Is My Family Already On The Internet?

8 January 2010

Not too many years ago, most genealogists and family historians used to submit their names and research interests to society journals or genealogical research directories (GRD’s), either local, national and/or international. We would then sit back and hopefully someone would contact us and there would be a connection and an exchange of information. Originally this was by snail mail and then email.

I made a few connections that way but not as many as I have made since placing my names in Genes Reunited a couple of years ago. This is the only online database I have placed my family names in although I do know of other similar sites like My Heritage, Ancestral File and where other distant relatives have added family names.

However I have not made as much use of the ‘wonders’ of the Internet as I did so religiously every year with the GRD’s – why is this so? Is it because the GRD’s were once a year effort and then you just waited? With the online ones you are constantly checking, adding, contacting etc that sometimes there is no time to do it and there are so many more to be in contact with.

This blog ramble is because I am cranky with myself – I did not make the effort to check other online databases in case my family were already mentioned in them. Every time I went to a family history library in the past I would look up new GRD’s just in case there was a connection but I don’t do it with the online ones even though I can do it at home.

Those who have been regularly reading my two blogs SHHE Genie Rambles and Brick Wall Solutions on Unlock the Past will know that I have been looking for Helen Carnegie/Ellen Ferguson and recently had a breakthrough. I will be writing the whole story in a new Brick Wall Solutions blog next week and I don’t want to spoil the story too much, but the solution to my brick wall was on the Internet back in 2004. But I never thought to look at where I eventually found the answer. Intrigued?

Like everyone else,  I put my names into Google and come up with lots of references even when I use inverted commas eg “Helen Carnegie” I still get 2,380 hits. It drops to about 555 hits when I use an advanced search and add in her husband Alexander Ferguson. There are only 130 hits when I use Alexander Miller Ferguson and it was interesting going through those hits. But I still didn’t find what I was looking for.

The World Connect site is part of Rootsweb, an community and one that I don’t look in very much for my own family. I have for my partner’s as I know he has relatives that have entered their families there. When I enter Helen Carnegie I get 112 results, when I add her father’s name John Carnegie I get 20 results. My Helen is the ninth entry and there is her second husband (that I didn’t know about until recently) and her death date and burial place (I ordered the death certificate back in November and only received it on 4 Jan 2010 but that’s another story). Her death certificate gave me the name of her second husband and it was his name, Charles Wademore Chick, that I was looking for, not Helen’s. The searches I illustrated above I did after I knew she was in World Connect but I would still have found her without knowing about the second husband, if I had ever looked.

I have since made contact with the person who placed the entry (connected via her second husband) and there will be yet another sequel to Helen’s story. Don’t miss next week’s Brick Wall Solutions as I will update the story from where we last left it.

So the point of this blog is – make more use of online databases but how do we know which ones are out there? I use Rootsweb mailing lists all the time but forget about World Connect. Should I now search all my names in case there are more distant relations out there? How do others keep up with these databases, especially when they don’t show up via Google?

Last words – I am finally going to sit down and thoroughly read Dan Lynch‘s Google Your Family Tree: Unlock the Hidden Power of Google.  The question is not – Is my family already on the Internet? – but rather – How much of my family is already on the Internet?

PS I am not saying that everything is on the Internet, only that we need to make more use of it as a finding aid to assist us with our research whether it be in libraries, archives or digital collections and in making contact with other distant family members.


Shauna has been tracing her own family history since 1977 and is a Fellow of the Queensland Family History Society. In 2009 Shauna received the Australasian Federation of Family History Organisations (AFFHO) Services to Family History Award for her achievements in Queensland, Canberra and Victoria.

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1 Comment

  1. That’s a coincidence – I thought to check Worldconnect for one of my ancestors just today. I hadn’t looked in ages. I found him there and a few more generations besides. This time the information looks promising. My past experience of searching uploaded GEDCOMs has been that there’s a lot of cut-and-paste genealogy out there, with little regard for verification.

    Perhaps the reason we did more of these searches pre-internet is actually because making contact required more effort. The contacts you did make were more likely to be serious researchers.

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