Using Computers in Genealogyó
Presented as part of PGSM outreach seminar at the Polish American Citizens Club of Taunton, MA on April 29, 2001 by Sara E. Campbell (firstname.lastname@example.org)
3 important uses of computers for genealogists:
|Organizing, preserving, and presenting your data using programs such as "Family Tree Maker"|
|Writing family history using word processing and digital photographs|
|Researching via the internet|
Widespread availability of the internet has opened up a potential bonanza for researchers. However, very few primary sources have been transcribed and published on the internet. There is no requirement that this happen. Donít forget that each piece of information was placed on the internet by someone. Ask yourself:
|who was that person?|
|what was their motivation?|
|what are their qualifications to make these statements?|
Even if you donít find family data on-line, the internet is useful for planning your research trips, determining locations or schedules at out of town libraries, etc. For example www.nara.gov contains information about the holdings and hours of the National Archives and the branches. Maps, both current and historical, can be printed from many sites. The Library of Congress accepts email requests for maps at no cost.
Two sites that include a wide variety of information are www.Rootsweb.com and www.Cyndislist.com . These are good places to start, but be careful not to be overwhelmed by the information presented; pick an area and surf through the information. The Social Security Death Index can be a good place to start, available at these and other sites. Both sites include basic instruction in genealogical research, as well as research data. Or try www.familychronicle.com a magazine format site that has interesting articles about computer useósign up for a free paper issue on-line.
Keep a diary near your computer to help you remember which sites you have explored, and which sites require passwords or log-ins.
Consider using a secondary email address to keep genealogical information separate from your personal correspondence. Yahoo is one easy and free email service.
If you have email, join a mailing list. At Rootsweb, scores of lists are available either by geographic region or by surname. It is like joining an old telephone party lineólearning from othersí questions, and sometimes connecting with living relatives. For lists with many postings each day, sign on in "digest" mode to keep the number of messages coming to your box at a manageable level.
Be safeódonít give out too much information about yourself to strangers, even if you think you have found a cousin.
www.familysearch.org is the official site of the LDS. It includes a searchable database of vital records they have collected from all over the world, as well as family trees from their archives. Sources are listed, and microfilm references included, where they are available. LDS records are generally highly accurate.
www.ellisislandrecords.org is the database of records of immigrants who passed through Ellis Island. Because it is the result of human transcription of often illegible ship manifests, it is not perfect. It is easily searchable, but I found that typing in variations of a name yielded many more possible matches. The site will be expanded to include submitted family histories.
try www.stevemorse.org for alternate search criteria for the immigration records.
Search engines may be useful in researching, especially unusual names or locations. I like to Ask Jeeves (www.ask.com) because it includes results from several types of searches.
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