Ms. Genealogist

Friday, June 15, 2012

My Readers and the GenWeb Solution

My Readers

One of the joys of writing this column is the number of wonderful people I meet who have read my columns and contact me. Jan Wadlington of Washington, D.C., picked up a copy of my articles in the Family Genealogy Magazine while visiting the library and she mailed the note below. I think the query and response will be of interest to a number of my readers so, with her permission, I am sharing it with you:

"Hello. My dear cousin I read your article...I found it of interest as I am wanting to research my family name, and I noticed that you have done extensive research on our family lines. Your Cousin, Jan"

Hello Jan. Welcome to the bewildering world of Family History research. There are many people in a similar situation to yours and most of us who have been involved for some time started in much the same way. The short answer to your question is yes, I can suggest a number of resources that might have helpful information, but there are a few things that must be done first.

There are thousands of people and hundreds of families who have the same name but are not related, so you have to be in a position to know that the person you are researching in England is, in fact, related. The only way to do this is to work backwards from what you know to what you want to know.

Knowing where information can be found only becomes really important when we have a very specific piece of information we are looking for, otherwise it is like looking for a needle in a haystack.

I wrote a column a week ago on "Getting Started" but, in case you missed it, I am including a copy as an attachment to this letter. You will have to trace your family (ours) back to the first one who arrived in United States. Who were his parents? Where did they come from? Grab every scrap of information you can and document it because some family stories are not 100% correct, and no one's memory is perfect.

At that point you can start looking for his parents in England and work backwards from them to earlier ancestors. I have dealt and will continue to deal with a variety of sources for researching English ancestors but, if you are ready for them before that, let me know where you are in your research and what specifically you are looking for, and I will send the information to you.

Lots of luck with your research and please make sure to have fun with it. Lots of us find it addictive. It's nice to have a cousin to help with the research of our family name (Wadlington). Your cousin, Ms. Sylvia

The early days of research are also the best time to start using a standardized form for recording your findings. A good form will have spaces for all the key information, including the source of it, and the empty spaces are a reminder of what still has to be looked for. Sample forms are available in introductory books on genealogy and family history. I listed a number of sources of free forms in a previous column and I can e-mail the information to anyone who needs it.

As your files start getting a little unwieldy, you might consider using a computer program as most researchers do. There are a number of these on the market and most of them are very user friendly. You really don't have to know much about computers to use them. I have used different programs but the two I find most useful is Family Tree Maker (which has to be purchased) the other one I use, is Personal Ancestral File (PAF).

PAF is available at no charge from the Family History Library in Salt Lake City and can be downloaded right into your computer. It comes with an extensive help manual. You can find it at: It is one of the most popular and the price is just right (Free).

Ms. Sylvia what can you tell me about "GenWeb?" How do I use this and is it the best site to start my genealogy research? Regina W.

The GenWeb Solution

When undertaking family history research on the internet you quickly discover that there is so much that you are likely to feel swamped and confused. The internet is like an enormous library in which the books are randomly shelved. A search engine will turn up an enormous number of sites, many of which have nothing to do with your search and may be of very uneven quality. I did a Google search for "Thomas Wadlington" (the quotation marks require that both words appear in the site) and turned up 380 sites!

One of the solutions is to find someone who has already collected and organized the kind of sites you need. This is where the worldwide GenWeb project comes in. It is a project of enormous scope and vision. It is volunteer-run and hosted on the web by Rootsweb. It is organized geographically and if you go to:, you can select the country you want. That page will contain national information and links to other sites with that kind of information. It will also list major geographical/political divisions of the country, and you can select the one you want -- in the United States you would select the state your ancestor lived in -- and here you will find information and links for genealogy, along with a list of the next level down (counties). You can then select the county you are interested in. For example: Select: United States: then South Carolina: then Newberry District or Newberry County: then Family Histories; Surname: Select W for Wadlington; then so on. This is usually were you hit your goldmine. There are all kinds of help on researching that county and links to other organizations, repositories and online databases that can help you. Try it out and you will be amazed at the resources you will find and how easy it is to find information about your family surname.

One other memo I would like to share with all my readers: Genealogy is all about sharing with one another. Share your information, be responsible send your sources and documentation. Share and share alike. By sharing, we keep the cost of genealogy affordable to all. I welcome comments, queries and suggestions at: attn: Ms. Sylvia