Discovering Your Roots: An Introduction to Genealogy

Rated 1 out of 5 by from Too, too many followup ads! Too many ads--very troublesome, annoying to say the least!
Date published: 2020-02-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent tutorials and review While I have some on-hands experience with my own family history research, these lessons provide an excellent foundation for continuing basic strategies. Dr Colletta shares many on-lines sources for pursuing those clues that seem fuzzy or unclear. His weaving of actual family historical discoveries helps drive home the concepts and has the 'feel' of putting yourself in their shoes.
Date published: 2020-02-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very informative I haven't finished the course yet, but I do like hat the sesions are available whenever I have time.
Date published: 2020-02-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great in-depth information. Great info but the lecturer moves to fast past the sources and web sites he suggests. This dosent leave enough time to copy them down
Date published: 2020-02-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding Course on Genealogy!!! I filled 2 legal pads with notes from this superb course. Though I have worked on my family tree for years, this course provided every thing necessary to create an outstanding genealogy of your family. It included so many details, such as how to locate information, catalogue information, and numerous other absolutely imperative information to work on your genealogy, whether you are a beginner or a long time researcher. I highly recommend this course. My only regret is that I did not find it sooner, as it would have saved me significant time already spent in research.
Date published: 2020-01-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Learn and enjoy Understanding topics and subjects that we can enjoy as a family is wonderful...birding, art learn to shoot better photos has been fun.
Date published: 2020-01-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from I can not use it as I do not know about a DVD for course. I did send an e mail on how to use program but no answer yt. Help.
Date published: 2019-12-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Title describes content very well Information was well organized and practical Instructor was interesting
Date published: 2019-11-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from You will learn things in every lecture Of the half-dozen or so Great Courses I have taken, this is easily the most enjoyable. I have been doing family histories since 2005 and I can say for sure that I learned something in every lecture that I wish I had known before I wrote those histories. John gives you a mix of facts, rules, and guidelines illustrated with fascinating stories. Thanks John!
Date published: 2019-10-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Terrific--and not only for genealogists! In addition to those researching their own family histories, anyone writing historical fiction or nonfiction, or planning to travel to areas where family predecessors have lived, or simply interested in biography, will find this course—along with its excellent guidebook—to be an essential resource. It is pitched not as a graduate-level academic seminar but as a practical, accessible guide for anyone with an interest in learning more about family history. Of the 100 Great Courses I have taken via DVD over the last 15 years, none has been more effectively designed, practically useful, authoritative, and delightfully presented than this one. Dr Colletta fulfills all the criteria I have come to hope for in a presenter for these courses: he is a genuine authority on the topic, having contributed important scholarship to it and taught this same material to others for decades; he organized and targeted the lectures perfectly for the intended audience, providing many references to internet sites, books, articles, and other valuable resources; and he is a most appealing, clear presenter whose pace and delivery are as close to ideal as I have encountered. I will definitely return to these lectures, and use its guidebook, in the years to come.
Date published: 2019-10-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Roots to Leaves...a roadmap I am very fortunate to have come from a very large (maternal) family that has had an extensive genealogical study reaching back to ancient Wales (three volumes, no less)...the Morgan clan is an interesting one. My relatives managed to put together a very readable (well at least the narrative parts) story, with many chapters and many, many interesting characters...sadly I'm not one of the interesting kind. It must have been an exhausting study. After Dr Colletta's lectures, I've come to appreciate that work. Colletta's lectures are a pure joy for the future genealogist wishing to delve into their past, as I might try for my paternal line. The good professor lays out a flow chart of the do's and don't's for a study. His lecture style is clear, concise and well-organized. I followed easily on audio. The guide follows-up with details regarding sources and hints for almost any situation. The only thing he doesn't do is the research for you. Very highly recommended, even if you have no interest in genealogy, since his methods of investigation (thorough, making no assumptions and leaving no stone unturned) can be applied to almost any research project, and describes a master's thesis approach perfectly. Often on sale...often with a great coupon.
Date published: 2019-06-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent course My dad got me this set and I totally enjoyed it. It brought about a variety of things I hadn’t considered by finding where my ancestors lived and more about their lives than dates and names. I also enjoyed the assignments at the end of each lesson. Learned a great deal, liked it so much I purchased it for my mother-in-law
Date published: 2019-03-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Time and $$ Well Spent Dr. Colletta's lecture style is engaging, and his voice very pleasant. His knowledge of his subject is clearly so deep and wide that he could do several more installments. I hope he will. I've been working on my family history for many decades, yet I learned things here that have inspired me to revisit "dead ends" and flesh out lots of individuals and families. I'm glad I bought the DVDs, as I plan to lend them out to the family members who are on the fence about getting involved in my research.
Date published: 2019-02-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful commentary I have really enjoyed this course and have learned a great many new things about how to do my family search.
Date published: 2019-02-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very Helpful Although I am still on the first DVD, it looks like it will b e extremely helpful. I didn't realize there were so many resources out there. I am looking forward to learning to use them
Date published: 2019-01-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good for novice and intermediate research skills Very helpful tips which are also outlined in the booklet.
Date published: 2019-01-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I did not think of that I have only watched first disc but the things brought up and how to go about interviewing family and friends, looking at the time period and why things were that way or why somebody's family changed made me rethink and take on a new look at all my stuff. Great look from another view.
Date published: 2018-08-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from lots of information I bought this a while back and have not finished it because I keep rewindind it and exploring the leads. I just found my great grand parents were remarried at the ages of 60& 70s,
Date published: 2018-07-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A very informative and interesting course! This is exactly what I was looking for. This course is filled with information and examples. The topics are great, the lectures are just the right length, the lecturer was extremely knowledgeable and spoke well. I learned so much from this course and I can't wait to get started on my family history!!
Date published: 2018-06-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Discovering Your Roots: An Intro to Genealogy Dedicated, well-informed instructor with good lecturing skills. It's obvious that he cares about his subject and imparting it to beginning family historians.
Date published: 2018-06-16
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Very good data contained in this course. The instructor is very knowledgeable and very easy to listen too. I have found new sources that I did not use before.
Date published: 2018-06-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great information, great instructor! I have been researching my family for years and found everything in this course to be very helpful!! I have taken several courses on genealogy but still learned many new things. The case studies were relevant and interesting. I especially enjoyed the Genealogical Standards review. I highly recommend this course to anyone interested in researching their family history!
Date published: 2018-04-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I ordered because of Professor Colleta's reputation as a genealogist. It is everything I expected and more. I have hearing problems and was extremely pleased with the sound quality.
Date published: 2018-02-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Discovering your roots Just finished the series and it provided exactly what I wanted; clear step by step instructions on how to search my ancestor history. Classes include sections on websites, libraries, court houses, and how to write a narrative to share with others. The only thing I would add is maybe to provide a sample worksheet to collect information, pedigree chart, etc. The instructor seems happy talking about the subject. I purchased the audio version and downloaded. It was easy!
Date published: 2018-02-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Information! I thought I knew quite a bit of researching genealogy but I barely scratched the surface! There is SO much to be learned in this course!!
Date published: 2018-02-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Some great tips! I bought the DVD because I learn better with visual and audio combined. I have taken other genealogical courses and this one did have some tips that I haven't heard before!
Date published: 2018-02-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Roots This is an excellent course full of tips for those researching their family tree
Date published: 2018-01-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Best of The Great Courses owned Doing genealogy for 19 years .. Best course and presenter.
Date published: 2017-12-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A How-To Course With Zest Although I did expect Discovering Your Roots to be a practical course, and it certainly is that, I am delighted to report that it is fascinating and entertaining, too. Professor Colletta’s presentation has the feel of well-written creative non-fiction. He delivers plenty of facts and advice about how to conduct genealogical searches and coaches his audience about what elements of data are most important to collect, to be sure, but he also enlivens his material with well-considered and plausible storylines about what life was like for his own ancestors (or those of others in case studies) and how they were all real people dealing with dramatic events in discoverable historical contexts. He has a raconteur’s good sense not to tell everything he knows all at once. The course’s fifteen lectures are intriguingly linked, with something of a “cliff-hangar” or an unsettled question ending most of them, making one look forward eagerly to what might be revealed next. There is nothing “dry” about Dr. Colletta’s lectures, and I suspect that even people who are quite sure they will never conduct a genealogical search can still enjoy this course. After all, a good speaker often makes audience members become interested in a life’s work or a hobby that they may never personally take up. Here are a few additional strengths of Discovering Your Roots: 1) Enhancing my prior knowledge of some likely sources for genealogical data, the professor’s list of additional suggestions about where clues and nuggets of information might be located is creative and extensive! 2) Dr. Colletta speaks sensitively but never judgmentally about tragedies and regrettable incidents in the past. He urges his audience not to indulge the prejudice of presentism. 3) He emphasizes the importance of respecting and interviewing one’s living relatives. 4) He is pleasantly good-humoured. 5) Though focussing primarily on how genealogical inquiries could be conducted in the United States, he also does not neglect to make helpful suggestions for those working with records from other countries. 6) I feel the visual extras accompanying the lectures are especially good, as is the course manual. My wife, who took this DVD course with me and has much more experience than I do with genealogical work has these insights to add: I was already well into my family history research when I began viewing the course Discovering Your Roots. Many of the problems I had already encountered were discussed by Dr. Colletta. He gave some possible solutions which helped me tremendously. I very much appreciated his use of examples to illustrate the points he wanted to make. It was like peering over the shoulder of an experienced genealogist and seeing how he works. The course is very U.S.-centred, but I am hopeful that his suggestions will be applicable to genealogical research abroad. If anything, my only concern is that the course was too short. Every lesson was packed with information and some topics were necessarily covered only briefly. A slightly longer course might have allowed him to explain in greater detail such things as the Soundex code and how it is used, or the facts a ship’s manifest can supply. All in all, though, it is a wonderful course and I highly recommend it.
Date published: 2017-11-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Significa points, and order of importance as well! This is a great course. I have only watched the first 3 lectures, but there is a wealth of information I wish I had known about years ago. I like that he not only tells you what is available and important, but also shows the order of importance of them. So depending on where you are in your research, you know what the next few steps in that research should be.
Date published: 2017-11-02
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Discovering Your Roots: An Introduction to Genealogy
Course Trailer
Interviewing Kin and Mining Home Sources
1: Interviewing Kin and Mining Home Sources

One of the foundations of genealogy (and one of its most enjoyable aspects): interviewing relatives. Here, Dr. Colletta introduces you to several strategies and 10 vital tips to help you get the most out of sitting down with family members and transforming pleasant conversations into solid foundations for future detective work.

31 min
Genealogy Online-Gems and Junk
2: Genealogy Online-Gems and Junk

It's unthinkable to do genealogy today without the Internet. But not all online sources are reliable. First, take a look at the benefits (and drawbacks) of government, nonprofit, and commercial online sites. Then, learn how to make sense of U.S. population censuses-the most important record for constructing lineage in America.

32 min
The Library-Shelves Full of Family History
3: The Library-Shelves Full of Family History

Learn how to tap into the wealth of library material to get solid answers to the "why" behind events in the past. You'll tour genealogies and family histories; histories of states, counties, cities, and towns; the Periodical Source Index (PERSI); and several types of maps (which help ground events in the physical world).

33 min
Military Service and Homestead Records
4: Military Service and Homestead Records

Holding a document your ancestor once held is a thrilling experience; and this intimate link to your forebears is more readily accessible than ever. Train yourself to navigate through both military records (including service and pension records) and homestead files (which encompass 33 public domain states from 1863 to the 1970s).

33 min
How to Build Historical Context
5: How to Build Historical Context

Step away from research and explore how to use historical content to transform your facts into engaging life stories. Dr. Colletta reveals seven steps for building effective historical context, including examining your sources in light of local history, and using history to test a hypothesis about how an event transpired.

33 min
Your Ancestors in Ship Passenger Lists
6: Your Ancestors in Ship Passenger Lists

Learn how to make sense of passenger arrival records: the single most precious document for reconstructing your ancestors' voyage to North America. Using several key guideposts and sources (including colonial land records and immigrant directories), you can uncover facts about arrivals from colonial days through the 1950s.

33 min
Your Ancestors in Naturalization Records
7: Your Ancestors in Naturalization Records

Did your immigrant ancestors become U.S. citizens? Did they procrastinate, or not naturalize at all? Dr. Colletta reveals how naturalization records can answer these and other biographical questions. You'll focus on adapting your research to three major naturalization periods: prior to 1790, 1790 to 1906, and 1906 to today.

35 min
The Genealogical Proof Standard
8: The Genealogical Proof Standard

Strengthen your skills as a family history detective with this in-depth look at the Genealogical Proof Standard, the five-step process that certified genealogists use for proving ancestral identities, relationships, life events, and other biographical details. Then, wrap up the lecture with a fascinating look at the nature of evidence.

30 min
Your Ancestors in the County Courthouse
9: Your Ancestors in the County Courthouse

Discover how to work your way through the courthouse records of the county where your ancestors resided. Using the two most common types of courts (circuit and chancery), you'll examine how to read courthouse materials, including probate packets, vital records, tax rolls, and even colonial-era records such as indentures and apprenticeships.

30 min
Your Ancestors in State Records
10: Your Ancestors in State Records

Good genealogists always take advantage of local sources outside the courthouse as well, including state archives, which hold records that resulted between the administration of state laws. Here, you'll learn how to tap into the information found in original sources (such as census and military records) and derivative sources (including maps and newspapers).

29 min
How to Write Biography
11: How to Write Biography

Explore the process of writing about your ancestors in a way that's memorable-but that always adheres to the truth. Learn how to compose timelines; how to build historical context around life events; how to search for (and find) a life's central theme; how to select the right literary format; and more.

31 min
Dos and Don'ts of Writing History
12: Dos and Don'ts of Writing History

Writing about the past is fraught with snares. Find out how to sidestep them with Dr. Colletta's dos and don'ts for writing historical narratives. These include using period vocabulary; evoking the senses through sounds, textures, and aromas; and avoiding the danger of viewing the past through the lens of the present.

30 min
Searching in Your Ancestors' Backyards
13: Searching in Your Ancestors' Backyards

At some point during your detective work, you'll have to actually visit where your ancestors lived. In this helpful lecture, discover how to use key local resources you'll need to rely on for success in your research: cemeteries, records of churches and synagogues, city directories, local libraries, and historical societies.

30 min
Assembling an Account of Your Discoveries
14: Assembling an Account of Your Discoveries

You've learned how to build context and write an engaging narrative. Now, examine the best ways to organize your material and assemble a lasting account of your unique heritage. What are the fundamental questions you'll need to answer before writing? What are the five elements essential to any multigenerational account?

32 min
Extending Your Family Tree Overseas
15: Extending Your Family Tree Overseas

Conclude the course with a peek at how to research records outside the United States. Focusing on his experiences in Europe, Dr. Colletta reveals what essential facts you need to know about your immigrant ancestors, and how to overcome six major challenges to accessing and using historical materials in foreign countries.

33 min
John Phillip Colletta

Genealogy is much more than the enthralling detective work of unearthing a long-forgotten past: It's a journey of self-discovery. The more you learn about who your ancestors were, the more you learn about who you are.


The Catholic University of America


Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research at Samford University

About John Phillip Colletta

Dr. John Philip Colletta is one of America's most popular genealogy lecturers. He is a faculty member at the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama; the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy; and Boston University's Genealogical Research Program. Dr. Colletta also has been an instructor and course coordinator for the National Institute on Genealogical Research, the Genealogical Institute of Texas, and the Genealogical Institute of Mid-America. He earned his Ph.D. from The Catholic University of America.

For 20 years, Dr. Colletta worked at the Library of Congress and taught workshops at the National Archives. Today, he lectures nationally, teaches at local schools, and conducts programs for the Smithsonian Institution's Resident Associate Program. His clients have included Johns Hopkins University, St. Louis Public Library, Daughters of the American Revolution, Brigham Young University, the Historical Society of North Dakota, the Huntington Library (San Mateo, CA), and the Genealogical Society of Ontario, Canada.

Dr. Colletta's publications include numerous articles, both popular and scholarly; two manuals, They Came in Ships: A Guide to Finding Your Immigrant Ancestor's Arrival Record and Finding Italian Roots: The Complete Guide for Americans; and the narrative family history, Only a Few Bones: A True Account of the Rolling Fork Tragedy and Its Aftermath. Dr. Colletta appears frequently on podcasts and radio and television programs. His honors include distinguished service awards from the Dallas Genealogical Society and the National Society of Daughters of Founders and Patriots of America.

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