Saturday, September 25, 2010

Joining A Genealogy Society

Has Internet been the downfall of genealogy societies? Not entirely. Our life styles have created problems for societies. There are still many, active, thriving genealogy societies. My theory has always been if you feed them, they will come. Feeding is not in the sense of food! Members need to feed their minds. Let's examine the pros and cons of joining a genealogy society.

The Cons:
1. It's more fun and beneficial to stay at home and use Internet to find ancestors.
2. Too busy with work, family, activities, social commitments.
3. Too tired ... worked hard all day and don't want to go out at night. Weekends are for family functions.
4. Attending a genealogy society means helping with projects or even worse, being asked to take an office. Just don't have the time!
5. Old people attend the meeting and I won't learn anything. Nobody will pay attention to my questions.
6. Same programs month after month.
7. Business meetings are boring and take too much time.

The Pros:
1. Joining a genealogy society gets you out of the house. You need the break from your routine.
2. Learn from the programs. If you don't like the programs, speak out and make suggestions.
3. Learn from other genealogists. Don't be afraid to speak up and ask questions.
4. Help when you can. Genealogy projects can be fun and even a little bit of help with go a long ways.
5. Genealogists speak a common language. You will be communicating and listening and learning.
6. Everybody can stay away from the computer for two hours once a month.
7. Some societies have interest groups, such as computer user groups and specific area groups, such as Irish Research.

Even if you cannot attend each genealogy meeting, attend when you can. The societies survive because people care and want to learn and exchange information. If you cease caring, they cease existing.

October is Family History Month. Attend a genealogy society meeting in October and see if you like it.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Digital Newspapers

Historic newspaper provide clues beyond the certificates and courthouse records. They allow us to escape into another world in which our ancestors lived. We see the printed word as they saw it and see their names loom out of the page. Nothing is more exciting than learning an ancestor provided "alms" to a tramper in 1865 who was later arrested for taking the ancestor's coat and hat before leaving the house.

One of the most fantastic web pages is ICON: International Coalition on Newspapers. This contains a listing of newspaper digitization projects, both international collections and United States collections. The bulk of the links to newspapers are shown as free, but there are some liking to subscription databases, such as,, Paper of Record and World Newspaper Archive.

I have particularly enjoyed searching the Pennsylvania Civil War Newspapers. The dates are 1855-1871. Imagine stepping back in time to the Civil War era and seeing an ancestor's name in a newspaper. Other examples of links are Suffolk Co., New York Newspapers including the "Long Islander" (Huntington), 1839-1859. Some of the links go directly to state projects, such as the Historic Missouri Newspapers Project or the Georgia Historic Newspapers. There are many more to explore. International newspapers include places like Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Sweden among many more.

It is worth taking some time to browse through the vast number of newspapers that have been digitized. Add some interesting context to your notes about an ancestor ... it's all there for the reading.