Terry Dahlin has worked at BYU’s Harold B. Lee Library since the days when printed books were checked out using paper cards that kept track of who borrowed the book. Now a senior librarian, Dahlin has seen many technological changes since joining the library staff in 1974 as a cataloger.
Recently Dahlin has been using technological advancements in a field that is literally as old as humans: genealogy.
For several years the BYU Family History Library has offered genealogy classes on the second and fourth Sundays of the month. Working with 130 volunteer missionaries, Dahlin found new ways to promote classes including using social media. Then he found a way to take the classes even further.
“We’re doing all this work training our missionaries and volunteers, why don’t we use this to expand our reach?” Dahlin said. “We have good people and good information, why don’t we do webinars?”
Recognizing that holding classes only on Sundays and only in Provo could prevent many people that might be interested from attending, Dahlin determined to set up a system to bring family history training to people at home.
Dahlin began the project by creating several webinars on introductory topics. Then he recruited a team of experts to create new classes on more advanced topics. For example, James Tanner, author of the popular family history blog “Genealogy’s Star,” created classes such as Digital Books for Genealogists and Proven Ways to Find Your Immigrant Ancestors. Milan Pohontsch – cataloger of Germanic, Slavic and Celtic language material – created a webinar with advice, tools and tips specifically for genealogists working on lines in German-speaking areas.
The next step was finding the technology to create and distribute the webinars in a simple and cost-effective manner. Dahlin hired BYU engineering student Braden Knudson to run the technical aspects of webinar production. Knudson acknowledges that he took the job just for the extra cash, but he’s becoming increasing grateful for the opportunity to learn more about the topic.
“It started out as just a job, a way to make some money,” said Knudson. “It’s really great that I’ve been there since the beginning. I get more exposure than anyone, and I’ve learned so much about genealogy.”
The webinar collection is designed to be a resource for both family history research beginners as well as experienced researchers looking for additional skills in specialized areas. Each webinar covers one topic in less than an hour and are available to stream for free on demand. Topics range from Making Cense of the Census and Preserving and Edition Old Photographs to an Update on Ancestry.com and Why You Can’t Trace your Lineage Back to Adam.
Brenna Monson, a BYU animation student, was recently assigned to be the Family History representative for her LDS congregation. She didn’t know where to begin until she started watching the webinar archive on the BYU Family History Library page on YouTube.
“They answer questions I didn’t know how to ask or who to ask,” she said. “I feel like now I have a place to start my work.”
A link to the schedule of upcoming live streaming webinars can be found on the BYU Family History Library website (sites.lib.byu.edu/familyhistory). Archived webinars can be found by searching for BYU Family History Library on YouTube. The library also posts announcements about their webinars and classes on their Facebook page (facebook.com/byufhl).
Writer: Roger Layton