When I started working on my genealogy in 1977, I used pencils, notebooks and handwritten charts to record and organize the information. I did all my research in libraries, archives, and courthouses.
That was before the personal computer. Computers and genealogy programs have allowed us to organize our research with relative efficiency and ease. Increasingly, the Internet is changing the way we research.
There are millions of genealogy Web sites. The challenge is how to use the Internet effectively and efficiently for research. There are five types of Web sites that can be used for genealogy research. Many sites are a combination of two or more different types.
When using the Internet index Web sites, it is important to become familiar with the web site search engine and the index content. First, learn what is in the index. Find out the comprehensiveness, the time period, and the places it covers. This information can be found in the description of the index on the web site.
Next, determine what kinds of searches can be done on the site. Does it allow soundex searches? Can a surname be used without a given name? Can searches be done for a selected index? Can a search be done with just a place? Options vary by web site.
Census indexes are probably the most used databases in genealogy. Before you begin searching, check to see if it is an every name or head of household index. You can do this by reading the description. An every name index, indexes all names listed on the census. A head of household index, indexes only the person designated as the head of household on the census entry.
The collaborative sites can be useful for gathering clues for genealogy, but should never be used as a source. Databases such as WorldConnect are assembled from family trees submitted by genealogists. The information found in these databases can help in pointing to original records but should not be used alone.
Next month I will share some of my favorite Web sites.