It’s back-to-school season across the United States. And in many places, we can look forward to soaking up some of the year’s best weather (while it lasts). Do these five genealogy activities in September, and you’ll build your family tree, learn from experts, and enjoy the outdoors:
1. Take an online genealogy class.
If your family tree progress has stalled because you don’t know where to look next, take yourself back to school. Online classes can teach you skills from using YDNA to understand your paternal line to restoring old photos.
One of our favorites is our Trace Your Roots: Search Tricks to Find Your Ancestors downloadable course. Learn how to search for your family history and find your ancestors in vital records, censuses, immigration records, newspapers and land records.
2. Stroll through an ancestor’s old neighborhood.
Take in the sights of the past: architectural details, old stonework, former street names or other evidence from past residents. Note landmarks that survive from your ancestor’s time. Watch for street and business names that may be inspired by history. Try to spot the oldest buildings and imagine the spaces between them before they were filled (or now-empty spaces where buildings once stood). If you can’t get to the places you want to visit, let Google Earth take you there. Where available, use Street View to surround yourself with a 360-degree view of the neighborhood.
3. Visit a genealogical or historical society near you.
The group may host monthly meetings with how-to classes or historical presentations. Drop in at a few meetings (not just one) so you can learn what the group has to offer and get to know people. You may meet kindred spirits. Often, you’ll discover opportunities to help your community preserve its history. Be prepared to make a small donation for each visit, though it may not be required. Use the Federation of Genealogical Society’s Find-a-Society web page, ask about a society at your local library, or search online with the name of your city or county and the phrase genealogical society or historical society.
4. Find old yearbook photos of relatives.
Browse digitized yearbooks to see your relatives as teenagers. Click here to search Ancestry’s expanded yearbook collection and here to search yearbooks on MyHeritage.
Use these resources to look for other types of pictures that may not have made it into the school annual.
School yourself on your ancestors’ schooling in other records, too. Obituaries often mention education. Entries in the 1940 US census include the highest grade completed. Between 1850 and 1930, the census asks about recent school attendance and literacy.
5. Listen to a genealogy podcast.
While you’re enjoying the outdoor weather, take a genealogy podcast along with you. Of course, we love the free monthly Family Tree Magazine Podcast, packed with tips and chats with our favorite experts. It’s hosted by Lisa Louise Cooke, who also hosts the free Genealogy Gems Podcast.
Find these and other genealogy podcasts via Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, Spotify or another podcast app you like. Or listen from your computer by simply visiting the podcast website and clicking on a recent episode.