The Genealogy Journey

The newbie genealogist's resource for books, mags, databases, and -- of course -- any free research stuff to be found on the Internet.

Friday, February 17, 2006

What Resources Does Your Library Offer?

I’ve always had a deep love for libraries. Do you know how everyone carries around a set of beliefs which they use to operate in the world? Well, one of my beliefs is that the library has all the answers. And once again, the library has come through for me. I recently explored what my local library had to offer to assist with genealogical research.

Search the library catalog using “genealogy” or “family tree” as keywords. When I did this for “genealogy,” I found 150 items, such as:

- Genealogical histories for Georgia counties
- Land lottery listings
- A guide for African Americans to trace their roots
- Red Book – A reference book that lists the best genealogical resources by state
- Various books on finding your ancestors online
- A book by Denise Austin on shrinking your female fat zones (How did that get into the list? Turns out the book summary mentions the “genealogy of female fat.”)
- A guide to cemetery research
- Scrapbooking ideas for your family tree

Your library may also provide access to a wide variety of databases. When I searched these databases for “genealogy,” I found hundreds of articles, some scholarly, but some mainstream (Newsweek, Essence). And these aren’t old articles. The Newsweek article I saw mentioned the recent PBS special on tracing African American history.

When I spoke with the librarian, she said the library has microfiche readers. Using these, you can research newspapers that date back to 1868. You can also bring in your own microfiche and read it there.

I’ve saved the best for last. My helpful librarian also said that library card holders can search the Ancestry databases for free while at the library. ( databases are normally only available with a paid subscription, except for special promotions.) I can’t actually verify this further because it’s late and my library is closed, but I will let you know later when/if I’m able to log onto the system.

If you can’t find what you need at your library, ask about an inter-library loan or ask the library to order the item. My library allows you to request a book purchase and if it’s approved, they’ll let you be the first one to read it when it arrives!

Excuse me while I kiss my library card …

~Mary Kaye

P.S. I checked and found out that they are showing the PBS special "African American Lives" again on February 25th. Part 1 and Part 2 are shown in one night -- I think it'll run from 8 p.m. to 12 p.m. This time, I'm going to make sure to schedule a reminder about Part 2!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Efficient Genealogical Software Still Can’t Prevent Human Error

I’ve mentioned this before: my father has done a great job of documenting his side and my mother’s side of the family. So for now, I’ve decided to leave my family tree alone. With my level of inexperience, I just might muck it all up. What I think would give me the most education (and material to blog about, of course!) is to trace my husband’s family tree.

I’m embarrassed to admit this, but for all the blathering I’ve done about researching my family tree, I’ve actually done nothing but research on genealogy itself – nothing on specific families. Until today.

Today I was able to successfully install the free version of Legacy Family Tree and enter some of Todd’s family’s data. The application is easy to use and full-featured – not something I would expect from a free software application. (Check out Legacy Family Tree’s standard features here.)

As I entered information into LFT, I was struck by how much could go awry. The software may be flawless, but the humans entering it surely aren’t. For example, the compiled Stiff info I have says that Todd’s grandfather’s middle name was Lodowic, but I’m pretty sure I’ve seen it somewhere as Ludwick (or was that Ludowic?). And I don’t know Todd’s sister’s middle name.

Little things like that make me realize that when working with so much information (or so little of it), you do have to be detail-oriented, organized, and patient. If you’re not, or don’t learn to be, you might become overcome by frustration and quit.

For now, my own confusion with the genealogical process and hesitancy with the software doesn’t bother me. After all that research I’ve done the past couple of weeks – checking out Web sites and hanging out in forums – I realize that help is just a few keystrokes away.

~Mary Kaye

Monday, February 13, 2006

Check Out

I definitely haven't been at my blogging best the past few days. And I hate to send you away when I finally have your attention, but this blog is only to show you another great genealogy link that could absorb your attention for hours:

Right now I'm trying to download the free version of Legacy Family Tree and I'm waiting for them to send me a password so I can install it. Except that it's been about 15 minutes and I haven't received it yet. I'll try to get it installed tomorrow and let you know what I think. I've heard good things about it.

~Mary Kaye

P.S. I was really annoyed when I realized I had missed Part 2 of that PBS documentary on African American ancestry. Sorry about that. Maybe they'll run it again soon.