This is a guest post written by Shannon Combs-Bennett.

There are many choices out there for genealogy education.  You can listen to webinars, take online classes, attend seminars, plus many more options.  Quite a few of these are free, however, more often than not there will be a fee associated with your continuing education opportunities.   During my time as the Family Tree Firsts Blogger at Family Tree University (FTU) I was lucky to take classes through them.

FTU has a wonderful series of webinars, two a month, that are always jammed packed full of information, but there are also many on-line courses offered too.  Personally, I enjoyed and learned a lot from all the webinars, seminars, and courses that I registered for.  Each one is led by an expert in their field who really gets the most important information across to you, the student, in the time allotted.  They are friendly, approachable, and are there to help you be a better researcher and genealogist.

What I love most about FTU is that there are many levels and several different class lengths.  There are courses for complete beginners through experienced researchers.   Some of the courses offered are a few hours and some are a few weeks allowing you to fit them into your schedule.  A wide variety of topics are also offered which cover the scope of genealogy.  Those topics include: history, country specific, state specific, techniques, organization, and problem solving to name a few.

If you choose to take a course you are not left to your own devices.  The course is led by an instructor who is there to guide you, answer any questions, give you feedback on assignments, and make sure you have the opportunity to get all you can out of the lessons.  A message board is set up so that you can also interact with your fellow students and talk about the class or your discoveries.  For some, one down side would be that these courses are not part of any accreditation or count toward any sort of genealogy certification.  However, they should not be dismissed out right as many of the courses are unique and reasonably priced for the amount of information and resources that you will come away with.

As I stated above there are courses for all skill levels.  The beginner classes at FTU are called First Steps.  These are designed with the absolute genealogy novice in mind.  They will guide you through the basic research principles and strategies you will need to be a successful family historian.  At $39.99 these courses are the least expensive with the idea that you are getting your feet wet and trying to decide if this is something you want to try your hand at.

Their shortest classes are their Power Courses which are designed to be information packed mini seminars.  When you sign up for the course you have one week of access to all the reading and webinars on that subject as an independent study session.  It is easily downloaded and completed in one afternoon, and will cost you $59.99.

A typical multi-week course is designed to be learned through weekly segments usually over the course of a month.  Each week you have a course reading assignment, supplemental reading, and a worksheet or quiz to be turned in by the end of the week.  As these courses are designed for you to take at your own pace, sticking with this schedule will make sure that you have time to complete all worksheets by the end of the session.  On average I spent 3-4 hours a week on each course.  That was for taking time to do the reading and assignments for the course, but not time on the message board.  There was more than one occasion where I spent many hours conversing with classmates on the boards about research, discoveries, or what we were going to take next!  While they are the most expensive classes, at $99.99, they would be best for people who want the human interaction along with their materials.

I would encourage you to check out FTU if you are unable to travel, have limited time, or are looking for a good value in genealogy education.  With the variety of classes offered I am confident you will find one that interests you.  The information I learned is still beneficial to me today, and I frequently reach for those resources to help me with my current research.  I hope you take some time to investigate if this would be a good option for you too.

About the guest blogger:

Shannon Combs-Bennett is a stay at home mom who writes both a blog and for print publication.  Her passion is hunting down the facts behind her family’s stories and recording them for future generations.  Read about her adventures at Trials and Tribulations of a Self-Taught Family Historian then follow her on Facebook or Twitter @tntfamhist.

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