The Generations Network has redesigned Ancestry.com’s learning center. The Learning Center focuses on the newcomer – those who are new to the site as well as those who are new to genealogy. I don’t classify myself as a newcomer; but, when I checked out the redesigned Learning Center, I must admit that I learned a few things, too.
The revamped Learning Center includes numerous short videos, featuring Ancestry.com’s Chief Family Historian, Megan Smolenyak. Megan walks the viewer through a number of “how to get started” topics, including:
- Get Started
- All About Me (studying family history often teaches us about ourselves)
- You Have Time (you can devote as much or as little time as you wish)
- Home Sources (you may be surprised how much info you already have)
- Why It Matters (why family history is important)
- Census Records
- Family Trees
- Beginner Tools
- DNA Research
- Brick Walls
- War Records
Many of these "how to" videos by Megan are two- or three-minute segments on a particular topic, such as how to read census records. None of these videos are in-depth tutorials. Instead, the videos provide an introduction, and then text-based references that lead to more in-depth information appear on the screen.
I must admit that I enjoy “poking around” to see whatever is available. This site is excellent for this. It is a mix of old and new: newly-filmed videos intermixed with text information that has worked well for many years. I even found many of my old newsletters from eight or ten years ago, all placed there with my permission. My newsletters are in good company: there are hundreds of other articles in the Learning Center written by many of the top genealogy authors of our time. I also found the latest news and information, including the first 2008 edition of the Ancestry Weekly Journal.
The Ancestry.com Learning Center contains lots of examples of how to find information. When writing, many of the authors used examples from their own family trees. However, newcomers to the site often may enter their own name(s) to find facts about their own surname, to find information about Civil War veterans, immigration, life expectancy, name distribution, and more.
One section that I would encourage all newcomers to visit is the place to download blank charts that every genealogist uses. (Click on “Get Started” and then look in the lower left corner for “Charts & Forms.”
The "Build A Tree" section links to existing sections of the Ancestry.com site that allow the user to build an online family tree. The "Join the Community" link brings up an interactive section that allows users to work together, creating their own profiles to list genealogy interests.
The Ancestry Learning Center is available free of charge, and I would strongly encourage all newcomers to spend some time there. While the Learning Center is free, you will have to create a (free) user name and password in order to use it. Also, many of the tutorials and other “how to” information will have links that point to content behind the “pay wall.” That is, you will have to be a paid subscriber in order to access some of the items that are mentioned. Also, as one might expect from any free service, you will see lots of advertising for Ancestry.com’s paid services.
Ancestry.com does not specify what operating systems are supported by the Learning Center. I used a Macintosh system, and everything I tried worked perfectly. In fact, the videos looked as good as a small image on the television set in my living room.
The newly-revamped Ancestry.com Learning Center may be one of the best “unknown bargains” of the Internet. You can find lots of “how to” information, grouped together in a user-friendly manner, with links to enough details to keep you busy for a long time. I’d hasten to add that this would be an enjoyable form of “busy.”
The Ancestry.com Learning Center may be found at http://learn.ancestry.com/Home/HMLND.aspx.