Surname Websites And Groups
Surname Websites and Groups can be an excellent source of information for the beginning genealogist and the seasoned one.
If you Google one of the Surnames you are researching, chances are personal websites will be among the list of genealogy websites. Surname Websites are typically people who have done their research and traced their family history back to a certain point and they offer their work to the world.
The benefits of Surname Websites are that you may find a portion of your family tree. You may have a branch that the publisher of the website had not researched or you may find your entire family tree. Often websites include photographs of individuals or family stories that have been passed down through the generations. However, proceed with caution before you click and Save Picture As or copy and paste that story of the immigrant grandfather who sailed on the "Blessing" from England. In fact, proceed with caution about all information you find on websites, until you research the facts yourself.
There are also hazards of finding your tree on someones website. Realistically, anyone can create a website and place what they believe is their family tree, whether they've actually researched and found proof of lineage or not. Beware! Many authors will document their sources directly on their website, others indicate that they have documented sources and then there are those that simply list their ancestors. My suggestion, and it's a very strong suggestion, is to write down the information first, then do your own research for documentation to substantiate the ancestry.
Often these websites will include an email address where you can contact the author to advise them of the connection or share information that you may have and they do not.
Surname Groups are a wonderful way to share and receive genealogical information you, or someone else, has uncovered.
One of the benefits of Surname Groups is that you can query a particular ancestor or family line on a message board. Often you are notified by email when a reply is made to one of your posts. Another benefit is connecting with other researchers of the particular surname. I've met many a cousin through forums, message boards and groups.
I recommend for the new researcher to start with Rootsweb.com and follow boards for each surname in your tree that you know of. Begin posting and be patient. I've had posts that received no replies and a year or so later, out of the blue, I'll receive one.
Make sure that your query is of quality! An example of a good query or post would be, "I am searching for the parents of Joseph Grant. He was born about 1832 in PA and died in 1891 in IN. I've searched the census records and have not been able to find his parents. Any help would be appreciated." What this post will tell other researchers is for one you've already done some of your homework, so you take genealogy seriously and are not just looking for someone else to do your legwork. It also tells others the specific Joseph Grant that you are looking for. You may think your ancestor is the only one, you will be wrong. Was he the Joseph Grant of TN, IL, VA? Was he the Joseph Grant from the twentieth century or eighteenth century?
Always include as much information as you can when requesting help simply saying "I'm looking for my ggggrandfather Joseph Grant." will not receive many replies, unless you get one that asks you "When and where he was born or died." And that may only come from another new researcher or a bored seasoned one. If you do not have information on a particular person, don't start with them, begin with those that you know something about.
Seasoned genealogists take their research very seriously and usually are more than willing to help new researchers with information they may already have or point them in a direction of where to look, but only if they get the sense that you are just as serious.
By the same token, once you have documented sources of an ancestor, be willing to help other researchers. Therefore, make sure that you hit the reply button as well as the post.
As always, Happy Hunting!
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