Wednesday, 22 January 2014

G'day USA

I'm a big fan and a member of the Society of Australian Genealogists (SAG), and love to participate in their webinars, which are usually held each month. It's just like attending a speaker at a conference, but the venue is your home and the speaker is on your computer screen. The SAG have a mix of Aussie and overseas speakers, who are all very knowledgeable and inspirational. The next few months includes subjects such as goldfields research, English BDM's, and Sydney's cemeteries. Quite a variety!

We get a handout emailed at the end of each event, which summarises what we heard, and provides links to any websites mentioned, so we're not furiously writing notes instead of listening and learning. These webinars are $10 each, which is great, although you need to be a SAG member to register. Membership is $72, or $92 in the first year. So I figure that makes my webinars around $16 each, even if I never step foot in their door. Still cheap.

But now I've found some FREE webinars, run by the Wisconsin State Genealogical Society. They tend to run at 7pm their time, which converts to midday in Sydney time (at the moment = our daylight-saving time/summer), which is great for those days I'm not working. Their subjects over the next few months are probate records, DNA, and Irish research. Some are quite US-centric, and others have worldwide appeal. I'll certainly be registering for the DNA topic, to learn what all the fuss is about. Today's speaker was by genealogy royalty, Thomas MacEntee. The subject was Building a Research Toolbox, which covered things like organising your internet favourites/bookmarks, and a bit about Evernote, as well as lots more.

Legacy Family Tree webinars are also interesting, as well as free, which is great. They sometimes start at 7pm in the USA, which has been 5am Sydney time, and I don't think I could get out of bed that early unless the house was on fire! They run about 6 per month, and are archived for 7 days to watch for free (at a time that suits you, like not 5am). Members can watch older ones as part of their membership package. Their list covers webinars from some very well-known presenters and really interesting topics as far back as 2011. Their membership seem to be on special at the moment, at US$9.95 for a month, or US$49.95 annually, which gives access to their full back-catalogue.

To calculate when the webinar would start in your local time, this website is handy: Time Zone Converter. They even take daylight saving into account, which I am grateful for. Working out the time difference and taking into account both countries and their various time zones and daylight saving schedules would do my head in I think!

If you haven't joined a webinar before, they're easy-peasy. Don't be scared!! Near the details about the time & date, etc, will be a link to register with the organisation for that particular event. You'll be asked a few details like name & email address, maybe your suburb, and if there's a fee there will be a checkout process at this stage. They will send you a confirmation email, and another one the day and an hour before (from my experience, anyway), with a link to click to join up. Most organisations use the host GoToWebinar which needs you to download a little something (a programme??) prior to your first time so you can run their format. The SAG recommend signing in about 10 minutes early for your first ever webinar, where they run through what's involved. You can participate with or without a microphone &/or headset. If you want to ask a question (they usually have question time at the end), when you are prompted by the speaker you can ask your query by speaking to your microphone, and if you don't have one you can type your question in the panel to the side of the main display screen. If you get the opportunity to ask a question you can virtually raise your hand by clicking on the little hand, and then the facilitator will know you're waiting for your turn to speak. They'll un-mute you so you can ask your question/comment, and then mute you again ready for the next person when it's time. It's all really simple.

If you're more of a visual learner, YouTube has a short tutorial on how webinars work, using the GoToWebinar host in particular.

So if you're looking to expand your mental horizons, check out the webinars run by societies you may not have even given a thought to before. You might be surprised by the variety they offer.


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