Computers in Genealogy

More On-line Research

Wayne Thalls

In previous columns I have listed some web sites and e-mail addresses for genealogical resources. This time, I want to tell you about some results of my own on-line search. Perhaps this will inspire you to venture into cyberspace.

Until a few months ago I knew virtually nothing of my mother's family. Oh yes, I knew the names of her parents. Both grandparents were born in Kentucky. I even had the names of her mother's parents. I looked for the family names on the Roots Surname List (RSL). I described that resource in a previous column.

I found someone was pursuing my grandfathers surname in Kentucky. I sent an e-mail providing basic information about my grandparents. Almost immediately he verified that we were working on the same family. He knew of the grandparent's marriage, but had no further information on them. He was following a parallel line. My newly found third cousin once removed mailed (the old-fashioned way) information going back 6 generations on my grandfather's line.

As a further bit of serendipity, the cousin provided me with the e-mail address of someone in New Jersey who was researching the family of my maternal grandmother. I immediately sent an e-mail. Next day, I received a message verifying that he had several generations of family information. In a day or so I received a GEDCOM file. That file contained records of about 600 family members. They take me back to my g-g-g-grandparents in early eighteenth century France.

GEDCOM (GEnealogical Data COMmunication) is a file formatting protocol developed by the LDS Church to facilitate the transfer of records. For example, records created on a Macintosh with ROOTS IV can be transferred to a PC using PAF. I imported the records originally created by Family Tree Maker into my own Family Roots program. No retyping was required. I'll keep this as a separate file until I have studied it more carefully. Eventually I will integrate the new records into my existing family information.

I also recently found someone on the RSL who was searching two of my wife's lines. This new-found cousin mailed me a diskette containing about 12,000 records in GEDCOM format. These records represent the independent work of four researchers. Very little of the information duplicates my existing records. I have barely begun checking and verifying these records. In turn, I sent GEDCOM files covering my records to the researcher in Maryland . This was mostly new information for him.

Like many people, I have long been fascinated with Civil War history. Finding personal connections with those times brings a different perspective to your family history. Over the years I had found information in obituaries, cemetery records and local historical archives. I learned that my wife's maternal great-grandfather had died in 1904 of complications from Civil War injuries. I obtained a copy of his discharge and pension documents. I didn't know anything about the history of his military unit. I also wanted to learn something of the history of the infantry unit with which my great-grandmother's brother had seen nearly six years of active duty.

One Civil War Web site I discovered, is devoted to Indiana militia. There are sites for other states. I downloaded unit histories for the 34th and 47th Indiana Infantry Battalions. Concise chronological histories were available, supplemented by detailed records of all their military engagements.

I haven't found any ancestors among Descendants of Charlemagne at or 30,000 German Nobles at or Mayflower Families at or Monarchs of England and Great Britain at . There aren't any kin to be found on Genealogy of U.S. Presidents at .

I have found relatives listed in the Social Security Death Index at . I've also found connections using the U.S. Residential Telephone Directories at .

There are other benefits related to these information highway adventures. The amount of money I spend on postage has decreased over the past year or so--I am now in regular e-mail contact with seven of my own cousins, and nine related to my wife. Unfortunately, there isn't much scenery to be photographed along this highway. I still plan to visit the actual sites where those ancestors spent their lives.

© 1996   From the newletter of the Genealogical Society of Santa Cruz County

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