Thanks to the growth of the Internet, tracing
the roots of your family tree has never been easier.
Genealogy, the study of family descendants, is the
third most popular hobby in the United States. More
and more resources for genealogists are appearing
on-line every day, and a wide range of computer software
exists to help you keep track of your research.
For those just getting started, genealogy
experts recommend two things. First, start your
research with the person you know best: you. In other
words, don’t start with some famous ancestor and try
to work forward in time. Start with yourself and
your immediate relatives and work back. Secondly,
experts say if you have any interest in genealogy, the time
to start is now. We are all getting older; to learn
your family history from your relatives, start talking
The Internet makes it easier to start talking
to those relatives, especially if you have an
unusual name. Over the 6-7 years that I’ve been on-line,
I’ve received a number of e-mails from other
Daffrons trying to figure out how I fit into the family tree.
In fact, thanks to the Internet and helpful relatives,
one member of our family now has 10,700+ names in
his database that tracks Daffrons back to the 1700s.
The Cyndi’s List site (www.cyndislist.com) is a great place to start learning about genealogy.
Expert Cyndi Howells has written a number of books
and created a vast site with (currently) more than
76,000 links to help people trace their roots.
After you have a game plan for your research,
head to RootsWeb (www.rootsweb.com), a huge site where you can search databases with census,
land, marriage, and obituary records. The site also
features the searchable Roots Surname List, which is a
collection of submitted surname and location information.
Family Search is another vast site (www.familysearch.org). The on-line information
is part of the world’s largest genealogical
repository taken from the Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints’ library in Salt Lake City and is available
free of charge for both church members and nonmembers. Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com) is
another site with useful databases, including the Social
Security Administration’s Death Index and many others.
Pursing your ancestry can be addictive. It’s like
a giant detective story, and the farther back you go,
the more convoluted the family tree gets. However,
a number of genealogical software products are
available to help you sort through and keep track of
the tangled branches. When you evaluate genealogy products, look for a couple of acronyms if you
want to share your data. GEDCOM (GEnealogical Data COMmunications) and Personal Ancestral
File (PAF) are data transfer formats that most
software supports. A few popular programs include:
Ancestors and Descendants, $47 (www.aia-and.com),
Family Origins, $29.95-$39.95 (www.formalsoft.com),
Family Tree Maker, $59.99, from Broderbund
Software, Inc. (www.familytreemaker.com), and Sierra’s
Generations Family Tree, $89.99 (www.sierra.com/sierrahome/familytree/).
As you develop your tree, you may want to seek out others to help you fill in the gaps. At
the Genealogy.com site (www.genealogy.com), you’ll find GenForum
(www.genforum.genealogy.com), which claims to be the largest genealogy
message board available. Another popular message board
is on the Family History site (www.familyhistory.com).
Unearthing your family’s roots can be an enormous undertaking. On-line sources can help you
get started, but experts warn that like anything else,
you shouldn’t believe everything you read. For
accurate research, you should head for traditional
sources such as your library to learn more. It’s easy to
see why for many people, genealogical detective work is
a rewarding hobby that can turn into a lifelong project.