Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Sharing Genealogy Information Via Zoom Meetings

Like many genealogical societies, our Chula Vista Genealogical Society (with 80 members) has been shutdown from meeting since early March.  Last week, I thought I knew enough about using Zoom that I could host a meeting, since I participate in Mondays With Myrt (with hosts Pat Richley-Erickson and Russ Worthington) as a panelist and have for years.  I set up a Zoom meeting with our President and we agreed to experiment a bit, with a meeting with our Board (which happened Monday unofficially) and with our monthly Research Group today.  The problem, of course, is that not every society member has a desktop/laptop computer or a smart phone/tablet, or don't have the ability to install a program without hands-on-help.

I scheduled the meetings, sent out the email invitation to the membership with an explanation of what we were doing, and made an agenda and a branding slide, and off we went.  Everything went pretty well both days, with the exception that the host (moi) couldn't figure out how to share his screen during the Research Group meeting.  We were in Gallery View (which shows all of the persons in the meeting) when I finally realized that I should be in Speaker View and then I could share my screen.  Duh.  We had ten in attendance (we usually have 12 to 15 in person), with several attendees on their smart phones or tablets.  Several attendees watched and listened without a web camera.

Here is a screen shot of the attendees in the Gallery View:

What do we discuss in a Research Group meeting?  I usually discuss the genealogy news of the month and do a short demonstration, and then each attendee talks about their successes, challenges and questions.

Here are my notes about what some of what we shared.  I emailed it to all of our membership after the meeting.  Perhaps it will help some of my readers learn more about genealogy and family history:

*  The MyHeritage In Color feature is free until 4/22 and you can download either the colorized photo or a combination photo of side-by-side black/white and color.  See

*  The Ancestry Card Catalog is at Put a country, state, province, county, etc. in the "title" field and see what resources they have.  As a demo, I put in Wiltshire (in England) and it showed 15 collections, including indexed parish registers.  It took me months to find a marriage record 25 years ago, now it takes seconds.  I demonstrated finding that 1811 marriage record for my 3rd great-grandparents.

*  FamilyTreeWebinars (  has over 1200 webinars now with some of them free to watch.  For instance, they are free to watch live, and free for a week after the live presentation.  There are some that are always free to watch.  A yearly subscription costs $50 and you have access to watch all of the webinars, and can download the syllabus for each webinar that offers one.  It's like having a genealogy society meeting every day without the society details and the papers.

*  The MyHeritage 24 hour marathon talks are free - see  

*  MyHeritage is providing Ask an Expert webinars for free on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11 a.m. PDT - see the list at

*  The site has a list of upcoming webinars, online meetings and podcasts from many speakers and societies and companies.  Click on the Calendar to see the list.  Many of them are free to watch the live presentation.

*  The Ancestry Academy ( is FREE to use at present while in the lockdown.  It has dozens of videos on how to use Ancestry, Fold3, and genealogy research. 
*  The Internet Archive ( has millions of books and other materials available for free - these are mainly out-of-copyright works (published before 1924).

I didn't mention YouTube videos or Facebook Live videos but I will at the next meeting.

Now I feel a bit more prepared for the rest of the month - we will have our DNA Interest Group meeting in a ZOOM meeting next week, and I will make a presentation in a Zoom Meeting for our Program Meeting at the end of the month.

At some point, we will be able to get back into the library and be able to meet in person like we have for years.  It was fun to see everyone's face today and hear them talk and share their experiences.

I know that I left out many educational experiences on my list above.  Please tell me your favorites and I'll be sure to share them with my CVGS colleagues.


Copyright (c) 2020, Randall J. Seaver

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Asissman said...

Allow "outsiders" to come to the meeting.

I am interested in using Zoom for workshops I used to conduct for my genealogy group including a DNA SIG. I would like to see how you facilitate a Zoom meeting. Is it possible to me to hangout at you meeting?

I have been Zooming a lot lately, but finding out how easy or hard to use the screen features to demo websites, my work, others work, would be a good thing.

Also tips and tricks about helping computer/technology challenged people get on a meeting. And how to minimize the technological problems during the meeting or does that come just with practice.


Jacqi Stevens said...

Randy, Zoom has been a lifesaver for our family's business, and now we are venturing out to test the waters on using it for some of the nonprofit groups we are working with. I held my first board meeting via Zoom last Monday (with technical assistance from a trusted business partner, believe me, or I would have been lost!) and we all live to tell of it.

Our next hurdle will be to convince a majority of our members to download the program and participate. As you said, that might be a challenge...but I think, in the end, it will be a good thing, especially for our members who either live too far away to attend meetings in person (we have members from across the nation) or who are unable to attend for other reasons. If nothing else, I think this will become the silver lining to this crisis for many of our genealogy groups.