's Guide 
ISBN: 0743269519
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Stephen R. Covey in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, describes one of the habits as "sharpening the saw." Sharpening the Saw is a metaphor for bringing your life into balance by doing such things as reading and learning new skills. The example Covey uses is that of the lumberjack who just saws and saws constantly will end up doing his work with a dull blade if he doesn't take some time to put the saw down and sharpen it. In genealogy, if we just research and research using the same old techniques we will have trouble making new types of discoveries because we don't know how.

Following are some ideas to help you make some new discoveries.


Online classes are a great way to learn new genealogy skills. The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in Toronto,, is an inexpensive way to learn more about American, Canadian, English, German, Irish, and Scottish records, and Librarianship.

Brigham Young University offers free courses on Family History, Free Web Courses from Brigham Young University (BYU). Free courses include researching records such as vital records and military records. There are also 19 courses in regional and ethnic research, including French Immigrant Origins; Reading German Handwriting; Hugenot Research; and Scandinavian Census Records.

GenClass, GenClass - Online Genealogy Classes , provides 4-week classes on such topics as Family Tree Maker, Adoption, Native American Genealogy, Jewish Genealogy, and Northeastern United States Research. Instructors previously taught for Each class is $29.95.


Blogs are a new format that many genealogists are using to update their web site more frequently or just to pass on what's new in genealogy. Everton Publisher's Genealogy Blog, The Genealogy Blog, is a good one for a variety of information having to do with the the field of genealogy. New records, new webs ites, interesting genealogically related newspaper articles, and events are all covered in this blog. I would recommend that you check it out at several times a week.

Randy Seaver's blog, Genea-Musings at, has posts that cover his personal research and what is happening in the genealogical world. An added bonus is that he has a list of other blogs and blog finders on the right hand side of his home page.

One of my favorite blogs, one that can bring a smile to your face, is the Genealogue, Now this blog will not help you with your genealogy research, nor will you learn new techniques from it, it's just plain funny! One of my favorite postings was from Halloween, entitled "Best. Prank. Ever" taken from a newspaper in 1877's, it told of a man who was at a funeral, graveside, and he threw his voice so it sounded like the dead man was really alive. After almost everyone ran screaming from the funeral, two men took a crowbar and opened the casket to find the body very much dead and in a state of decay.


One way to learn more about genealogy is to listen to podcasts. Podcasts are audio files that you can download onto your computer and listen to them either on your computer or on a MP3 device such as an iPod or other portable audio player. In essence, it's like listening to a radio broadcast.

One source your genealogy podcasts is George Morgan and Drew Smith's "The Genealogy Guys", The Genealogy Guys Podcast. The Guys talk about everything from software reviews and new web sites to how to find your ancestor's occupation. Their web site lists their weekly podcast and what subjects are covered. You can read over the summaries and then download which ones are of interest to you. You can also click on a "play button" on the right hand side of the home page and listen to one of the podcasts without downloading it to your computer.

Another podcast you may be interested in is Dear Myrtle's Family History Hour at Myrt's podcasts are less frequent but she also has some great topics like the new Roots Television, why PAF isn't being updated and source citations. You can also check out her website at Dearmyrtle's Daily Genealogy Column.

For a list of other genealogy podcasts, check out Genealogy Today's podcast list at

Online Video Seminars and Shows

One of the newest ways to learn more about genealogy is by watching television, on your computer screen. On Roots Television, Roots Television you can watch genealogists like Megan Smolenyak discussing DNA. You can also learn how to conduct oral interviews or catch a seminar from a genealogy conference or an interview with genealogist Hank Z Jones. Roots Television is always adding new programs so it's important to check back often.

The New England Historic Genealogical Society has some online seminars that you may be interested in checking out. The seminar topics,, include: Civil War Pension Research: Union Soldiers; Who was your Mother's Mother's Mother's Mother; Getting Started in Irish Genealogy; Research at NEHGS; Getting Started in Genealogy; and Transcribing Gravestones. These seminars are not the same as Roots Television provides, but is instead a slide presentation with audio. These seminars are wonderful and are very informative.

Genealogy resources are always changing and being added to. I would suggest that in addition to reading a genealogical blog, check out a genealogical newsletter like GenWeekly and Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter for what's new in genealogy.

Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2007.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.

*Effective May 2010, GenWeekly articles that are more than five years old no longer require a subscription for full access.

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