FIND FAMILY HISTORY ON INTERNET
Article by Maureen Taylor, author of Uncovering Your Ancestry Through Family Photographs (Betterway 2000) and Through the Eyes of Your Ancestors (Houghton Mifflin 1999).
If you are at all interested in family history and genealogy, but haven't ventured on to the Internet, now is the time! There are vast resources waiting for you to use and the best news is that most of it is free. From search engines, to web pages it is easy to find family data on the Web by following these four basic steps.
1. Prepare for the search.
Before going online it is important to create a list of names and information to search. Write down what you know about your family such as full names (maiden names included), dates and places individuals lived using a plain piece of paper and a pencil, a standard genealogical chart or a computer program like Family Tree Maker. Then show the family data to relatives. They may be able to add to your family history, adding names, dates, and possibly even a few stories. Use this basic family information to start searching online.
2. Connecting with Family.
The Internet is a great way to communicate. You may already be conversing with family via email but be unaware of the resources available to connect with distant relatives involved in a family history search. For instance, message boards help you find researchers working on your family. One board is GenForum www.genealogygenforum.com. It maintains message boards on surnames, places and special topics. Browse the boards to see if someone else already wrote an interesting query or post one of your own. For example, you know your ancestors surname and the place where they lived, but lack the details. By posting messages on this site under both the surname and place category your request for information may be answered. Just remember that to make effective use of a message board it is best to keep your query short. Include the basic information you are seeking, and list what you already know.
With the thousands of genealogy-related sites on the Internet its great to know there is online research assistance. For instance, on Genealogy.com, a new improved Family Finder streamlines the process by allowing users to conduct a whole family search with ranked results that allows for greater accuracy. A new feature enables users to save their searches for future research. You can also read articles written by professional genealogists on a variety of topics, take a beginning genealogy class for free or search for web sites on specific subjects. Many sites offer a variety of subscription and free databases. At Genealogy.com it is possible to create an online memorial in the Virtual Cemetery, look at records submitted by researchers in the World Family Tree, view digitized documents at GenealogyLibrary.com, search a digitized 1900 United States census or find immigration information by subscribing to International and Passenger Records.
4. Have fun online!
Genealogical research requires a combination of patience and persistence. Searching the Internet for information is just part of the process. Finding family may be as easy as inserting a name in an online search engine, but only by verifying that data can you be sure you have the right family. Successful research is best accomplished by working backwards one generation at a time, checking original sources such as vital records, census documents and other types of material in addition to Internet resources. Remember to record where you found the data so that you can find it again. Family history is fun and the Internet makes it so easy to get started.
Maureen A. Taylor is the author of several books on genealogy and photo history including Uncovering Your Ancestry Through Family Photographs (Betterway 2000) and Through the Eyes of Your Ancestors (Houghton Mifflin 1999). Her columns appear online at FamilyTreeMagazine.com, Genealogy.com and NewEnglandAncestors.org.