|Jump Start Your Family
|by Barbara Ann Renick
|'Copyright 2005 by Barbara Renick
The first step when doing research is always to see what has already been
done on that surname in that locality to avoid a duplication of effort. Today,
you can search farther and faster than ever before to jump start your family
Part I: Introduction
A. Genealogical research is an ongoing process
that takes place in five phases. These phases are repeated over and over again
as you fill in the missing pieces of your family tree.
|1. The Background Phase: The background phase is the foundation for
all the other phases. It consists of the knowledge and experience you use to
search for records, read and analyze what you find, then evaluate where to
look next or how to accurately compile what you have found for publication or
sharing. This phase continues as you learn more and more about doing research
in a particular locality and time period, for a unique ethnic group, or about
a particular type of record (like military records). The background phase also
includes a knowledge of how to use advanced search features to search online
databases to jump start your family tree.
|2. The Survey Phase: You seek out what has already been published
to avoid a duplication of effort. This phase involves searching mostly in
compiled records. This is where you may be lucky and get your research off to
a fast start, but it is not without its perils. You are just as likely to be
unlucky and find multiple versions of your family tree that don't agree. To
err is human. No where is this seen more often than in compiled genealogies.
Computers and the Internet have exponentially increased this problem.
|3. The Research Phase. You seek out original records to fill in a
specific piece of missing information or to determine which version of a name,
date, place, or relationship is most likely correct. This phase involves
searching in original records.
|4. The Evaluation Phase: You analyze and evaluate what you and
others have found; decide if you have a valid and reliable answer; and if not,
determine where to look next. Here you weigh the evidence. This step is almost
impossible if your source does not cite its sources.
|5. The Preservation Phase: You share and publish what you have
found so that your work is preserved, and so others may find you to share
their additions and corrections to your compilation.
B. There are many online resources to help
jump start your survey phase of research. To a lesser extent, online resources
help with your background and research phases, as well.
Part II: Databases Online
A. Varieties of Online Databases.
|1. Lineage-Linked (example:
|2. Extracted Records (example: parts of the
IGI and the
Vital Records databases
at the FamilySearch
|3. Registered Research Interests (example:
RootsWeb Surname List)
|4. Indices to Record Collections (example:
Records Collection database)
(example: online library catalogs)
B. Not all lineage-linked databases are the
same. Compare the following:
C. The evolution of pedigree (lineage-linked)
D. Where to Go First?
|1. Go for the large, high traffic sites with popular databases (as listed
above for U.S.)
family of sites may mean changes in the future:
||a. Ancestry.com hosts
hosts the GenForum Message Board
and sells the World Family Tree CDs
MyFamily.com hosts a People Finder service
|3. Search Geographically
||a. Try Cyndi's List (search by
browsing her categories
and by using the site-specific search engine at her site)
|b. Use the USGenWeb and
(watch for lists of research links to sites of help for that geographic
|c. Search geographically in the
Research Helps sections
under the SEARCH tab at
FamilySearch Internet to find links to institutions
and significant online resources for those areas.
|4. Other databases can be found using the above three resources
plus the GenSearcher Web site (www.gensearcher.com).
Notice the alphabetical list of links in the narrow frame on the left side
of the Web pages at that site. Or do a location and/or topic search in
your favorite search engine.
Part III: Queries Past, Present, and Future
Free queries (to post or to search) are a standard part of
both the USGenWeb (http://www.usgenweb.org/)
and WorldGenWeb (http://www.worldgenweb.org/)
Search past queries online at these GenWeb Project sites.
|1. Manually (early ones are difficult to search'you may need to download a
text file of early queries and use your word processor to search it)
|2. With search tools (many have joined
GenConnect Message Boards)
GenConnect and Genealogy.com's
GenForum) are places where genealogical messages are archived and
|1. Search for surnames
|2. Search by locality
|3. Search for researchers' names
D. While online don't forget to search
mail lists, too.
hosts 28,946 e-mail discussion groups (most of which are archived
and searchable at this Web site)
FamilySearch Internet hosts 198,800 Collaboration E-mail Lists (but the
messages posted to these groups are not archived/saved on site)
E. Resources for locating printed
queries in periodicals.
|1. Search one electronic library catalog at a
||2. Or use meta-catalogs online or in a library
near you (like WorldCat)
to locate a library with that periodical, book, or manuscript source; then
search all past issues the old way by going to the library and searching in
||3. PERSI (the PERiodical Source Index)
||a. on fiche at Family History Centers
||b. on CD for purchase (or find a Family History Center, society, or
library that has purchased PERSI on CD for their patrons' use)
Ancestry.com online (or at a Family History Center, society, or library
that has a subscription for their patron's use)
||d. at Heritage Quest
Online (through a subscribing library's Web
site where you have a library card and password)
Part IV: Locating a Family History/Local
History Book in a Library
A. In the era B.C. (Before Computers and the
Internet), genealogists went from library to library looking for something to
look in. Today, genealogists do their homework by searching in online library
catalogs before going out to do research on location.
B. However, it should be noted that many
institutions have not had the funds to retro-catalog. This means their
electronic catalogs contain all accessions after a certain date with all prior
acquisitions being listed only in their original paper card catalog(s). It is
not uncommon for a library or archives to have more than one catalog covering
different parts of their collections.
WorldCat is a
meta-catalog of materials (particularly local history materials in regular
collections, special collections, and digitized materials) in more than 9,000
institutions across the United States and in many foreign countries. This
meta-catalog has more than 57 million entries searchable online. Many entries
represent non-U.S. materials both in U.S. libraries and libraries abroad.
WorldCat is available exclusively by subscription to libraries and
organizations. It is not available for subscriptions by individuals.
|1. Go to the Web site of any library for which you have a library card.
(Not all libraries require that you be a local resident to obtain their
Some give library cards for free upon request and others charge a fee for
|2. Check in their special collections or database listings at their Web
site for WorldCat, OCLC,
or FirstSearch. WorldCat may be accessible via any of these three routes.
These access points may also be listed under "Other Library Catalogs,"
"General Resources," or possibly in a
genealogy section at your library's Web site.
|3. Otherwise, check with your local librarian to see if they can help you
find a library in your area
with access to FirstSearch and/or WorldCat. You librarian may be able to
search the WorldCat
meta-catalog for you or give you instructions on how to search it on one of
that library's in-house
computers (if not available online via the library's
Web site). Check your local university libraries, too.
D. Heritage Quest Online is a major resource
for your survey phase searches.
|1. Currently HQ Online
includes four resources:
||a. Search Census (featuring head-of-household indices and images of all
schedules and slave schedules of the U.S. Federal Census Records from 1790
|b. Search Books (featuring 25,000 genealogy and local history books that
have been OCR'd
and every-word indexed with images of all their pages online
|c. Search PERSI (a subject index, but not an every-word index, with
several million entries
from more than 6000 genealogy and local history periodicals dating from
about 1800 found
in the Allen County Public Library's genealogical collection)
|d. Search Revolutionary War records database
|2. HQ Online will soon be adding additional collections and features
||a. the Freedman's Bank database may be added soon
||b. a subscribing library finder in which you
enter your zipcode to find a library that subscribes
to HQ Online within 10, 25, or 50 miles distance.
|c. a meta search feature for searching across their census, books
online, PERSI, and other
indices may also appear at this site this summer.
Part V: Survey Phase Techniques
Repeat your survey phase at least annually. Genealogical
resources are being added to online databases at a phenomenal rate.
During your survey phase you are working mostly with
compiled sources'so don't believe it's true just because it's in print or
Check out society Web sites (using genealogical,
historical, and lineage society sites) for their unique resources and databases.
State library and archives sites are rich in resources
plus links to other resource sites, too.
Finding Personal Web sites via Search Engines may be the
hardest way to contact other researchers and share information about your family
Search geometrically (not just for your ancestor's name,
but rather for clusters of associated names).