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By Jim Gerland and Mark Winer

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Finding Your Roots
July 14, 1998

A few years ago, my uncle Ken began the process of documenting our family history. He spent many hours culling through old newspapers and records and talking with people around the country and around the world. Eventually, he made contact with one of our cousins in Germany who was doing the same research. Together, they've been able to trace our family back to the early 1300s. If only they'd had the Internet when they began their search. The process would have been much easier and a lot less expensive (no long distance phone calls, for example - they could use email to communicate).

One of the best places for them to begin their research is "Roots: The Buffalo, NY Genealogy Forum",, on the Buffalo Free-Net. Their Frequently Asked Questions provides the answers you need if your family members were born, got married, or died in New York state. The pointer to the USGENWEB Look-Up for Erie County records,, would be very helpful in their attempts to locate information. Not only is the Roots web site loaded with local, regional, and national links, it also allows you to participate in local newsgroups, news:wny.freenet.genealogy.general, and worldwide newsgroups, such as soc.genealogy.german. Remember, your Internet Service Provider (ISP) needs to carry these newsgroups so you can read the postings. If your ISP does not carry the wny.* newsgroups ask them to add these newsgroups.You can also read the soc.genealogy newsgroups via
Deja News,

The NY State Library,, has some good information about Starting Your Family Tree at, and the New York State Links are of the Roots web
site lists almost 40 more good places to continue your research.

On the National and International Links you can easily access over 45 web sites including the Genealogy Home Page which has a great collection of guides, maps, deeds, and photographs. They also allow you to download software to make your record keeping easier. Another good site for software is Genealogy Anonymous FTP site, , at Penn State University. Over at the RootsWeb Genealogical Data Cooperative web site, , you can find an easy way to join and participate in over 3,400 related email lists. They also allow you to search their archives by state for a family name.

Another good place to search is the Census On Line web site, . The International Internet Genealogy Society, , not only wants to be the key to worldwide genealogy and the preserver of records, but they also want to "just talk and have fun with each other". They have a monthly newsletter, free on-line courses, and an
on-line library. They also facilitate over 20 mailing lists, including one for genealogy site webmasters. The National Archives and Records Administration, , has a good article, "Clues in Census Records, 1850-1920", explaining the codes used in the Census Records to help you understand the data the government is making available.

The Roots Surname List Name Finder,, helps you find out whether someone else is already researching your name and gives you their email address so you could contact them and work together. If you're
willing to fork over %59.95 you may want to visit Ancestry.Com, , and become a subscriber. Membership entitles you to receive their magazine and to see the results of your searches on their database. We didn't feel that strongly about it to pay up front just yet. At the German Genealogy Home Page, , we found out that one
of our ancestors arrived in the US in 1922 via one of  the ocean ship passenger lists for Hamburg (1850-1934).

Finally, our column would hardly be complete without mentioning the Yahoo! search site. Check out   for a long list of pointers to genealogy information on the web. We went to their "Beginner's Guides" area and found a good article "Beginning Your Family Tree" by Christine Gaunt, , from the Journal of Online Genealogy, and another from the Genealogical Online, , called "Suggestions for Beginners". If you're new to genealogy and need to find out what certain terms mean you should surf over to the Genealogy Dictionary, . Did you know that "winter Fever" was another term for "pneumonia"?

We hope you found this topic interesting. Let us know what other topics you'd like us to write about. You can email us, , or fax us, (716) 853-1350 and let us know what's happening on the Internet in WNY or any computing related activities you're involved with..