Since the Internet has become part of our personal lives, interest in genealogy and family history research has exploded. Voluminous Internet resources, and the ease of using them from our homes, schools, and libraries, has made finding our ancestors much easier than we would ever have thought possible twenty years ago.
I've been active in family history research off and on for the past 35 years as I've raised my family. During the past three years I have used the Internet for research. The amount of information I have been able to find and collect in that short time has been more than ten timeswhat I had been able to find in the thirty-two years before! Sometimes information comes in to me faster than I can sort and organize it. I've gotten a photo of my husband's ggg grandmother from a cousin in Australia, transcriptions of gravestones from a cousin in Scotland, photos of family burial plots in from a cousin in Pennsylvania, and a digital copy of a family scroll which recorded marriage, birth and death records from 100 years ago from a cousin in Nebraska -- none of whom I have ever met.
With the Internet, people around the world can collaborate their efforts and avoid duplicating what others have done. Although you may never be able to personally visit Scotland or Germany, or the country of your ancestors origin, you can view many of their records over the network. And if not, then you may be able to contact someone in those countries who is willing to look at the records for you, and share the information they find.
People are finding great satisfaction in the "connectiveness" that comes from tracing their family tree. Even those who thought they would never be able to find information on their great- grandparents, because of lost records or lack of records in newly opened territories, are finding that resources do exist somewhere, and they CAN find the names and dates they are looking for.
Original research is important for verifying dates and finding new information, but before you spend hours and hours digging through county and national records to find information, the first step is to look and see what others have already found on your lines. There is no sense spending a lot of time and money re-doing what others have already done. In other words, why beat your head against a wall when someone else has built a door?
Of course there is wrong information on the Internet too. Just because someone puts data on the Internet doesn't make it true. Mistakes are made and then perpetuated by others who just copy the work and go from there, assuming it was accurate.
A good indication that the information you found is correct is to look for a listing of sources used. Have they documented their data? If someone has posted a pedigree on an individual you are interested in , and they list their sources for birth, death and marriage information, you can probably trust it — at least until you find something that makes you doubt its accuracy. Compare one record to another. Do they agree with the facts presented? If not, then you may need to check primary record sources to come to the truth.
There are many databases on the web which publish gedcoms, or pedigree charts, and family group information which others have collected. Each of them begins with a search engine which quickly sorts through all the data in its memory, and retrieves those names which match the one you are looking for. It makes manually looking through the indexes of books, one at a time, truly look archaic.
RootsWeb's WorldConnect Project
Relatively new, but rapidly growing in popularity, this database contains over 14 million individuals and is growing at tremendous speed. Over 4 million names were added in the past month alone!
This database has over 500 million names and becomes even more valuable as more are added. An email link to those who submitted the information is given, and individual gedcoms can be downloaded to your personal computer.
Both RootsWeb and Ancestry encourage electronic submissions from anyone who is interested in sharing their information with others. Those who do submit a gedcom retain full control over it, and can change or remove it completely at any time. The information will always be free of charge for others to use and will never be sold.
is the LDS Church's site for its vast genealogy holdings. Entering information in its search engine will bring up information gleaned from the Ancestry File, International Genealogical Index, other records and web sites. The Collaborate with Others link will help you find others researching your lines. The use of this site is also free for public use..
FamilyTreemaker's World Family Tree
The World Family Tree has 470 million names. However, unlike the databases above, the information submitted here will be burned onto a CD-ROM and sold. This can be a disadvantage for submitters if they later want to go back and edit what they had sent. It is an advantage in that the CD-ROMs are added to the Library of Congress, which preserves the heritage of submitters for future generations to access. In addition to gedcoms submitted, FamilyTreemaker also searches for information from other Internet sites and electronic records. It's Contributor Contact Information Service gives names and addresses for those who have contributed information, which is great way for finding people who share your interest.
GENDEX — WWW Genealogical Index
This search engine indexes millions of names on hundreds of personal web pages. It lets you locate and view information from sites without having to visit each one of the databases separately.
Gentree Online Genealogical Database Index
Created by Tim Doyle, this index contains links to all "known genealogical databases searchable through the Web. It is limited to searchable databases and does NOT include links to sites devoted to a family unless a database is available for searching."
KindredKonnections' Ancestral Archive
Click on the link for Ancestral Archive Index. This site contains 43 million linked names in its database; however in order to see all the dates and submitter information you must pay a registration fee of $5 for 10 days use. Many other databases are also available at this site for a fee.
This site lets you search personal web sites posted by others about their lineage. It isn't as refined a search as some of the other sites offer since it searches strictly for surnames. The results are much more broad and may not be specific to your line. Be sure to click on "Search Hints" near the bottom.
The Genealogy Toolbox
This site is very similar to GenealogyPortal. Their web page design even looks a lot alike.
CyndisList Databases, Search Sites, Surname
The ultimate in "list of lists" CyndisList offers an immense listing of databases and indexes available on the Internet. It's like a super-library card catalog for the Internet. The sheer size of it can be overwhelming, but it is helpful to those who have time to go through all of it.
Once you have collected all the information that is already known about your ancestors, then you will be ready to verify and correct that information, and begin new research for more.
With your own computer program, you can create a gedcom and submit it to many of these databases. If you do, it's important that you eliminate any living people from your database and protect their privacy before submitting it. The advantages of submitting your own gedcom are that your work will be preserved for future generations, other researchers can access what you have done, you may receive additional information from them and possibly any corrections needed, thereby making your collection more accurate.
Family history research on the Internet is not restricted simply to Americans. It has become an international passion. After a short time users begin to realize that we really are all "one" big family.
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