Finding Your Family History on the Internet
"USGenWeb Archives and Special Projects"
The USGenWeb Project is a wonderful genealogical tool. It is organized and managed by a group of volunteers working together to provide Internet websites for genealogical research in every county and every state of the United States. The Project is non-commercial and fully committed to free access for everyone. The project began as the result of a group of people deciding that it was "time to do something on the Internet about genealogical research...something beyond just linking researchers together, or listing books printed elsewhere...something to get valuable documents online. The word went out. Volunteers were recruited to either donate their existing transcribed documents, or to actually commit to transcribing data, such as census records, marriage bonds, wills, etc. This project will also help preserve the information stored in musty old courthouse basements and attics on fading, crumbling paper."
The pages are organized by county and state. Their gateway page is at <http://www.usgenweb.org/> and it provides links to all the state websites which, in turn, provide gateways to the counties. The resources offered in each state are different, depending on the coordinator and volunteers who work for that site. However many states offer photos and histories of early settlers, contact lists for state libraries, and cemetery lists.
The USGenWeb Project (USGW) also sponsors important Special Projects at their national level. Some documents and records transcend beyond the boundaries of a single state or county; therefore the national projects were created. Links to these Special Projects can be found on the main USGW page, and will be described in more detail in this article.
Although the county pages are the basic unit of the USGenWeb Project, the state pages also include a lot of important information, including resources for postings of unknown county queries, family reunion bulletin boards, state histories, and maps showing the changing county boundaries, among others. Many states also have ongoing projects as diverse as the transcription of Civil War regiments or the reuniting of families with lost photos, bibles, etc.
As you explore the state and county websites, you will see considerable variation as each page or database is the creation, property and responsibility of an individual volunteer. But, you will also find that all of the counties will provide links for you to post queries, access the state's home page and access the archives.
On the home page for USGenWeb you'll see a link for "The Project's State Pages" <http://www.usgenweb.com/thestates.html>. Clicking on that link lets you access three different indexes for the State Pages (which in turn takes you to the County Pages). The Graphical Map is an interactive map of the United States. Clicking on an area will bring up that state's page. This map is also useful for printing and charting your ancestors' migration across the United States. The Table of States is a table with the states listed and linked to their own page. The Text Only State List puts the states in alphabetical order with their URL address next to them.
The USGenWeb Archives <http://www.rootsweb.com/~usgenweb/> is a digital library which offers actual transcriptions (and occasionally scanned photos) of public domain records. You will find copies of census records, marriage bonds, wills, photos and other public documents. The National Archives Search Engine <http://searches.rootsweb.com/htdig/search.html> allows you to search all documents made available to the public by the national volunteers. The State Archives Search Engine <http://www.rootsweb.com/~usgenweb/ussearch.htm> searches for surname and document types in the individual state archives. Only one state can be searched at a time. Search Tips are provided.
The USGW Census Project <http://www.usgenweb.org/census/> contains transcribed census information, some done by national volunteers and some located on the State Census Index pages. Not all censuses have been done, but more are being added all the time. If the census you are looking for isn't complete yet, it may be soon so check back often. Better yet, if you have time, volunteer to help transcribe or proofread a census microfilm. Actual scanned photos of some censuses are being put online as they become available (see Census Images).
The USGW Tombstone Project was started to encourage people to walk cemeteries and donate copies of the surveys to The USGW Archives. Many transcriptions are already available online and more are added daily.
The main Tombstone Project page can be found at <http://www.rootsweb.com/~cemetery/> with information on why it was started, how you can help, and gives links to military and foreign cemeteries, as well as "View the Registry" which takes you to the individual state cemeteries.
Or you can go directly to the alphabetical listing of states at <http://www.rootsweb.com/~cemetery/registry.html>.
Under each state is list of the counties and cemeteries; those that have
been transcribed already will be blue and underlined, which means they
are a link.
The Lineage Project <http://www.rootsweb.com/~lineage/> provides a place to list researchers who are looking for descendants of one particular ancestor, who must have lived in the US at one time and must have been born before December 31, 1850. Links will include the ancestor's name, location, and dates, an e-mail link to the researcher, and the researcher's web page on the family, if there is one. The coordinator for the Lineage Project is Sam Sneed..
The Pension Project <http://www.rootsweb.com/~usgenweb/pensions/> endeavors to provide actual transcriptions of Pension related materials for all Wars prior to 1900. Transcripts, extracts and abstracts will be accepted and files will be placed in the USGenWeb Archives directory of the State and County of principal residence of the Pensioner. The coordinator for the Pension Project is Tina Vickery.
The USGW Digital Map Library < http://www.rootsweb.com/~usgenweb/maps/> is a new project currently being developed. The goal is to make useful, readable, high quality maps available to genealogists, free of charge. Here you will find both archival maps and newly-made maps based on scholarly research. The coordinator for the USGW Digital Map Project is Fred Smoot.
The Newsletter link <http://www.rootsweb.com/~usgenweb/newsletter/> lets readers know of new databases or information posted to the USGenWeb site. You can subscribe for free and it will come to your email weekly, or you can read it online.
The Obits Project <http://www.rootsweb.com/~usgenweb/obits/> is endeavoring to records obituaries from newspapers and other sources from every state. This is a new project and is just getting a good start.
The Churches Project <http://www.rootsweb.com/~usgenweb/churches/> is posting church records (births, marriages, and deaths) as they become available.
Special Collections <http://www.rootsweb.com/~usgenweb/special/> includes family history books, journals and letters, family photos, and cemetery photos.
USGenWeb even has an Information Page for Researchers at <http://www.usgenweb.org/researchers/researcher.html>. It provides many useful research hints and information. Subject areas covered are:
Getting Started -- tips and forms for genealogical research
Primary and Secondary Sources -- what are they and how do you tell the difference?
Calendar Information and Date Forms -- old calendars, date changes, double dating, etc..
Oaths of Allegiance -- Oaths taken by early settlers
Finding Names -- hints for finding maiden names, nicknames used by our ancestors, naming practices regarding first-born
son, first-born daughter, etc., Dutch/Frisian Names and their English translation.
Genealogy Vocabulary -- a listing of terms (mostly legal) and what they mean.
Census Records -- where to find them; printable forms to use, Surname to Soundex converter
Lists of Wars -- dates and locations
Land Patent Records
Immigration and Passenger Arrival Records -- where to find records, helpful hints, etc.
Old Occupations Explained -- ever wondered what a "chandler" was? This section will tell you.
Care of Old Documents
Geographical Information and Maps
How to Write and Use Queries
Computer Programs for Genealogy
Miscellaneous Information -- guide to reading old handwriting, relationships of cousins explained, English Common Law, etc...
Links to other sites
Help Wanted <http://www.rootsweb.com/~usgenweb/archhelp.htm> How can you help this project? Transcribers and proofreaders are always needed. Do you have records and photos you would be willing to submit to the USGenWeb collection? This page tells you how.
Each of the transcribed documents contained at the USGenWeb site was produced by voluntary efforts. More volunteers are always needed. If you have historical or genealogical documents which you would be willing to transcribe into the computer and share with others, free of charge, USGW needs you.
USGenWeb is an outstanding resource for family historians. Become familiar with the projects they have made available, and check back often.
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