We all want to be related to the kings and queens of England. Finding such connections a few years back meant spending lots of time in specialized research libraries and record centers. That's how my mother did it, and she was able to find a tenuous connection to a Prussian princess, and an indirect link to President Grant. That's pretty exciting, but I must admit I wanted more. I wanted a castle. Well, after spending some time researching on the Web, I was able to push out a few more roots in our family tree and discover some very interesting ancestors. Yes, I found my castle, but there's also a beheading that makes me a little less interested in claiming it.
Resources for doing genealogy research on the net are quite varied. There are two kinds of sites that you may consider. One, a "family site" contains extensive research about a particular family or families. These are the fruits of someone else's research, and often the fruit is in easy reach. If you happen to share a common ancestor with a well researched family, you can quickly learn a great deal about the lineage of that ancestor.
There are many of these family sites out there, and it is a good trick to figure out how to "stumble" into the ones that connect to your family. You can often extend a tree made using the "old methods" quite a bit in this way. Of course, anyone who is serious about their genealogical research may not trust the information on such sites until they can "prove" the various connections that they find. This leads us to the second kind of site, for primary research.
Research sites can list baptism records, death certificates, census records, tombstone information, even some Social Security and government records that become public after death. This is the real heart of genealogical work. It's amazing the information that is available, and even more amazing that it is being rapidly entered into accessible databases. The catch is that each database may have its own peculiar way of searching. But if you happen to know that great grandfather George was born in Ames, Iowa, you might just be able to find a birth or baptism record that lists George's father's name. But you first need to be able to find the right site to do that search.
And if you are just starting out in genealogy, or maybe you're just new to trying it on the Web, there are also some excellent places to get started.
Here's some of my favorite sites:
http://www.CyndisList.com Rating: 3
This site has the best organized and largest set of links I've found on this subject. There are a huge number of links to research sites, family sites and a lot of pages on "how to" techniques. For example, learn how to decipher old uncle Elmer's handwriting in that old bible, or find out how to write for pension records for Civil War veterans. Cyndi's site itself has only a little bit of information, but her links are the best!
http://www.familytreemaker.com/quickmain.html Rating: 3
Family Tree Maker is a set of commercial software to assist people in researching and creating their own family trees and web sites. But you can visit their site for free and search some online records and find connections to what others have done. This is one of the easiest ways to do general internet searches for family sites.http://yourfamily.com Rating: 2
If you click on "Family Homepages" you will be able to search for your various family sites. You can even register your own site here. If you have a long lost family member, there's some links to get you started in your hunt.http://www.citynet.net/mostwanted/ Rating: 2
This site specializes in trying to find information about your "most wanted" connection. You can submit and browse ads that others have posted. There is also a place to volunteer your research services or enlist the help of others. For example, if you have an ancestor from Otisfield, Maine and Otisfield has no online records, you can still enlist a volunteer there that can go to the local library or the Otisfield Historical Society for you!
http://www.one-name.org/top.htm Rating: 2
The "one name" approach is to join the research of all the various lineages of a given name. So all the "Gozneys" would work together, rather than be separated into the "Gozneys" of Suffolk, or of Florida, etc. The idea is that combining research for such unusual names may be the best way to connect disparate lineages. But don't look for common names, like Miller, here!
http://www.startlocal.com.au/articles/educational_family_tree.html Rating: 3
Here's an article recommended to me by a reader. It has some good advice for getting started and some links to some other sites. The site is hosted in Australia, but must of the information applies to research here in the U.S.
So good luck with your own search. Maybe you'll find you're the rightful heir of a castle in Scotland. But even if you find your most famed connection to be Reginald the Long-Neck, you're sure to have fun trying.
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