Best Free Online Genealogy Courses

If, like me, your love of genealogy came from your interest in your own family history and you now have the bug to learn more then you have likely considered taking courses. Genealogy is a complex subject of study which can be quite diverse and interesting.

It took me years to develop my amateur skills while researching my own family and eventually my interest in what was my hobby became something more. I wanted to see if this was something I might be able to make a living from but to do that I was going to need some more formal education.

This included taking courses both in person and online to learn new research techniques and of course the key principles of being a professional genealogist. These courses cost money but they were worth it. If however you do not have a great deal of spare cash you can find some free course options online.

Genealogy Websites

A great source of free courses, or at least courses that are included in the subscription, are genealogy based websites. Some of the more major sites will have some version of a learning center which may feature articles and videos to help you learn more about research.

Some of the best online website learning centers are:

The FamilySearch Learning Center

For those who may not know, FamilySearch is a major genealogy website run out of Utah and under the guidance of the Mormon church. Not only do they offer free access to millions of online genealogy documents but they also have an online learning center.

This does not supply what would be considered as an accredited course but it does offer up a wide range of lessons that can help people improve their researching skills and give them some very important tips. It is a great resource for taking your early research to the next levels.

Ancestry Academy

Many genealogists these days will start at sites such as Ancestry where they can for a fee not only research but also build their family trees. Just like FamilySearch they have their own learning center which they refer to as the Ancestry Academy.

You can access the videos in the academy if you have an account but you do not need to have an active membership which is good. They offer videos with tips and advice regarding numerous topics including research techniques and different aspects of genealogy.

Legacy Family Tree Webinars

Webinars are a great resource for learning new techniques and understanding aspects of genealogy. At Legacy Family Tree the website offers many of their webinars for free to watch online and then on demand for a short while after the live event.

A reasonable subscription fee would also get you access to the complete back catalogue which may include talks by professionals on a whole host of genealogy related topics.

American Ancestors

This genealogy website boasts over 1.4 billion available records covering the U.S. and British Isles. It is run by the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) who were themselves founded in 1845.

They offer a number of genealogical courses on different topics for a reasonable price that are geared to both researchers who are starting out and those looking to sharpen existing skill sets. Members only seminars are also available which feature talks from experts on various aspects of genealogy.

As a general resource the American Ancestors site has a great deal to offer for those looking to further their genealogical education. They not only have online options but also run live events around the country which may be of interest.

The National Genealogical Society

This is a membership dependent site which offers a host of interesting content for an annual fee starting at just $75 for adults. Those under 25 can get a youth membership for $25 a year.

Considered a leader in the field for well over a century they are a non-profit organization so membership fees go directly to maintaining and improving their ability to assist and educate genealogists. Their online courses are not free but members do get a discount on them. This does mean that you do not need to be a member to take one of their courses but if you planned to take multiple courses you may save money by getting a membership while you study.

UK National Archives

If you are from the UK or have ancestors who originated there it might be a worthwhile endeavor to check out the UK National Archives website. It is not only a great resource for searching UK based records for free but it also offers some basic educational courses.

These courses are geared more toward the beginners within the genealogical community with practical tasks reading more like a simple school lesson. Many of their lessons are what is known as Key Stage 2 which in educational terms refers to students between 7 – 11 years old.

Do not let the age range deter you however as for a genealogist just starting out these lessons can still be rewarding and will give you little practical experience in things such as reading a census record. There are of course lessons aimed at older students as well so this is certainly worth a look.

YouTube Channels

We live in a world where we can “YouTube” a video for just about anything to learn how to do something. It might be changing spark plugs, building a fence or for our purposes learning how to develop new research skills in genealogy.

You can find a whole host of webinars and how-to videos on YouTube with multiple channels dedicated to all things genealogical. Some may charge a subscription while others may be completely free to follow and watch.

RootsTech Conference

In the pre-covid world RootsTech was one of the biggest in-person genealogy conferences in the world with thousands of genealogists descending upon it each year. With the change in the world the conference pivoted on its axis and created an impressive online presence as well.

Free to attend online, the conference each year is packed full of talks and webinars on all things genealogical. Like all of the free options mentioned, attending these online webinars of videos will not earn an accredited qualification but they will improve your genealogical knowledge.

Are There Any Free Online Genealogy Courses?

Genealogy would be considered somewhat of a specialized field which means in order to become qualified as a professional you are going to need to spend money on an education. There are many free online resources to improve your research skills but not any actual courses that offer you a genealogical qualification.

Genealogical education does not come free so if you are looking to move onto the next step toward a career in genealogy you will need some official training. This will likely require a university level course designed to teach the correct methodology of genealogical research.

University Based Genealogical Education Options

Universities can offer a host of genealogical qualifications from degrees to certificates but they will not be free. For those looking to advance their career in genealogical research it is best to get some formal education. If the aim is to simply improve your personal research abilities then free courses are a great resource for this.

Boston University Genealogy Studies Program

Boston University offers a fantastic 15 week course that comprises a 7 week essentials course followed by an 8 week certificate course in more advanced genealogical study. It touches upon several aspects of genealogical education starting with the core principles and standards before advancing through other topics such as record research and forensic genealogy. It is great to help kickstart your advanced education in genealogy and even as a way to just up your personal skills for your own research.

Brigham Young University Bachelor's Degree

You might not be surprised to learn that the home of one of the country's largest collections of genealogical records, Utah, is also home to the only university which offers a bachelor's degree in family history.

As part of the university's history department this bachelor's degree is described as a hybrid between a liberal arts degree in history and a technical degree in genealogy. It not only instills the skills of genealogy but it also creates a solid foundation in understanding human history as a whole.

Udemy Genealogy Courses

This is a great online option for beginner genealogists who are willing to spend a little money to bypass the trial and error phase of research. With several courses available for reasonable prices Udemy has something to plug the gaps in your knowledge.

Completely online courses tend to consist of a series of lectures associated with the course topic and generally only take a few hours to complete. Unlike some courses, once you pay for a Udemy course of lectures you can watch it over and over again.

IAP Career College Genealogy

This online course is a self paced learning experience which takes on average 6 weeks although it can be done quicker or you can also take your time. Very reasonably priced it covers genealogical teaching as well as starting a genealogy business and how to market yourself.

It is best suited to new genealogists who want to get some fundamentals down and dip their toe into the potential world of becoming a professional researcher. Generally costing a few hundred dollars to join seasonal special offers can make it even more affordable.

International Institute of Genealogical Studies

The international Institute for Genealogical Studies was formerly known as National Institute for Genealogical Studies and was affiliated with the University of Toronto. It is now, however, its own separate online seat of education which as the name suggests has become international in its reach.

Offering genealogical education packages not just for Canada and the U.S. but also Australia, Eastern Europe, Germany, Ireland and Italy to name but a few. They have created tailored course packages specifically for certain countries which will help students around the world develop their skills on a local level.

Packages are often made up of multiple modules, some compulsory, for achieving the offered certificate others that may not be. They offer a full course price with each package although you can choose to take modules piece meal as well.

They are a registered trade school who often have students from the programs of other schools attend their courses in order to complete their education on their way to professional certification.

Final Thoughts

Genealogy is a fantastic subject of study. Be you a beginner or a seasoned veteran you are always learning new things and strategies. It not only encompasses family history but also requires a knowledge of history as a whole.

There is no one set course to becoming a better genealogist so you can choose to embark on as many lines of education as you would like. Some options are free of charge while others are going to cost a fair bit of cash.

If you are looking towards becoming a board certified genealogist you will have to take courses that are going to cost money. However if this is all about developing your personal skills in the subject there are plenty of free or at least inexpensive ways to learn new things.

Neil Edwards

Neil Edwards

Genealogist and family-tree research specialist

Neil was born in Shropshire, England surrounded by centuries of living history. His interest in the past has been a lifelong passion leading to undergraduate degrees in both Economic History & Geography and History & Politics.

This interest in history quickly translated to family history when he moved to the U.S. in 2010. It was here that he began working on his own family tree as well as that of his American wife. That research allowed him to gain a wealth of experience working with both U.S. and European genealogical documents and studying their best uses in researching family history.

Following 9 years of honing his genealogical research skills, Neil was proud to have earned a certificate in Genealogical Research from Boston University in late 2019. Neil also took part in the research process for a Duke University study into the families of 19th Century UK Members of Parliament.

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