by Ruby Coleman
Internet is no quick fix for genealogical research, but it can be fun and exciting. Genealogical resources continue to grow on Internet, but at the same time researchers need to maintain good research practices. Internet Genealogy does not exist. Internet research, used in conjunction with other types of genealogical research, does exist. These other types include courthouse research, contacting relatives and library research.
Some of the problems of Internet include the fact that there is no paper trail. Only when printing information off Internet is there a paper record. The lack of documentation is another key factor when using records on Internet. Even though individuals are encouraged to document their sources, particularly when posting to online databases, they are prone to not share that information. Do not just collect names; seek out the details.
Scanned objects are more reliable, but should also be verified. Make certain that what you print off Internet is documented with the date, author (webmaster) and location. Know where to look for it again, but also remember that web pages come and go. If you cannot locate it again, use a search engine.
The various phases of Internet include communications, home pages, commercial pages, databases and FTP files, search engines and web pages containing digitized images. With this wealth of information available, it is easy for researchers to consume a good deal of time searching, browsing and reading. Through this network of networks we often get sidetracked.
Few of us are content to work on one family surname or line at a time. If it is fun researching one, it must be more fun researching in multiples. Before using Internet, going to the courthouse, library or contacting relatives, do your “genealogy work.”
Set a goal. Your goal should be simple and realistic. Try to limit this goal to one family surname or family group. Set a time goal. Are you going to research that family for one month, one week, one day? Look at the information you have already accumulated on that particular family. Decide what is missing and what you need to learn about them.
Prepare, either on paper on through a word processing application on your computer, a research profile of this particular family unit. The profile should be specific and easy to read. Begin with complete names, including maiden names. If you are familiar with name changes or different spellings of the names, include that information on your sheet.
Dates are important. Include the basic dates, such as birth, marriage, death. Christening and burials can be significant when other vital information is missing. If there are no dates, using information that is available, estimate a time period, such as about 1852 (ca 1852). Even a broader statement such as “died in about 1850-1870” can be helpful. A brief timeline and chronology can also be included.
Where did all this happen? Locations are vital to genealogical research. Strive to include the country, province, state, county, city, town or village for each event. What do you know about those areas? Keep in mind the county formations, parent counties, migrations of your ancestors and period of time in which they were in each location.
Your research surname is not isolated. By adding a marriage, you will be adding another surname. Consider collateral surnames. Make certain that the family unit you are profiling includes the names of spouses. Look at the people around your family unit. Were there other relatives, such as aunts, uncles, cousins, involved in their lives, living close to them? Who were their neighbors?
Most importantly is a synopsis of your research. What have you accomplished thus far? Have you documented that research? Where have you researched with negative results? Looking at the prepared research profile, what type of records should be checked? These may include probate files, marriage records, birth and death certificates, church records, census and newspapers. Make a list of the type of record, the time period and location that should be checked.
Print out or write out your research profile and have it handy at the computer. Using the phases of Internet, begin your research on the family unit you have profiled. Stay focused to that family and related surnames. Check Internet resources for names, time period and location.
Your research should include surname web pages, message boards, surname and location forums, mail lists, news groups, library catalogs, personal web pages and databases. Use search engines to browse for locations and surnames. A helpful web page of genealogy links is Cyndi’s List at http://www.cyndislist.com.
The same research profile can also be taken to the library or courthouse, or even to visit relatives. Use it to prepare queries or messages for Internet and write letters to genealogy friends or relatives. As you add new information, the research profile will need to be updated. It is easy to do this if the profile is prepared on the computer.
For genealogy success, remember the two basics ... set a goal, keeping it simple and realistic and focus on your research profile.