Thursday, January 5, 2012

Webinars: An Important Internet Tool for Genealogists

I've had questions from a few folks on Google+ about webinars so I thought I would take a moment to explain what they are and how they help genealogists.

What is a webinar?

I believe the term webinar comes from web + seminar. A webinar is a live presentation delivered over the internet. Typically the viewer can see a PowerPoint presentation and hear the presenter's voice. Sometimes they can see the presenter as well.

Where do I find a webinar?

Anyone with an internet connection can access a webinar.  This is what makes it a powerful learning tool. No longer do genealogists have to limit their learning to live in-person conferences that can be miles from home.

Typically, an organization such as Legacy Family Tree or the Friends of NARA Southeast Region will sponsor the webinar. They will issue an announcement about the webinar and ask people to register.

Registration involves, at a minimum, providing your name and email address. After you submit your registration you will be sent an email confirmation. You will receive another email close to the time of the webinar with a link that connects you to the webinar.  When you attend your first webinar you will need to download the software, most likely GoToWebinar, in order to view the program.

What can I expect from a webinar?

Webinars are presented live, typically one hour in length with a half hour for questions and answers.  You will likely see a PowerPoint presentation on the screen just like you would see in a live presentation. The only difference is you won't see the presenter while they are presenting. But you will hear their voice as they give the live presentation. The advantage of a webinar is that you will be able to easily see the presentation slides on your monitor compared to the difficulty people sometimes have in a large conference room.

Can I talk to the presenter?

The audience can ask the presenter questions just like in a live presentation. In a webinar questions may be asked via voice over a microphone at the end of the presentation or by typing the question and submitting to the presenter via a chat box. If there is a moderator, you can submit questions throughout the presentation which will be answered by the presenter at the end. This allows the audience to interact directly (or nearly directly) with the speaker.

How much do webinars costs?

Webinars like the ones offered by Legacy Family Tree are free to watch live. The advantage to watching live is that the audience can win door prizes and ask questions of the speaker. Some webinars, like the ones offered by Michael John Neill, are offered for a minimal cost.

What if I miss the live presentation?

It's not always easy to see the webinars when they are presented live.  Our daily activities are bound to conflict with the scheduled times at some point. And some sponsoring organizations are in a different time zone.

Luckily webinars are often recorded which means a much larger audience can view them afterwards. Some organizations like Legacy make their webinars available for free for a limited time afterwards. The recorded or archived webinars can be viewed at your convenience 24/7.  Other organizations such as the Friends of NARA Southeast Region and the Southern California Genealogical Society provide the recorded webinars as a member benefit. If you don't view their webinars live you will need to become a member in order to access them.

Read more about webinars in my previous article "The Top 5 Reasons I Listen to Webinars."

View a universal calendar of all genealogy webinars at the GeneaWebinars site.

Never watched a webinar? Make my next webinar on Massachusetts your first one! I will also be presenting another one on Brick Walls in February.

Still confused about webinars?  Leave me your questions and I'll do my best to answer them.


  1. I love webinars. Between having a child and budget issues, I'm not able to go to many conferences. Webinars fill the void, allowing me to learn more about genealogy without leaving home or spending a lot of money.

  2. I absolutely love webinars! I'm going to try to attend as many as I can during 2012. They are fantastic.

    1. Wow, Fantastic Blog, it’s so helpful to me, and your blog is very good,
      I’ve learned a lot from your blog here, Keep on going, my friend, I will keep an eye on it,