The Internet is vast and easily intimidating. Start from the known, and gradually explore the unknown.
Get an e-mail account and take advantage of the Internet’s networking capabilities. Join a mailing list with which you have a common ethnic, geographic, surname or subject interest.
Become familiar with at least one Web search engine (Google is the best known, and Alta Vista is also good) and at least one Web metasearch site (Dogpile http://www.dogpile.com/ and Metacrawler http://www.metacrawler.com/ are good examples). To occasionally cast a wide net over the World Wide Web, these sites are useful.
Regularly use Web and e-mail contacts to search for data and research new leads. Practice makes perfect.
Examples of Useful Websites
Personal pages centered around one family. Look for these using a search engine or go to Cyndi's List, at http://www.cyndislist.com/ which is one of the largest and most extensive of the free resources.
Clearinghouses for individuals' research such as Ancestry's World Tree, http://www.ancestry.com/trees/awt/main.htm, from where information can be freely viewed and exchanged. The quality of such information, of course, depends on each individual researcher's reliability and documentation. Some people call these “boards.”
Official (civil) records. Generally, digitization of recent official vital records is a low priority for their custodians. Concerns about privacy and potential misuse have also limited online availability of official vital records. Some are available through AncestryPlus, available through Galileo, at http://www.galileo.usg.edu/ at the library or from home with a password (GA death index for example). Remember to search for vital records using a search engine on the internet. Other official records, however, can be very useful to genealogists, such as the Ellis Island Records at http://www.ellisislandrecords.org/ An example of an even more ambitious plan is the Hamburg Passenger Lists database at http://www.linktoyourroots.hamburg.de/
Indices to and abstracts of vital records or statewide indices to vital records such as records from federal and state records accessible through AncestryPlus are very helpful. Rootsweb, at http://www.ancestry.com/trees/awt/main.htm, is a free genealogy site supported by Ancestry.
Information extracted or abstracted from non-official records, such as the Palmer List of Merchant Vessels at http://www.geocities.com/mppraetorius/ is worth pursuing. The Augusta Chronicle is a resource available at the library. The Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System at http://www.itd.nps.gov/cwss/ is another resource on the web. Augusta Chronicle at http://www.augustaarchives.com is an example of newspaper archives.
Don't ignore websites created by or on behalf of the local genealogical community, like the USGenWeb Project, at http://www.usgenweb.com/ or the Augusta Genealogy Society at http://www.augustagensociety.org/ . Richmond County has a gravesite search available at http://www.augustaga.gov/departments/trees_landscaping/graveside_default.asp. Also of use is the Augusta-Richmond County Historical Society at http://www.thearchs.org/.
Let the surfer beware--scams exist, and ethics matters
The Internet is a democratic medium--established institutions, profit-driven companies, well-intentioned and often talented individuals and societies, and downright charlatans are all equal. The Hoaxes and Scams Page of Cyndi's List at http://www.cyndislist.com/myths.htm is a register of the latter. Be careful out there!
Genealogists--good ones, anyway--have standards. We suggest you follow the ones developed by the National Genealogical Society at http://www.ngsgenealogy.org/. Remember that most genealogists are still volunteers, and deserve your respect and support. Set a good example for others, and never take the help you get for granted!
E-mail, Mailing Lists, USENET and E-Zines
Don’t even think about it—get an e-mail address. Eventually you'll want to contact somebody or something.
Next, you'll want someone to exchange mail with. Mailing lists and USENET newsgroups are great for finding genealogical pen pals...and researchers...and cousins...you get the idea.
Mailing lists are a type of "one to many" communication. Subscribe to a list by sending an e-mail message to a computer and follow the directions you get back. Once subscribed, you'll get all the messages that subscribers like you send to the mailing list’s address. You can read, print, or reply to these messages-- to the entire list or just specified individuals. The best place to find addresses for genealogical mailing lists of all types is the Mailing Lists Page at the Genealogy Resources on the Internet site http://www.rootsweb.com/~jfuller/gen_mail.html and there is Cyndi's List - Mailing Lists at http://www.cyndislist.com/mailing.htm.
It is a good idea, when you start out in a mailing list, to just sit back and read all the e-mails passing by for a while before you enter the discussion yourself. This is called "lurking,"--and isn't much different from going to a party and being diplomatic about whom you speak with and what you speak about while you get comfortable with the crowd. Mailing lists are the ultimate "virtual neighborhood!" You can be in touch with researchers from around the world! Find cousins, researchers in the next county or overseas, or neat Web sites mentioned by others with interests in common with yours.
USENET newsgroups are similar to mailing lists but don't use e-mail for distribution. You actually go to a USENET site about a subject of interest to you, read posted messages and post your own if you like. It is more analogous to an electronic bulletin board.
Subscribing to e-zines like Rootsweb Review at http://newsletters.rootsweb.com/ and the Global Gazette at http://globalgenealogy.com/globalgazette/index.htm is another way to use your e-mail account to improve your genealogical knowledge.
Online tutorials for Internet genealogy research
Sharon Centanne's Librarian's Guide to Helping Patrons with Genealogical Research discusses not just an online perspective, but research generally. http://home.tampabay.rr.com/centans/internet.html
V. Chris and Tom Tinney Sr.'s Genealogy and Family History Internet Web Directory considers the best university-related sites. http://www.academic-genealogy.com/
The World Wide Web
The World Wide Web is what most people think of as "the Internet." The Web's (relative) ease of use and graphic capabilities account in large part for the Internet's mass popularity. Here's a list of must-see websites with Georgia ones first.
- Georgia Secretary of State | Archives and History Division at http://www.sos.state.ga.us/archives/
- Ask An Archivist is a program that the government has at http://www.sos.state.ga.us/archives/how_may_we_help_you/ask_an_archivist/default.htm. They will answer some research questions for you.
- Georgia Historical Organizations and Resources Directory at http://www.sos.state.ga.us/archives/who_are_we/ghrab/directory/default.htm
- Online Indexes Georgian Archives GIL at http://www.sos.state.ga.us/archives/what_do_we_have/online_indexes/default.htm
- Revolutionary War Veterans' Land Lottery Records at http://www.sos.state.ga.us/archives/what_do_we_have/online_indexes/rev_war_veterans/default.htm
- The GAGenWeb Project at TheGAProject.org This is done by volunteers and very hit or miss because of that. Still it is worth checking to see if someone hasn’t posted just what you need. Located at http://www.rootsweb.com/~gagenweb/
- Trees & Landscaping - Graveside Search at http://www.augustaga.gov/departments/trees_landscaping/graveside_default.asp. This is new resource available from Augusta. It is incomplete at this time but provides a lot of information if the person is listed.
- Digital Library of Georgia All of these are accessible through Galileo at http://www.galileo.usg.edu
- Annual reports of the Mayor of Savannah
- Civil War diaries and pictures
- Georgia Historic Newspapers
- Vanishing Georgia – early photographs. Access through Galileo at http://www.galileo.usg.edu
- Hargrett Library Rare Map Collection - Revolutionary Georgia A Galileo resource.
- WorldCat Use this to search for those hard to find books. This is found in Galileo.
- Augusta Vital Records Available on the Genealogy page of the East Central Georgia Regional Library. It begins in 1982.
- The Library of Congress at http://www.loc.gov/. Use it to look for books about family names and for the maps in the American Memory section.
- United States Patent and Trademark Office Home Page Use this to look for patents, industries in the area and land descriptions. Found at http://www.uspto.gov/ .
- NARA | US National Archives & Records Administration at http://www.archives.gov/. Here you can order military records, find World War casualty lists and POW lists. The Dawes Rolls and the Guion Miller Roll Index and the Irish Famine data files.
- Home - BLM GLO Records This is the Bureau of Land Management – General Land Office Records. Sometimes the site or different parts of it are down because they are being sued. Keep checking. Whenever federal land changed hands, it is listed along with other information about the land and people. Available at http://www.glorecords.blm.gov/ .
- Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System at http://www.itd.nps.gov/cwss/. Largest free database of Civil War soldiers on the internet.
- Slavery Era Insurance Registry at http://www.insurance.ca.gov/0100-consumers/0300-public-programs/0200-slavery-era-insur/. Some slaves were insured and the insurance company kept records about it.
- Cyndi’s List, the best known subject guide to genealogical sites, covers over 100,000 sites in over 140 categories, and gets tens of thousands of "hits" a day. Use it.
- RootsWeb, at http://www.rootsweb.com/, is home of Roots-L, the largest genealogical mailing list, also has a search engine for the USGenWeb archives and is the oldest Internet genealogy service.
- Social Security Death Index at http://ssdi.rootsweb.com/ is probably the Web's best known genealogical database. This is available at the library through AncestryPlus.
- Genealogy Resources on the Internet at http://www-personal.umich.edu/~cgaunt/gen_int1.html is excellent for understanding communication on the Internet.
- Vital Records Information at http://vitalrec.com/index.html shows how and where to obtain vital records for each county of each U.S. state. Official records of births, deaths, marriages, and divorces are usually filed in the county where the event occurred. How to obtain birth, death, marriage, and divorce certificates at http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/howto/w2w/w2welcom.htm provides this information for records held at the state level.
- Family Search, which is found at http://www.familysearch.org/, is from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and it is immensely popular and worthwhile. Remember that most of the site's value is still in places like the Family History Library Catalog that enable you to find out what microfilmed records from around the world can be viewed from a Family History Library near you.
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