Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Knowing Your History

One of my favorite classes in library school was my genealogy class. There is something wonderful about discovering your heritage. If you are interested in learning about your family history, here are free some sites to help you along your way…

Ellis Island Foundation

The Ellis Island Foundation provides this free resource for the public. It allows the user to search the Ellis Island/Port of New York records for a particular passenger. You can also browse the list of passengers by ship. The site also offers free genealogy forms (click on Genealogy, then click on Free Charts and Forms). The site also offers personal stories from immigrants who came through Ellis Island, as well as a timeline of immigration history.

Even if you don’t have family who came through Ellis Island, it’s still a fun site to explore.

Family Search

Family Search is a free resource provided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This site is not only useful for searching through records; it also doubles as a kind of Genealogy 101. Several links offer information to the novice researcher, including how to get started, research guidance by location, and forms and maps! It even offers a list of free resources. Though, honestly, not all of these resources are free. Some are subscribed to (i.e. paid for) by libraries, but any user can access them from those particular libraries.

My Heritage

My Heritage is a new site for me, but I’m intrigued by its promising future. This site allows you to create, free of charge, your own family tree. You can also use the site as a search engine, searching multiple resources at one time for a particular ancestor. It does require you to register, though. The results, however, are impressive. A list is generated of all the resources that have information on your particular ancestor. Each resource is marked with various icons. A dollar sign for sites that cost money, a gold star for popular sites, a blue I for indexed sites, etc. This is very useful if one is trying to find free resources. The only annoyance I have discovered (so far): some of the resources require you to register with them. I understand why this is necessary, but I quickly lost interest in those resources on a day when I didn’t feel like going through the hassle. Otherwise, I think this could be a wonderful resource!

National Archives and Records Administration

Now, one can’t actually use NARA online. Users can find a library with a NARA microfilm collection; they can also request specific documents through the mail. I’m mentioning NARA for a completely different reason: our national history. Look to the left of the page, under Explore & Interact. Click on America’s Historical Documents. Here you will find some truly amazing images: The Louisiana Purchase Treaty, the Articles of Confederation, the Bill of Rights, the Constitution, and more! Take some time to enjoy these historic documents.

Don’t forget to check out their American Originals Exhibit!

To me, genealogy is more than knowing who was born of whom. It's about stories. The story of my great aunt’s experiences on Wall Street on Black Thursday. The story of ancestors who died on the Cherokee Trail of Tears. The story of how parts of my family fought on different sides of the American Revolution. And, some day, my story.

Bunny Burnstein

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