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Treasure Maps: the How-to Genealogy WWW Site
This attractive site is an excellent starting point for those new to genealogy. It features several articles on getting started and overcoming initial roadblocks, and offers many useful links to further advice and data in an organized way. Among the features helpful to beginners are introductions to US governmental resources, Family History Centers and tombstone rubbings. Uniquely, there are also several articles promoting the concept of family closeness, including recommended family projects.
Genealogy Software Springboard
Karen Basile's Genealogy Software Springboard is the starting point for anyone interested in purchasing genealogy software. Over a dozen of the most popular packages, including Family Tree Maker, Family Gathering, Brothers Keeper and Roots IV, are profiled, reviewed and compared. The profiles are thorough, listing release dates, prices, system requirements and recommendations and special features of each package. The reviews are presented as lists of Pros and Cons of each package, and visitors are encouraged to add their sentiments to either list. After looking the various packages over and comparing their features to each other, and to your own needs, link directly to the homepages of the various packages for further information and order forms. The Genealogy Software Springboard lets you shop around thoroughly not only from the comfort of your own home, but from the comfort of a single page.
As far as name searching goes, AltaVista is probably the most useful search engine on the Internet. Its simple and straightforward user interface may lack the flair and advanced features of subject-index style search engines such as Yahoo, but only AltaVista can claim to access the entire text of over 30 million locations on the World Wide Web and articles from 14,000 newsgroups. If a name is on the Internet - in a list of phone numbers, as part of someone's online family tree, as an e-mail link on someone's homepage, in a message header in Usenet - Alta Vista will find it for you. AltaVista can be used to find all active, contributing Internet users with the surnames you are researching. Who knows how many potential relatives AltaVista could turn up for you?
The Genealogy Home Page
Though only one of many sites which calls itself "the Genealogy Home Page", Stephen Wood's page is notable for its well-organized links to useful raw data on general subjects such as libraries, maps, geography, deeds, photography, genealogy software, genealogy societies, and upcoming genealogy events.
Executions in England from 1606
This page, originally written by Paul Zwierzanski but now maintained by Jeff Alvey, contains information extracted from the 1895 publication "Haydn's Dictionary of Dates".
Chances are fair that someone in your family tree has been executed: according to the information on the page, no less than 72,000 criminals were executed during the 38-year reign of Henry VIII. "Executions in England from 1606" lists a few hundred of the notable executions which took place between 1606 and 1895, together with the location of the trial, the reason for the execution (including the names of victims, where applicable), and the location of the execution.
Not only is this site fascinating simply in terms of the famous names which are mentioned and some of the rather bizarre reasons given for the executions, it is also a good starting point for those eager to add a forger, thief, pirate, murderer or enemy of the state to their family tree.
Searchable Genealogy Links
Lauren Knoblauch maintains this extensive list of links to various genealogy sites, all of which contain search functions. This site is an excellent starting point for the person who is bored of reading genealogical advice, family histories and anecdotes, and wants to find some hard facts relevant to their own search.
Knoblauch's site is a gateway to gigabytes of online information. Approximately 200 featured sites are grouped geographically. Each site is briefly described, so one knows exactly how many millions of individuals are lying at the other end of each link.
World Wide Cemetery
While we are on the subject of grave sites, the World Wide Cemetery is one of the gravest sites on the Web. As visitors enter the site, they are greeted with black iron bars and several color pictures of the recently departed. The page's link lists use headstones as bullets. On the whole, the site is about as fun and cozy as a cemetery, which is its goal, after all.
Yes, the World Wide Cemetery is a Net necropolis, wherein visitors are encouraged to inter loved ones electronically for all to see. Monuments can be viewed by alphabetical order, geographical location or by interment date; visitors can also leave electronic flowers and take a look at the site's special memorials. The main purpose of the site, though, is to collect rememberances from various visitors for money. Since there is a fee involved for these commemorative services, do not expect to find too many dead ancestors buried here unless you or one of your relatives is willing to pay for 90s-style solace.
Journal of Online Genealogy
The Journal of Online Genealogy is the latest project of Matthew Helm, webmaster of Helm's Genealogy Toolbox. This electronic magazine accepts articles from net genealogists about genealogical resources and advice available on the Internet. A new issue is released each month, and back issues are kept online. This commercially-sponsored site is always on the lookout for new advertisers and contributors.
The Journal has something for everyone. Sections of the magazine include Advanced Projects, Beginner Avenues, Commercial Sites, GENTECH Column, International Efforts, New Online Sites, Newsgroups and Mailing Lists, Society News and Software Trends. The informative articles are attractive and colorful without being graphically intensive, and the ads are not overly intrusive. Probably a good site to add to your hot list.
Although it has yet to achieve the notoriety of search engines such as AltaVista, Lycos and Yahoo, DejaNews is one of the most useful information gathering tools on the World Wide Web. Unlike most of its competition, DejaNews doesn't concentrate its attention on the web, but on Usenet newsgroups. DejaNews is a colorful and all-but-complete web-based interface with Usenet; not only does it allow visitors to browse through their favorite newsgroups each day, online forms also allow visitors to post messages directly to Usenet without ever leaving the comfort of the web.
As the name of the site implies, one of the most attractive functions of DejaNews is its archival of newsgroup postings. DejaNews saves copies of almost every message posted to Usenet, with the exception of binaries and some spam (junkmail) messages. All of these messages can be quickly searched for keywords. DejaNews has indexed and archived most messages posted to Usenet newsgroups since March 1995. This amounts to more than 175 gigabytes of searchable data! As if this wasn't enough, DejaNews plans to extend its scope further back and index all newsgroup postings since Usenet began in 1979.
What, then, are the practical applications of this technology for genealogists? There are several. Those with interests in a particular name or area can search for those keywords, providing they aren't too common. Genealogists who stumble upon an occupation or abbreviation they can't understand can search for that keyword - the odds are very good that someone else has had the problem before and it's already been solved. DejaNews can also help users identify the newsgroups in which they're most likely to find information of interest, so users can then either subscribe to these newsgroups with their regular news reader or just browse them when they next visit the DejaNews site. And if they don't get a chance to check Usenet for four or five years, no problem. Their mail will be waiting.
Yet another site with extremely lofty aspirations, GeneaNet's goal is nothing short of constructing a database indexing all the genealogical resources over the world, on-line as well as off-line. GeneaNet's database consists of a list of surnames dating before 1850 which connect to pointers toward further information. One simply enters a surname into GeneaNet's search program and up comes a list of addresses where one can find further information about people of that surname. These addresses could be websites, e-mail addresses or postal addresses. Searches can be limited geographically if one wishes. Among the resources stored in the collection are families studied by genealogists, genealogical publications (including both books and periodicals), manuscripts from libraries and archives and official sources such as church registers and deeds.
One of GeneaNet's nicest features is the ability to sign up with its SearchList to receive periodic e-mail updates on the names one is researching. Registering with the SearchList utility is a simple matter of filling in an online form with the surnames (and regions) in which one is interested and one's e-mail address. There is presently no limit on the number of names one can register.
GeneaNet is free of advertising, and a note at the bottom of its main page proclaims "GeneaNet is free, and will remain free forever."
Genealogy Resources on the Internet
This fairly large collection of files was compiled and is continuously updated by Christine Gaunt and John Fuller. The site is divided into access types, and then further sorted both alphabetically and by subject matter, making it very simple to find any particular item.
Gaunt and Fuller have been working on this index to Genealogical Resources on the Internet since 1994, making this site one of the originals. Gaunt maintains the website, Gopher and Telnet listings, while Fuller looks after the mailing lists, Usenet newsgroups, FTP sites and e-mail sites. One actually bounces back and forth between Gaunt and Fuller's separate servers when using Genealogical Resources on the Internet, but this will probably be completely transparent to most visitors.
The site's collection of websites is sorted by subject and is extremely comprehensive, but such listings of websites are fairly common. Far less common are the listings of Gopher, Telnet, FTP and e-mail resources. It's surprising to see a site that continues to acknowledge the existence of Gopher servers, as Gopher has been pretty much forgotten since the advent of the web. But Gopher sites still exist, and Gaunt has managed to round up more than 20 devoted to genealogy! There are a further 20 or so Telnet sites, which again are just a little off the beaten path, though perhaps not as close to being Internet antiques as Gopher sites.
Perhaps the most distinctively useful feature of this site is the descriptive link list of 1,572 genealogy mailing lists. These lists cover general topics, software, countries and states; there are also 1,145 mailing lists devoted to particular surnames. These e-mail lists will prove particularly useful to those with limited web/newsgroup access, as they contain a variety of tools, files and message groups one can receive through e-mail alone. The e-mail message lists one can subscribe to cover a much wider range of special interest topics than newsgroups, getting as specific as the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia.
The Gene Pool
This large site consisting of almost 300 separate pages is maintained and masterfully designed by graphic designer and genealogy buff Joanne Todd Rabun. The site is fashioned with an aquatic theme, and visitors are invited to dive in and swim through the many different selections currently online. There are almost 30 primary links from the main page. (Incidentally, this is the one serious flaw of the Gene Pool site: everything is lying in a big pile instead of being properly organized. Rabun seems aware that her site has grown beyond easy manageability, as she admits that she has had to use her genealogy software to create a descendancy chart for the various pages of her site. A copy of this descendancy chart is available online ... directly from the main page.)
As well as Rabun's personal family history and genealogy, the site features many items of interest to non-relatives. AmeriSpeak is Rabun's compilation of colorful sayings used by Americans in the past. The AmeriSpeak page teaches visitors that when our ancestors said "I'm fine as frog hair split in the middle," what they really meant was "I'm very well". So as not to be Americentric, Rabun has also included a listing of Ye Olde English Sayings. This collection of folk etymologies for a wide range of English expressions explains that the expression "raining cats and dogs" has its origin in the fact that "before sewers any rain, rubbish, etc. was thrown into a ditch that ran beside the road. When animals died they were also thrown into the ditch. When the heavy rains came the dead cats and dogs would be carried away with the water." Other entries are equally charming, and bring us in closer contact with the colorful phrases our ancestors used. One can add to these lists of expressions automatically, but unfortunately the user additions to these pages are in need of a little maintenance.
Other highlights include the knowledgeable advice on how to go about publishing your own family keepsakes, the extensive online list of suggested oral history questions and the Ancestor of the Month, wherein Rabun profiles one of her favorite dead relatives (the winner for June 1997 was Dorothy Cantrell, "the Cross-Dressing Quaker Grandma").
This site, created and maintained by Dorothy E. Stanley, is a step in the right direction. With alphabetical listings from ab nepos (a great-great-grandson) to yellow fever, the Genealogy Dictionary is a useful tool to genealogists puzzling over all the various antiquated terms which turn up in the course of genealogical research. The dictionary includes Latin words, heraldic terms, little-known legal terms, old disease names, out-of-date occupation names, terms related to genealogical computing and more. My only criticism is that the list is too short to be a definitive guide. If the thoroughness of this list could be greatly increased, I'm sure it could earn a place on just about everyone's bookmarks list.
They say that everyone is related to one another within six degrees of separation. While genealogists have long realized that, broadly speaking, everyone is everyone else's cousin, few have attempted to apply this knowledge in a practical manner.
A free, advertising-driven site called The Seeker invites genealogists to do just this, and to employ the six degrees tactic in locating lost relatives. The Seeker is not the only site to adopt this six degrees of separation approach, nor is it the best of the bunch, but it seems to be the only site of its kind which was specifically designed with genealogists in mind.
The mechanics of the six-degree search system are really quite simple. When visitors first visit the site, they are asked to check The Seeker's databases and find out if anyone is looking for them. Visitors are also invited to place a message looking for their friends and relatives. By filling in a short form listing the sought-after party, the submitter's contact information and a brief message, one instantly places a free search advertisement online. It is even possible to include a photo with one's message for no extra charge.
Listings are broken down into five sections: Native Americans, Generally Seeking, Militarily Seeking, Seeking Beneficiaries and Relatively Seeking, all of which might be appropriate for genealogical searches under certain conditions. Use the Relatively Seeking section to see if someone is searching for people with your surname, or begin your own surname search. The Relatively Seeking section contains an online listing of adoptees in search of birth parents and vice-versa. This section is also useful to separated siblings attempting to reunite.
The Factually Seeking section of The Seeker offers an excellent introduction to the art of finding people. This section offers dozens of fantastic tips people may never have thought of, ranging from the very beginning steps (try directory assistance and alumni associations) all the way up to more advanced measures (checking for lawsuits, bankruptcies and corporation ownerships). The Factually Seeking section is subtitled "How to find your friends and relatives if they don't have a computer and can't see The Seeker," but this is actually good advice for anyone seeking living relatives.
The Seeker's Sought and Found section is filled with dozens of stories from past users who have been successfully reunited with friends, birth relatives and other lost relatives through The Seeker, many of whom exult the reader to never give up no matter how hopeless the search may seem.
Unfortunately, the sad fact is that these people were among the lucky few. The Seeker probably won't function perfectly until every sixth person on Earth is signed up.
Books We Own
Books We Own is a cooperative library coordinated by Michael Colvin. The website consists of an categorized list of resources that are owned or accessible to members of the ROOTS-L mailing list. These members are willing to look up genealogical information and share it with other genealogists, either through e-mail or postal mail. Visitors are reminded that resource owners are volunteers with a limited amount of time and resources to spend looking up information, and are asked to keep their queries within reasonable limits. There is a maximum of three surnames per query.
Obtaining information from the Books We Own project is quite simple. The main index page breaks the data available down by country/state/province/county, surname and other categories. Within each sub-index, there will be anywhere from one to several dozen listings of book titles, together with a short list of their contents. These books are the sort genealogists dream of finding. Search the various lists for the information you are seeking. When you find a resource that you'd like the owner to search for you, click on the two- or three-letter code at the end of the resource's description. This links you to a brief request form, that must be filled out and automatically sent to the owner. Follow the instructions on the form to frame your requests.
Genealogy CD Lookup
Those interested in the Books We Own project may also be interested in Lori Hoffman's Genealogy CD Lookup. The CD Lookup site lists several dozen data CDs by number and description, together with the e-mail addresses of the various owners. Among the many CDs that volunteers are willing to browse are Family Tree Maker's Family Archives and World Family Tree CDs, the Social Security Death Index CDs, Federal Census Index CDs, and ProPhone's phonebook CDs for various countries. Though very poorly designed, this page provides a useful service by connecting researchers with the resources they need in much the same way as the Books We Own project.