Thursday, March 29, 2012

I'm an Internet Genealogist

I'm an Internet Genealogist and I'm okay with that. I know, a typical genealogist would argue that you must have visits to dusty archives, trips to cemeteries and coffee with the local historical society. But I'm a different breed. I don't live anywhere near where my ancestors lived so visits to all the typical haunts are out of the question. Not to mention that I have two little boys that aren't big fans of libraries...or I should saying they aren't fans of being quiet.

So how does today's stay-at-home mom that lives far away from her homeland conduct research? Through the joy of the Internet and the lightening quick speed of the U.S. Postal Service. I must admit that I am proud of what I've accomplished on my family research without having left my desk. Here's some of my favorite tips:

1. Subscriptions. I couldn't live without my Ancestry.com subscription. In fact, I maintain my family tree on the site publicly. Through this I've received numerous queries on family that have led to massive brick wall destruction. I also maintain subscriptions to fold3.com, Newspaperarchive.com and genealogybank.com. But you don't always have to pay for these subscriptions. Check out your local library for genealogy sites they subscribe to, sometimes you are able to access them from your home. Some large genealogy libraries also offer library cards to "out-of-towners" for a fee, which grants you access to their subscription sites at a cost less than purchasing your own subscriptions. Keep in mind that Ancestry.com is usually only available from within your library.

2. Google. Have you Googled your ancestors? As part of my research checklist I always do a Google search for each ancestor. You never know what other researchers have posted online. And don't just look at the first page of results, flip through a few pages. I've found worthwhile links on the fourth and fifth pages of results. Also try a search in Google books.

3. WorldCat.org. WorldCat.org is a website that lists the catalog of libraries from across the world that I have already sang the praise of here. If a library includes their catalog on WorldCat.org, it will list all their holdings which could include books, articles and archival material. I found letters written by my third great-grandfather through a catalog listing on WorldCat.org. Can you say Sah-weet?

4. FamilySearch.org. What can I say, it's a great resource. Of course you can look for your ancestors through their searchable database. But also check out records that haven't yet been transcribed. FamilySearch has countless record images for viewing that are not yet available in their search engine. I was able to locate the birth record of my fourth great-grandfather in Norfolk, England, just by browsing through FamilySearch's Norfolk Bishop Transcripts, 1585-1941. It does take a little more time, but it is well worth the effort. A good way to locate these types of records is to visit the FamilySearch wiki, which is yet another great option from the FamilySearch folks. And this may make your head explode, but you can also conduct a search for genealogy books from their homepage.
5. Local/State historical societies. Have you done a search for the historical society serving the area your ancestors lived in? Many local societies have great websites, often including records that they have in their collection. Look for a society for the city, county, region and state of your ancestor as each one will have a different collection and each one may be able to provide a different link to your ancestors' story. State societies also usually offer interlibrary loan for their microfilm/books. Don't be shy and give the society a call or send an email to ask about your relatives. I once made a big connection through an email to a society where the volunteer that returned my email was also researching the same line.

I can see that you are agog with the opportunities available from sitting on your bum. Nothing here is rocket science and you are probably using them now, but I hope that I have shared some new uses from some old friends. These are just some of my old friends. What sites have worked for you?

3 comments:

Mary Ellen said...

We are fortunate to live in an age where we can do so much genealogy online, but I think what makes you more than just the run-of-the-mill "internet genealogist" is that you're not JUST using Ancestry - you're making use of everything that's available to you. I'm lucky enough to live close to where my ancestors lived, but if I didn't, I'd be an "internet genealogist," too! And I agree with you about FamilySearch - it used to be terrible but now it's very reliable, and it's actually better than Ancestry for anybody with ancestry outside North America/Europe...

Elizabeth said...

My first online subscription came about because I'm a longtime member of NEHGS (New England Historic Genealogical Society). Their website at AmericanAncestors.org is a valuable online resource for those with New England ancestry, and they're expanding to include some resources outside of New England.
And to your #4, FamilySearch.org, I have been browsing through Hungary Civil Registration records to find vital records for ancestors of my father-in-law, which I've been blogging about at A Jewish Genealogy Journey.
And just by blogging, I've had distant cousins contact me with information. It's amazing to think what we can do online now!

Heather Kuhn Roelker said...

I agree, Mary Ellen, FamilySearch is so much better than it used to be. And on top of the internet options you can still order microfilm. Bonus. Elizabeth, the NEHGS is a great tip. I have made at least four major contacts since I started blogging, folks I would have never met have sent me photos, documents, etc.