Carol Sanderson, Editor
Charles Hansen, Technical Advisor
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Several years ago I was asked to give a talk on genealogy on the internet and while I hate giving talks, it was in the neighborhood library and they assured me they seldom had more than 8 to 10 people show up for the talks. They had the room set up for 35 and it was clear full by the time the talk started.
I started out by pointing out that the internet is like a big library. Older people like me, were taught that to find something in the library, we had to go to the card file. Where is the card file for the internet? There is none, but people like Cyndi Howell and Earl Ross have made it easy to find genealogy sites that might interest you.The problem is there are billions of documents on the internet and only a few are listed on Cyndi's list or here in our resources
A search engine uses a "spider" or "robot" to index every word in billions of web pages. The January-February issue of Genealogical Computing has the 4th Annual Genealogy Search Engine Showdown. The 3rd Annual Showdown tested six search engines. Those tested were AlltheWeb, AltaVista, Google, HotBot, WiseNut and Northern Light. Since that test Northern Light closed to the public January 2002, so this showdown uses the first five from before and a new one Teoma, which was purchased by Ask Jeeves, Inc., in September 2001. To be in the test, they had to have searched at least 500 million web pages, and Teoma is the only one of the group that did not. Google and AlltheWeb claim they have indexed more than 2 billion documents.
The author of the article, Drew Smith, set up three tests for each search engine. The first was an obscure term "doleator", AlltheWeb got 12 hits, AltaVista 8 hits, Google 16 hits, HotBot 8 hits, Teoma 4 hits and WiseNut 7 hits. The most helpful site was the Genealogical Latin Dictionary, which identified doleator as the Latin for cooper. AltaVista, Google, Teoma and WiseNut found this source. AlltheWeb and HotBot found a page that translates Latin occupations into Polish.
The second test was an obscure place. The place chosen was Chester Park and Long Island. AlltheWeb got 29 hits, AltaVista 7 hits, Google 41 hits, HotBot 35 hits, Teoma 14 hits and WiseNut 12 hits. Drew went on to say that unfortunately several of the hits were not even on Long Island, but Google & HotBot pointed to an article in Newsday, the Long Island newspaper. The article documented the history behind the Chester Park Elementary School.
For the third test, Drew picked an obscure surname, after warning not to do a common surname. Smith has 20 million hits on Google, how long will it take you to look at all of them. Drew then tried the surname Harlicker. AlltheWeb got 79 hits, AltaVista 27, Google 78, HotBot 30, Teoma 21 and WiseNut 25.
Drew's conclusion was that Google was the best in this years test, as it was in the last showdown, but AlltheWeb was close behind. What happens if Google does not get the answer you want? Then you could check the others, but that is rather cumbersome. However, there is an answer for this also. It is metasearch software. Metasearch software searches several search engines at once, and the two tested in the article were Copernic Agent Professional v6.0 and Patrol Search v1.8. Copernic has three versions a free one (but lots of pop up adds), the personal version and the professional version. Patrol Search does not have a free version. Using the same tests Patrol Search found more hits than the personal version of Copernic in all three tests.
Will a search engine help your genealogy? Can they help break that brick wall? Possibly, so check a search engine and see what you can find but remember not everything is on the internet as yet.
We have covered some of the tools or aids that one may use in looking for ones ancestors over the past few months. Charles has written an article that appears in this issue on Search Engines that one uses on the Internet. Another help that a lot of people don't think of and so don't use is voter registration cards or applications. I would like to discuss those in more detail here.
What can you expect to find on these? You will find the persons name, address, and date of birth at least. If your ancestor was an immigrant then you can expect to find out when and where he was naturalized. Some places want more information than others so you are never quite sure what you will find.
Where does one find these registration applications or cards? The first place to check is the office of the voter registrar. If they don't have them and they haven't been just thrown out, the local historical society or the local library may have them. One can order those available from the Family History Library as they have filmed a lot of them.
There is usually a map of the ward and it is broken down into precincts. The precinct boundaries are usually streets. One side of the street along the boundary line is in one precinct and the other side in another one. Many precincts make up the larger unit, the ward.
It is important to know where your ancestor lived. Knowing this, you can find what ward and precinct he lived in. That knowledge leads to the voter application or card with whatever other information is on it. Some of the later cards had the occupation and perhaps the employer's name. These can all lead to other records that can add more to your knowledge of your ancestor and flesh out his story
Using voter registration applications or cards you can put together families just by looking for similar names within a precinct or ward. By finding these and then with some deduction you may find these groups look like families. This is something that you should check so that you can document this.
Many of our ancestors were immigrants and they really felt that it was important for them to vote. If they hadn't been naturalized, they would do that just before an election. Since one must be a citizen to vote the applications asked about naturalization and one can learn when and where that took place. Before September 22, 1922 if a woman married a man who was an American citizen she automatically gained citizenship...without the process of naturalization. It would be futile to go looking for such documentation, as there would be none. After that date in September 1922 everyone had to go through the process of naturalization.
People have been voting since the birth of this country. You can find some records from the 1700s through to the 1800s and the present date. They contain various types of information depending on what the criteria is in the different places. You may hit the jackpot and find a lot of information and then again you may not. If you have a brick wall, using these may help you to knock it down