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The Internet is the Way to Start 

Just received my copy of the Feb 2005 Family Chronicle magazine where publisher Halvor Moorshead says: "The Internet is the Way to Start. There; I've finally said it. I know it is heresy to tell new genealogists that they can conduct most of their research using the Internet but I've come to believe it."

YES, Halvor, the times, they are a changing. We used to use the internet only for small chat rooms, email and RootsWeb mailing lists -- sharing research techniques and tidbits of information with other family historians. Then came into play with index databases. So did and others. Genealogy message boards outside the limits of CompuServe, Prodigy and AOL on such sites as GenForum, RootsWeb and Ancestry expanded the probability that we will find someone who has that missing link to help us get around our brick walls. Free sites such as USGenWeb and WorldGenWeb pulled together the efforts of thousands of volunteers who continue to make the internet a place for genealogists to view genealogy info for free. For a few years we could order microfilm from AGLL/HeritageQuest. Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness reflects the attitude of most genealogists: a willingness to share ancestral clues with distant cousins.

Finally, really big databases with connections to original documents started coming out. At one may search for an ancestor, click to view the scanned image of the passenger record, and click again to view a photo and description of the ship., the online presence of the Family History Library emerged as one of the busiest websites, including its double-data-entry indices to the 1880 US Federal and 1881 UK and Canada Census.

We used to order census microfilms through our local LDS Family History Centers, hoping against hope to find that elusive great-grandfather. Now online indices at and HeritageQuestOnline offer all-US lookups linked to census images. Ancestry has literally hundreds of additional databases leading back to original documents on file in courthouses and archives throughout the world. HeritageQuestOnline also boasts PERSI (Periodical Source Index) and has just added Revolutionary War era pension and bounty land files. The list goes on.

Now an entire country's vital, census and church records indices are available online, with the example of the taking the lead in the category of "federal government making public records access available online." Similar improvements for accessing records have come though such sites as and How we wish it was that easy to search for ancestors in the more obscure Eastern European or South American countries.

Yet at every turn, we see more reliable indexes, increasing numbers of scanned images and lots of helpful how-to articles going up on the web every day. Also, its getting easier to understand the life and times of a particular ancestor by researching online the history of the area where he once lived.

Former Family Tree Magazine editor-in-chief David A. Fryxell noted "Genealogy Societies dwindle. Even as genealogy has enjoyed a boom, some of its traditional pillars have become wobbly. [...] State and local groups also have struggled as family historians turn to the web sir resources & networking." (Feb 2005 Family Tree Magazine," Back to the Future" page 32.) Myrt's own local societies have ceased publishing their newsletters in paper format in favor of creating a website and maintaining a RootsWeb mailing list to keep members informed.

Won't it be interesting to order our "microfilm" to be scanned and then viewable online? I'd sure pay for that service!

Now I've just got to find some way to wiggle my nose and be immediately transported to those distant ancestral homelands.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt      :)
6023 26th Street West PMB 352
Bradenton, FL 34207

1995-2009 Pat Richley HOME | Ask | Blog Right-click to copy RSS feed URL. Add to My Yahoo BookShelf | ContactLessons | Listen to Podcast media RSS feed
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