Thursday, June 9, 2011

Genealogy Serendipity Moments - Family History Center Fun

This is a day late as I worked in our family history center yesterday and then on a project for my sister in law. This will be a two-part post, but they are interconnected. First, a brief explanation about the title of this blog. The name Gopher Genealogy relates to how I do genealogy research. We all do our research a little differently, but the way I research developed from practice and successful results. Often we must dig deep and hard to get the information we need. It requires a mindset of looking at the big picture.


I have five primary websites that are key to finding information on families.

First, is ancestry.com and I prefer the old search. This can be hard to find and seems to not exist on the link for our computers at the family history center. The Internet browser you use may also affect how parts of ancestry.com will work for you. I prefer this website for census research and the family trees, not overlooking the vast collections they have. People seem to be posting more information with documents and pictures. This may be due to the television show, "Who Do You Think You Are?" I will post a book review of the book by the same name by Megan Smolenyak. It is a great aid to anyone working in genealogy research, as she shares her successful approach to research.

Second, is familysearch.org, which is changing so fast that our heads are spinning. The key to this website is the browse section of the databases of digitized and indexed records. There is much more to the website and it will continue to expand content on a regular basis, so keep checking back. The content of the indexing is often superior to other sites, but the site can be somewhat limiting in search options. Dick Eastman provides regular updates about the site in his online newsletter, which is free at http://blog.eogn.com/.

Third, is findagrave.com, which holds clues to families to compliment the burial information for many locations. Finding an obituary or explanation of the family is a major gold mine. Once one person is located, it is important to do a search of the cemetery for other people of the same surname and other possible names. Creating a list of the names in a document will help in checking off those who have family connections, some of which may be recognizable after more family research. I do use other cemetery websites, but I always start here. The content is not usually documented and must be verified.

Fourth, is rootsweb.com, where the family trees are formatted differently and they can be searched under different formats. Some of these were posted a long time ago, or are mere copies of one of the original, but sometimes there is something unique to be found. When people post unique information from personal knowledge about their family, it may be just the clue we need to move forward.

Fifth, is genweb.com, which can hold goldmines for a particular place, county, state or country. This website might hold access to material that can be found nowhere else online and much of it is free. My favorite statement is, "Free is a very good price!" It is important to express appreciation to those who contribute volunteer hours in providing the information.

Last night we were not busy at the family history center, so I called a friend who had a question about some research. When she found out I was there and open to help her, she skipped dinner and came on over. We reviewed some of her work and she shared with me her major find on ancestry.com family trees. Someone posted information about a family that she has worked long and hard on. It is obvious that they have personal family information and the documents and pictures are great. So, I said, "Let's go play a bit." Another favorite statement of mine is, "If you are not having fun doing family history research, you are in the wrong line of work!"

In looking at the information on ancestry.com, I showed her how to view all of the items attached and she was very happily surprised to see much more than what she viewed earlier. From there we did some census research and looked for a marriage record on ancestry.com. The marriage database unfortunately was indexed only with one name and did not list the spouse or parents. They want you to send for a record with very limited information. So, we moved on to familysearch.org and found the marriage information indexed (sorry no digital copy) with the names of both spouses and their parents. This took us back to ancestry.com where we found more census information based on the new information that we had. She left the center very happy that we had spent some time together and we had fun.

If you have not visited a local family history center you might be overlooking some very resourceful volunteers who can assist and encourage you in your research. For a listing of the centers visit familysearch.org. Again, free is a very good price.

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