How to Build a Family Tree
By Peggy Markham
Don’t worry about saws, hammers, nails or wood. This project requires only computer access to the Internet. If you are looking for a hobby that will challenge your curiosity, provide you with hours of entertainment and allow you to leave an invaluable legacy for your family, get on the genealogy search bandwagon.
Interest in finding family roots tends to become more important as we get older. Who were our great grandparents, where did our family call home, were they immigrants and from where and when? Research takes time so for those of us who are now working less or are retired, the pursuit of genealogy is well suited to our lifestyle. A computer is the most important tool you need to begin your search. The Internet is your gateway to unlocking data and the information available to you is mind-boggling.
Suggested online mega sites for starting your genealogy search: include www.ancestry.com www.footnote.com and www.cyndislist.com Once on these sites you will find further links to explore. Some Web sites offer free searches and allow you to contribute details or create pages, but most sites are subscriber-based. Free trial periods are often proffered and this will give you an opportunity to select a site that offers you data suited to your interests. The sites are easy to navigate and browse for timelines, family trees, military data, locations, names, records and documents.
Modern-digitized records and images make the search for materials more exciting and accessible. The National Archives (www.archives.gov) boasts that millions of original documents are now digitized from old formats and microfilm. Both ancestry.com and footnote.com are partnered with the National Archives to share data. Imagine seeing an original photo of your family members from generations ago taken on board a ship sailing to their new home in America, viewing a page from a family Bible with your family names inscribed, finding a grainy photo of an ancestor who served in the Civil War, scanning articles in local newspapers from years past, reading old letters written by your great-grandmother who you didn’t know existed or looking at the actual birth certificate of a family member. All these things can be found on the genealogy Web sites and are posted by people who want to share their data. Vince Prichard, a genealogy enthusiast, tells of finding the original vinyl album that his father recorded while serving as a US soldier in Germany during WW II. The audio “letter” was sent home to his family in Missouri. Mr. Prichard was able to transfer the record into a modern format which he then downloaded to his home page in ancestry.com.
What information is available online? Collections for hundreds of millions of records are searchable and those of interest for family history might include:
*U.S. and international resources/records
*U.S. Census records
*Military records (military names, titles, data bases for military service/pensions, wars)
*National Archive materials
*Birth, marriage and death certificates
*U.S. immigration collections (passenger lists, ship photos)
*U.S. naturalization Indexes
The online community of family history buffs share family trees, personal stories, photos, letters, documents, audio recordings, videos and much more. After you select a Web site such as ancestry.com or footnote.com, you can set up your home page and personalize your data. You may share your history with family, friends and colleagues or you might choose to maintain a private status. In return, other parties may invite you to view their material. The excitement comes from these new discoveries that you uncover from sources and contacts that you never imagined possible. Suddenly you connect with a long lost cousin who has stories and photos that you have never heard of or seen.
Your legacy can be built without a garage full of tools and hours of hard labor. All you need is a computer, curiosity and a desire to preserve your family legacy.
Consider the list given here as a start for your family
search. A quick Google with the word Genealogy will bring up a
list of sites. Many of the sites are connected through a community of
genealogy sites. Look the sites over carefully, try a few of the free offers and then decide which site
meets your needs.
www.dar.org (Daughters of the American Revolution site. Click on membership.
This site is for anyone searching for a family patriot of the American Revolution.)
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