By Patricia Hartley
If you’re among the 49% of Americans who have never listened to a podcast, there’s never been a better time to start – especially if you love learning about genealogy. Among the 700,000 active podcasts available today are dozens of programs devoted to different aspects of family history research. In this article we’ve gathered together a list of eight incredible genealogy podcasts we have learned from, and know you’ll enjoy as well.
But First – What, exactly, is a podcast?
Introduced in 2004, podcasts are (usually free) informational, entertaining, and/or educational audio presentations that deliver regular episodes – most often on a specific theme. It’s like a radio show on demand.
Podcasts can be a great way to learn a little something while in the car, exercising, cooking and cleaning, commuting or when you just have some free time available. The majority of listeners enjoy podcasts from their smartphones, but you can also listen via your tablet, laptop, smart speaker or similar devices.
To listen to podcasts you can usually visit the website where it originates from and stream directly from there. Or you can download apps such as Apple Podcasts (apple devices, such as iphones), Google Podcasts (android devices), or listen through your favorite music services like Spotify or Pandora. Just search these apps for the topic or show you are interested in and listen at no cost (usually with some commercial interruption).
As mentioned, there are a good number of family history related podcasts available. We’ve included some favorites but, once you’ve checked these out, don’t hesitate to branch out and explore all of the other genealogy podcasts available out there (and those on history as well!) You’re sure to find a favorite.
8 Excellent Genealogy Podcasts to Start Listening to Today
Although these are two separate genealogy-related podcasts, they are both hosted by the same “genealogy guys,” George G. Morgan and Drew Smith. Morgan has authored 14 books and hundreds of articles about researching family history. Together with Smith, a college librarian and author, Morgan often lectures at genealogical conferences in addition to producing the podcasts.
The original Genealogy Guys podcast has been broadcasting since 2005. Each episode covers a variety of genealogical announcements, listener email, and related topics to keep you up-to-date with the latest news and products. In 2016, the Guys started Genealogy Connection, which features interviews with various genealogical experts. You can expect new episodes every few weeks.
Like the Genealogy Guys, Lisa Louise Cooke has offered genealogical podcasts since the mid-2000s. Now in her 12th year, Cooke’s podcast has been downloaded more than 2.5 million times and features more than 230 episodes published on a monthly basis.
The Gems podcasts are about 45 minutes long and include a variety of entertaining and informative content ranging from interviews with genealogy’s biggest names to quick-and-easy how-to’s that help you improve your personal family research. Detailed notes from each podcast are available on the website if you miss an episode or just want a hard copy of the audio version.
Don’t let the guitar riffs in the show’s intro fool you – Extreme Genes is seriously informative and super satisfying to listen to. Sounding more like a professional radio show than a traditional podcast, Extreme Genes packs a lot of interviews, announcements, and anecdotes into each 50-or-so-minute episode.
Host Scott Fisher, who goes by “Fisher” and actually has an extensive background in radio, started the show in 2013 and introduces a new episode every week. The website also includes word-for-word transcripts of each episode.
The hosts of this podcast, Amy Lay and Penny Bonawitz, have subtitled their show “a genealogy podcast with two blondes and a bottle.” Indeed, each episode begins with a delicious description of a featured wine that the two seasoned researchers will (presumably) enjoy following the podcast.
Lay is the president of American Global Heir Search, a forensic genealogy company that locates missing heirs, and Bonawitz is a dedicated genealogist. Their podcast follows their real-life genealogical quests and reinforces the best practices of researching, with a focus on documentation. The hosts offer a new post at least once each month, with each episode lasting about one (happy) hour.
Don’t have time for a 30-minute podcast? Then check out Genealogy Gold’s “bite-sized” five- to ten-minute episodes, which are produced on a weekly basis. Host Will Moneymaker created the Ancestral Findings website more than 20 years ago to help others with their family history research, and launched the genealogy podcast about five years ago.
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Genealogy Gold’s topics seem to be geared toward encouraging and educating the beginning researcher or hobbyist. Moneymaker’s 300+ episodes cover basics like interpreting birth records, exploring newspaper archives, and using the Social Security Death Index.
However, you’ll also find some entertaining stories interspersed between the informational episodes – for example, episode 278 is all about the life of musician Dolly Parton!
Unlike most podcasts, which are pre-recorded, Bernice Bennett’s genealogy podcast is first broadcast live every Thursday evening at 9:00 p.m. Eastern and offers listeners the opportunity to call in and interact with the host.
The majority of the content in Bennett’s more than 350 episodes offers insight into African-American research. This includes interviews with authors, researchers, and other experts in the field. Despite the National Archive reference in the title, Bennett’s podcast covers a huge range of subjects, from DNA to Freedman’s records to particular geographical projects.
Research Like A Pro is a family affair for hosts Diana Elder and Nicole Dyer, the mother-daughter team who also run Family Locket. Both are professional genealogists – plus, Elder is accredited by the International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists. While their experience and the knowledge they share are professional-grade, Elder and Dyer deliver advice and best practices that any researcher, even a newbie, will enjoy and benefit from.
The hosts, who are both members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, offer new episodes – each averaging about 30 or 40 minutes in length – every week on a new topic, which they deliver themselves in a clear, organized, interruption-free manner.
Last, but certainly not least, is Amy Johnson Crow’s podcast, Generations Cafe. A former employee of Ancestry.com, Crow has a degree in library science from Kent State University and earned her genealogy certification from the Board of Certified Genealogists in 1995.
There are more than 30 weekly episodes of the Generations Cafe – each about 15 to 30 minutes long. The topics covered range from DNA to research methods to preservation techniques and featuring interviews from guest experts. Full transcripts of each episode are available as well.
Note: These eight podcasts are by no means the only offerings available. In fact, a Google search for “genealogy podcasts” brings up no less than 25 results. There are also several discontinued podcasts with tons of archived episodes that are still relevant today for any family history researcher. Plus, new podcasts are introduced all the time.
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For nearly 30 years Patricia Hartley has researched and written about the ancestry and/or descendancy of her personal family lines, those of her extended family and friends, and of historical figures in her community. After earning a B.S. in Professional Writing and English and an M.A. in English from the University of North Alabama in Florence, Alabama, she completed an M.A. in Public Relations/Mass Communications from Kent State University.