“I used to hate history in school. It was so boring memorizing all those dates.” I used to hear this all the time at the library from new genealogists, who suddenly were discovering the joys of history as they learned about their ancestors.

So if you slept through the football coach’s terrible American history classes in high school or even if you’re just a little fuzzy on some of the historical events that your ancestors participated in, then the Khan Academy is for you.

In 2006, Salman Khan started a free online education platform and not-for-profit organization whose goal is to provide “a world-class education to anyone, anywhere.”

Posting short videos posted to a YouTube channel and a Web site (, Khan’s virtual school started with science and mathematics and has expanded to economics and history. Access to all of the videos in the virtual school, including user-paced practice exercises, is free.

Here’s a list of the current history titles, with more on the way:

US History Overview 1: Jamestown to the Civil War

US History Overview 2 – Reconstruction to the Great Depression

US History Overview 3 – WWII to Vietnam


Korean War Overview

Bay of Pigs Invasion

Cuban Missile Crisis

Vietnam War

Pattern of US Cold War Interventions

Allende and Pinochet in Chile

When Capitalism is Great and Not-so-great

20th Century Capitalism and Regulation in the United States

French Revolution (Part 1)

French Revolution (Part 2)

French Revolution (Part 3) – Reign of Terror

French Revolution (Part 4) – The Rise of Napoleon Bonaparte

Haitian Revolution (Part 1)

Haitian Revolution (Part 2)

Napoleon and the Wars of the First and Second Coalitions

Napoleon and the War of the Third Coalition

Napoleon and the War of the Fourth Coalition

Napoleon’s Peninsular Campaigns

French Invasion of Russia

Napoleon Forced to Abdicate

The Khan Academy has more than 2,300 microlectures available that have been viewed nearly 58 million times. Google awarded Salman Khan $2 million to produce more free video lectures. I can’t imagine a better use of funds. Try the Khan Academy – I think you’ll like Khan’s accessible and informative style.

About the Author:

Nancy Loe has an MA in American History and an MLS in Library Science and Archives. She has appeared on PBS’s American Experience, at Rootstech, SCGS Jamboree, and state and regional genealogy conferences. Her website was featured in Family Tree Magazine's “Social Media Mavericks: 40 to Follow.”


  1. McManigle Family 7 June 2011 at 3:20 PM - Reply

    This is an amazing site! Thank you so much for sharing with us!! I will be spending alot of times on Salman Khan’s website! Thank you, I did not like History in school, but for the last 20 years I have been fascinated by it and love learning more and more.

  2. Sassy Jane Genealogy 7 June 2011 at 8:39 AM - Reply

    Glad it helped, Heather. It’s really remarkable what he’s done already and I look forward to more.

  3. Heather Rojo 7 June 2011 at 6:29 AM - Reply

    Wow, I just watched #22 on the Peninsular War (Spain). I recently posted a story about a birth record in my husband’s ancestral village on the Spain/Portuguese border- but the child and his parents were British. Now I know why that happened! Now I know why so many records are missing in that part of Spain, because of the fierce fighting!

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