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Monday, June 15, 2009

Is Computer Genealogy For You?

Now that you have an idea of the basic genealogical source documents you'll be researching, you need a place to gather and organize your information. The big question is how will you proceed: by old-fashioned paper files or hi-tech genealogical programs? 

The answer may be both. You may want to initially start with paper files and move to computer genealogy or, depending on the nature of your primary records, you may wish to preserve certain documents and photographs for future generations.

Personally, I use both. I like having the original documents stored in a file cabinet for comparison sake, but I back up all my records and photographs on computer and back up the computer data again. In essence, I have three sets of records. 

That said, computerizing your genealogy brings with it several advantages. It takes the place of massive amounts of paper and reduces the footprint of having to store all that data in bulky, large file cabinets. The computer also provides a space in which to neatly combine your genealogical pedigrees, your photographs, your videos, and your family stories in an organized fashion. And, if you use a laptop, your entire ancestry is available in a nice portable vehicle that you can transport to libraries, genealogical societies, or state archives where documents are not available online.

The computer also opens up the world of internet genealogy. Amateur genealogists and family historians gain access to records previously unavailable to them. Genealogical forums help reconnect families and sort out pedigree problems. Website development creates a new media to display family history and share ancestry among relatives. 

So, is computer genealogy for you? Yes, it just makes sense. Computers are much more affordable and you can safely keep your ancestral records on your preferred storage device or post to your own website. With backups of your ancestry, it's a no brainer. Computerized genealogy is the way to go.

Monday, June 1, 2009

What Military Records Can Tell You About Your Ancestry

Have a soldier in your family tree? Did you know that military records can provide you with a whole host of information about your ancestry? Whether it's draft registration cards, pensions, enlistments, or muster rolls, the vast number of military records out there provide a wealth of information on your ancestry to help populate your genealogy.

For example, don't know anything about your great-uncle. A well-placed search for WWI draft registration cards might reveal the next of kin, parents or a spouse, the occupation of your ancestor, where he worked, where he lived, birthplace and birthdate, and even a brief description of your ancestor. A complete search of Civil War military records unveils not only any military engagements of your ancestors, but a medical history, and if you are very lucky, perhaps a photograph of his military company. Especially valuable to genealogists are the pension records which include spouse's name (if any) and any minor children. In lieu of a spouse, a pension may also have gone to a parent.

It pays to explore the military heritage of your family history. Fantastic glimpses into the past offer the family genealogist an insider view to American and world history on a personal level ... and you never know what you will find. In my case, it turns out one of my ancestors fought in the War of 1812 and was a very vocal veteran advocate. My personal search uncovered a long forgotten speech of his that was published first in a newspaper and later in a book. It turns out that veterans affairs sadly haven't changed at all over the years. It also made me realize just how much of a debt we owe to our military families.

Over the course of this blog, I'll be exploring military records in depth. For now, this brief overview gives you an inkling of what's yet to come.