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NARA offers webinar series

The U.S. National Archives has delighted genealogists for years by offering a free event in the fall called the Virtual Genealogy Fair.

Since 2013, NARA has held the event — generally in October — with educational presentations on a wide variety of federal record types. And then the videos have gone online, in the National Archives’ YouTube channel.1

And with all of us housebound through 2020 due to the pandemic, The Legal Genealogist wasn’t surprised — but sure was disappointed — that the 2020 Virtual Fair got called off. It was just too hard to put it together and get it going with the closures of so many facilities.

But… happy sigh… NARA is giving us a set of webinars this spring to make up for it. Not a bunch of topics all on one or two days like the Virtual Fair is, but six different webinars on six different days in May and June.

NARA webinars

The announcement came yesterday,2 and the National Archives Genealogy Series on the NARA calendar tells us more:

Over the two months, the sessions will offer family history research tools on federal records for all skill levels. The May sessions are broad and will appeal to the beginner and beyond. The June sessions are focused on specific topics and may be better suited for the experienced researcher. …

• Open with no reservations required

• Watch the broadcasts via YouTube

• Participate and ask questions via chat during the scheduled broadcasts

• After the scheduled broadcasts, video recordings and presentation materials will be available online3

Here’s the line up — and you can find this all plus links and more at the Archives website:

Tuesday, May 4, at 1:00 p.m. ET

Preserving and Digitizing Personal Photo Albums and Scrapbooks, presented by Sara Holmes & Noah Durham

Preserving photo albums and scrapbooks can be especially challenging, often because they are bound and contain a variety of problematic materials. This session addresses how to work with the poor quality materials commonly found in personal scrapbooks and albums, how to maintain the integrity of the arrangement, and how to store photo albums and scrapbooks appropriately. Pro tips for home users include ways to digitize albums, organize electronic files, and preserve them as electronic records. Examples come from both National Archives and personal collections.

Wednesday, May 12, at 1:00 p.m. ET

Finding Genealogy Resources and Tools on, presented by Sarah Swanson

This presentation will provide an overview of what’s available for genealogists on the website, and demonstrate how to navigate to its many resources and tools, including the National Archives Catalog, the Access to Archival Databases (AAD) system, the Microfilm Catalog, topic pages, articles, reports, and blogs. We’ll explore the Genealogy portal page, and also see how the website is organized, which will enable you to do even more expansive searches for information.

Wednesday, May 19, at 1:00 p.m. ET

Tips and Tools for Engaging Family with Your Research Finds, presented by Missy McNatt & Dorothy Dougherty

As the family historian, you have amassed information and records that will one day pass to the next family historian. How do you share your findings with others? How to engage young family members involved with all your hard research may be another story. Education staff members Missy McNatt and Dorothy Dougherty will demonstrate fun and engaging ways to connect research to your family, including younger family members. This lecture will highlight activities related to our most popular genealogy records, such as Immigrant Ship Arrivals, U.S. Census Records, Naturalization records, and Military and Pension files. The presenters will also demonstrate new ways to share your research finds online, using social media tools.

Tuesday, June 1, at 1:00 p.m. ET

From Here to There: Researching Office of Indian Affairs Employees, presented by Cara Lebonick & Cody White

Researching ancestors who worked for federal agencies is a popular topic at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). This presentation will tie together the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Official Personnel Files (OPF) held in St. Louis with agency records located in various NARA field sites. The session will open with what can be found in the OPFs and how to request them. Cara Moore Lebonick will conduct a deep dive into several OPF’s of Native women employed by the BIA. Cody White will then explore how further information can be found in the regional records of the BIA. Together Cara and Cody will show how the holdings across the National Archives can provide a more complete genealogical story.

Tuesday, June 8, at 1:00 p.m. ET

Civil War Union Noncombatant Personnel: Teamsters, Laundresses, Nurses, Sutlers, and More, presented by Claire Kluskens

The National Archives Building in Washington, DC contains many records about noncombatant civilians connected with the Union Army during the American Civil War. However, the records are underutilized because there is no comprehensive index, no “one” place to look, and require time-consuming research into obscure records. Digitization is slowly changing that, however! This lecture will provide suggestions for research with emphasis on online materials that can help you get started.

Tuesday, June 15, at 1:00 p.m. ET

Merchant Marine Records at the National Archives at St. Louis, presented by Theresa Fitzgerald

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) recently accessioned the core collection of Merchant Marine Licensing Files, which are now open to the public for the first time at the National Archives at St. Louis. Theresa Fitzgerald will discuss these holdings as well as our auxiliary collections of Merchant Marine records that are complex and closely connected.

And if that’s not enough for you, remember that the videos of prior Virtual Genealogy Fairs are online to be viewed and savored. You can find more information about each year’s fair and the links to the videos on the NARA website as well:








That’s a lot of education on federal records and genealogy in general.

Thanks, NARA!!

Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “A fair alternative,” The Legal Genealogist ( : posted 20 Apr 2021).


  1. See “US National Archives,” channel home, YouTube ( : accessed 20 Apr 2021).
  2. National Archives Hosts Genealogy Series in May & June,” Press Releases, ( : accessed 20 Apr 2021).
  3. National Archives Genealogy Series, Calendar of Events, ( : accessed 20 Apr 2021).
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