Saturday, February 2, 2008

Mad props to

The Internet is a wonderful tool for accomplishing any kind of research. Unfortunately, because you don't have to be an expert and have credentials to post information to the web, there is a lot of drek out there. A lot. The Internet has filled the world of genealogy with countless amounts of misinformation - someone posts unsubstantiated information, which is copied by somebody else, which is copied by someone else, and its soon taken as fact. It almost makes genealogy research harder. I'm all for helping other genealogists out, for sharing of family research, but I'm also of the belief that if they can't back that information up, then you need to before you use it and pass it along to others.

So, lots of drek - anybody with access to the Internet can post their family tree, substantiated or not. But there's a wealth of good, factual information, a lot of primary sources that the Internet has opened access to, and for that, it has made genealogy research worlds easier. It's just all about being a savvy surfer.

For me, my Internet genealogy goldmine has been I started with a free trial and was quickly hooked. Like the rest of the Internet, there are parts of Ancestry that shouldn't be taken at its word - anybody can post an unsourced, unresearched family tree on their site. But the Ancestry community page lets you meet and talk with others looking for the same information you are - both family members I met doing genealogy, Milt Haase and April Earle, found me through Ancestry. And people can post queries from all over the world, so if you're doing research on your family from an obscure town in Germany, there just might be another user from that town who can help you out.

But most important about Ancestry are the primary sources it has unlocked, and that information has been a vital part of building my tree. I won't list every record they hold, but I have personally found important and interesting information from the U.S. census (they have them from 1790-1930, with the exception of the 1890 census, which was destroyed by a fire); the Canadian census; ship passenger manifests; naturalization records; newspaper obituaries; birth, death, and marriage records from individual states such as North Carolina, Minnesota, Texas, and California; passport applications; and banking records. The records available on the site run the gamut from broad, universal records like the U.S. census to special, regional records for a particular town or time period.

Of course, you don't ever get something for nothing. You have to pay to get access to Ancestry, and there are plans based on what records you want access to...full access to the site is somewhat pricey, but for someone like me who uses the site practically every day and who uses more than census records, it might be worth it to pay that price.

I don't think Ancestry is the only pay site out there with this wealth of information, either, but its the one I use and the one I love. Two snaps to them for making my research so much easier and restoring my faith in the Internet as a viable research tool.

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