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Finding Your Family History on the Internet

  by Lana Archibald
with information from "REFLECTIONS OF A NEWBIE" by Robert R. Tillman
and Rootsweb Review (12/29/99 and 1/5/00 issues)

If you haven't discovered yet, you are in for a wonderful surprise. Found at <> this resource prides itself on being "the Internet's oldest and largest FREE genealogy community."  The site is multi-leveled, and offers many features which will elude the quick visitor.

One of the best ways to connect to other researchers and get more information, as well as to share what you have, is to take advantage of the services offered by Rootsweb.  Again, all of them are free.

 The following suggestions are adapted from "REFLECTIONS OF A NEWBIE" by Robert R. Tillman, RootsWeb CEO.  RootsWeb Review,  Vol. 3, No. 2, Wednesday, January 12, 2000.

#1. Join a mailing list at <>. A mailing list is simply the e-mail party line. Every e-mail that a list subscriber sends to the list is distributed to all other list subscribers. There are more than 17,000 genealogy-related mailing lists on RootsWeb divided by surname, U.S. county and state, country, ethnic group, and topic. Subscribing to a mailing list is one of the best ways of connecting to people who share your interests.  The surname mailing lists are indexed at <>.  Clicking on an alphabet letter on the left will list, in the large frame,  all the surnames currently hosted.  If you do not find a mailing list covering your topic of interest, start one at  <>

#2. Post a message to a GenConnect message board at <>. A message board is a computerized version of the old-fashioned bulletin board. There are more than 140,000 message boards on RootsWeb related to surnames, locations, and topics. By posting a message to the appropriate message board, you create a record through which other researchers can find you. If you do not find a message board covering your topic of interest, start one at

#3. Post your family surnames on the RootsWeb Surname List (RSL) at <>. The RSL is a registry of more than 788,000 surname entries that have been  submitted by more than 165,000 online genealogists. Associated with each surname are dates, locations, and information about how to contact the person who submitted the surname. The RSL is one of the primary tools on RootsWeb that online genealogists use to contact each other.

#4. Upload your family tree (GEDCOM file) to the RootsWeb WorldConnect Project at
<> The RootsWeb WorldConnect Project is a database of family trees submitted by thousands of RootsWeb researchers currently containing more than 14 million ancestor names. With your family tree posted here, other researchers with common ancestors can find you.

#5. Add Post-ems to the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) at <> and to the RootsWeb WorldConnect Project at <>  A Post-em is the electronic equivalent of a yellow sticky note.  It allows you to attach your email address, a link to another Web address or other information to the record of any individual in these two databases. Search for your ancestors and leave your calling card attached to their names.

#6. Build your own genealogy Web site on RootsWeb. Request free unlimited Web space on RootsWeb at <> RootsWeb hosts more than 11,000 Web sites, most related to genealogy. Building a basic Web site is not as difficult as you might imagine. Millions of people have done it. You can get help from other RootsWeb Webmasters on the mailing lists and message boards devoted to this subject on RootsWeb.

#7. Add a link to your Web site to RootsLink at <>. RootsLink is RootsWeb's Web address registry, where users can add and categorize a genealogy link from anywhere on the Web. Currently, there more than 4,000 links on RootsLink.

#8. Link your Web site to the relevant surname, county, state, and/or country resource cluster at <> Thereafter, a link to your Web site will appear at the top of whatever surname, county and/or state resource cluster(s) you have chosen. Users specifically interested in the information on your Web site will see this link whenever they use the RootsWeb surname resources at <> or the RootsWeb U.S. county and state resourcesat <> This feature is ONLY available for Web sites located at RootsWeb.

#9. Volunteer. RootsWeb hosts many of the largest volunteer genealogy projects on the Web. Volunteers locate, transcribe, and publish genealogical data and help new users. Through this work they meet other genealogists with similar interests.

#10. Search all of RootsWeb. (See the Research Guide useful for searching all major RootsWeb databases and the MailList, a more detailed one for searching the Mailing List Archives)  Research results from these searches will help you contact others with common interests who have taken the steps suggested above to make themselves easy to find.

#11. Subscribe to their newsletters -- Rootsweb Review and its counterpart, Missing Links <> These electronic newsletters arrive at your e-mail inbox every Wednesday.  To subscribe (free of charge) , send an e-mail message to: and put the word "subscribe" (omit the quotation marks) in the subject line, and in the body of the message. Rootsweb Review brings readers news about the RootsWeb site, its new mailing lists, home pages, and other web sites. Additionally, it presents a continuing tutorial on using RootsWeb's resources, along with monthly statistics, news from major hosted activities such as USGenWeb, USGenWeb Archives, WorldGenWeb, and Cyndi's List.  Missing Links focuses more on research success stories and tips.  Samples of articles include: Recording Family History, Web Links, Successful Links: Guided to the Stones, Holiday Decorations Inspired by Family History,  Somebody's Links, and Humor.

#12. "Where do I Begin?" at <> offers advice to newcomers to genealogy research and the Rootsweb site.

#13. "Rootsweb's Guide to Tracing Family Trees" <> is a set of 24 interactive, online lessons.  The lessons can be followed and used online, or printed out.  Subjects covered include a wide range of sources and situations.  More lessons may be added in the future.

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