Jane Booras is the Editor of numerous newsletters including our Campus Times. She will be sharing how you can find whatever you need - photos, clipart, information, maps, phone numbers - on the Internet.
Roots…I’m in a time warp. Iowa is just gorgeous this time of year. And, yes, the corn is almost knee high. The rolling hills are green and lush and the air is clear and clean. I just spent a week in my home town.
Here we stayed with Alice Marie and Arnold. Alice has been my friend since we were born within three months of each other, and Arnold since high school. They are truly the king and queen of hospitality and both have lived in Rock Rapids all their lives. We were also joined, happily, by my oldest son, David, his wife Grace, and my granddaughter Stephanie. My sister Mary and her husband Gary drove down from their Wisconsin home and lived in a camper outside the farm house. My dear husband stayed back home and took care of our pets and the house, but still it was really a wonderful family and friends reunion.
My son is into serious family genealogy. He has studied and posted family history on the Internet for many years. His main purpose for making this trip was to hear stories and see, first hand, the old family homes and haunts in town and the burial plots at the cemetery (he’s big on visiting cemeteries). We spent one whole day shooting pictures around town.
Highlights of the hometown tour were a luncheon at the old Methodist church where his Dad and I were married, the annual Heritage Days parade, and, of course, the cemetery.
David shared information about how to trace ancestry and post family genealogy on the Internet. He recommends starting at http://familysearch.org. This is the well-known Mormon Church site that is thought to have the most complete and accurate records and links for this kind of information. Here you can download software to help you get started. It’s free and called PAF. Personal Ancestral File (PAF) is a free genealogy and family history program. PAF allows you to quickly and easily collect, organize and share your family history and genealogy information. Most of this site is free, however you can buy certain records and databases.
The other site he recommends is http://ancestry.com. This site has a membership fee, but if you’re serious about genealogy, this is a must. There are different levels of membership (monthly, 3-month and annual) and a free trial subscription, but the most it would cost is about $300 per year. But for lower levels of membership it’s much less. He believes this site contains the most legitimate, valuable and well-indexed information available.
Finally, for cemetery information, David suggests http://usgenweb.org. It is a free site and coordinated strictly by volunteers.
A few important hints:· Patience and perseverance! That’s what it takes to search records and nose around for information. Eventually, no doubt, you’ll leave the Internet and end up poking around in old libraries and courthouses and slogging through cemeteries.
· Be wary if an Internet site asks for money, and be sure to give no personal information unless you are certain that you are on a secure site.
· Other places to search for old school classmates are http://www.facebook.com and http://www.reunion.com, and http://www.classmates.com.
· Consider misspellings and misinformation. When David had difficulty finding records, he learned to try other spellings of names. Down through the years, through bad handwriting, smudged papers and just plain mistakes, he found that many names are now spelled differently than the originals. He points out that it's common to find conflicting information. One source online may say John's parents were Fred and Wilma, and another may say they were Barney and Betty. Who's right? Maybe they both are, but one of them is talking about a different John... who unfortunately lived in the same town at the same time but isn't the one you're looking for. The lines get blurry fast, and some real detective work is usually required to prove things beyond a reasonable doubt.
· To document your lineage on some sites, you may need a certified birth certificate. This can be obtained on line, or scanned if you have the original. You only need certified birth certificates (for yourself and your ancestors) for membership into DAR/SAR (Daughters or Sons of the American Revolution) or other organizations requiring specific proof. However, finding and obtaining copies of vital records (birth/marriage/death) is an important part of the research process, because these are primary sources. They “prove” something. Finding info on the Internet is great, but it's all unproven until you have paper records in your hand that corroborate your findings.
· Sooner or later, you will want to (or have to) learn to scan pictures and document and store and organize them on line.
Gee, that’s enough for today. And I haven’t even told you yet about the fresh strawberries, my long-lost 2nd cousin in South Dakota, the $9.95 rib eye, the 1939 tractor in the railroad depot museum or the Tipsy House and old wooden roller coaster at Arnolds Park at Lake Okoboji!