Archive - December 2015

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Missed Milestone
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Wiki Work
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5 Free Sites for Genealogy Research

Missed Milestone

You would think that by now I’d have this on my calendar, but I totally zoomed past my 20th anniversary as a Web publisher, completely oblivious! That’s right, even people who call themselves amateur historians (emphasis on the amateur adjective, obviously) can forget dates sometimes. Mine was in October 1995, when I released my first personally owned and operated website. While I no longer have that site, it is still online.

Since 1995 I’ve started many other websites, some successful, others not so much. Most were on my own behalf, a few for friends or organizations, and some for business purposes, whether my companies or for hire. This New Year’s Eve seems to have triggered some reminiscing, but I promise not to get too nostalgic. Let’s just say it’s been quite a ride, and I’m happy to have yet another new site launched here, still experimenting with mixing things up. In this case, of course, the experimentation comes in the form of an integrated wiki and blog, which I have high hopes will prove to be a winning combination. Each publishing format has its pros and cons, so by doing both simultaneously the objective is to take advantage of the up sides of both, while making up for any deficiencies by trading off between the different sides of the site. I’d be happy to hear your comments about how well it’s working, here or on Twitter.

So, here’s to the past, and to the future! Happy New Year!

Happy New Year 2016

Wiki Work

In my first post I mentioned that as well as this blog, Frayed Genes offers a wiki for collecting information in a more organized format than blogging allows. It is available now, and is starting to take shape, with the beginnings of an outline on the main page, and a few pages of actual information. You can always find it by clicking the “Wiki” link in the navigation bar at the top right of this page, and find your way back here by using the link in the navigation sidebar on the wiki.

FG wiki screenshot

The first items added to the wiki are from the previous blog post about free websites (with a few more added to the ones discussed in the blog), and several pages about using social media, especially Twitter, for genealogy research and sharing results or quests. While most of the topic headings are just empty placeholders for now, I will be working on adding pages behind the links on a continuing basis, so keep coming back to watch the progress. My hope is that the wiki will become a useful reference for all genealogists and family historians, not just beginners.

If you have suggestions for things to include that I haven’t yet added to the list, please do let me know in the comments here, @FrayedGenes on Twitter or sign up for an account on the wiki and add them yourself! The software is the same as that used by Wikipedia, so it is robust and has ample documentation. If you haven’t used it before, have a look at the User Guide available from a link at the bottom of the main page. The markup language is a bit different from HTML, but it is pretty easy to learn.

Enjoy!

5 Free Sites for Genealogy Research

Please notice that this is not called the “top sites” or “best sites”. This list is simply five websites I find useful when doing genealogy research, and think you might, too.

  1. FamilySearch.org
    Started and mostly funded by the Church of Latter Day Saints (LDS or Mormon church), the FamilySearch site is free for anyone to use, not just church members. As well as family trees contributed by individuals, which may be unsourced and possibly inaccurate, there are many digitized original documents available, including books, civil records and other useful material. The LDS Church has the largest archives of genealogical and historical material in the world, which is constantly growing.
  2. FindAGrave.com
    Now a part of Ancestry.com, a paid site, FindAGrave is pledged to remain a free service. This site is useful for finding family links as well as details about individuals whose burial sites are recorded as “memorial” pages. A large number of volunteers contribute data and photgraphs of graves and people, and strive to provide links to memorial pages of family members, which can aid researchers in finding relatives. While errors do occur, and source documentation is not always cited, it is sometimes possible to contact the contributors and get that information. I have personally made contact with several distant relatives who have worked with me to expand our knowledge of our mutual families. The site also has a useful feature called “virtual cemeteries” where contributors can collect links to pages that may not have connecting links. This is very useful for sharing information with family who are not as much “into” researching themselves, but are curious about who they are related to, as well as helping the contributor organize pages by groups in many possible ways.
  3. GENi
    I have only recently begun using GENi, which provides a visual way to build a family-tree record. As well as adding one’s own information, there is a matching process to help achieve the site’s goal of “one person, one card” (to eliminate duplicate entries). The free basic account makes it a little less convenient, but not impossible, to find matches, but there are helpful, articulate volunteers available to guide those who need help (as I do). The “pro” account is reasonably priced and provides some additional tools, but it is possible to benefit from and contribute to the site without paying anything.
  4. Google Books
    While not strictly a genealogy website, Google Books does have a large and growing collection of digitized publications, including many hard-to-find antique family genealogies and histories, historical journals, and publication information about some publications that are not available as ebooks, but may still be available from booksellers or libraries. Many of their ebooks are free, some are available for a price, while others are merely listed as references for the reader to find on their own. My online “library” of Google books is extensive and has been very useful for my genealogical work and general historical self-education.
  5. Wikipedia
    A user-supported, user-created free online “encyclopedia of everything”, Wikipedia is an excellent source of geographical information as well as info about famous and some not-so-famous people. It also has pages about other things of interest to genealogists, such as diseases, occupations and tools, historical events, and so on. As the site has developed over the years, it has become more reliable, although as with any secondary source data found in it should be verified if at all possible.

Natually, there are many, many other useful websites, but this is a good start. I will be creating more annotated lists like this one in the future, so if you have favorites you would like me to include, or questions about any of these, or want to know about some I have not included here, please let me know in the comments section or on Twitter.

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