The following article is a sample from Barry J. Ewell's book "Family Treasures: 15 Lessons, Tips, and Tricks for Discovering your Family History." He is the founder of MyGenShare.com, an online educational website for genealogy and family history.
Many libraries, archives, and societies have excellent and well-known collections of genealogical research materials. Several of these repositories-particularly the smaller ones-maintain lists of researchers and the local area families they are researching.
One of the better-known repositories is the Family History Library (FHL), owned and maintained by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and located in Salt Lake City, Utah. (For more information, visit www.familysearch.org.) It is the most widely known repository of genealogical materials. The FHL has been acquiring and preserving genealogical data since its founding in 1894. The library has collected vital information on hundreds of millions of deceased individuals. This data includes print and microform copies of records from all over the world. Copies of records are made available at the library in Salt Lake City and at family history centers throughout the United States and in many foreign countries as well. All are welcome to visit the FHL and its subsidiaries. A catalog of FHL sources is available online.
Societies. Hundreds of genealogical and historical societies across the country seek to preserve records and provide instruction to family historians. Most genealogists are willing to share findings, exchange ideas, and tell of their research experience. Societies work to preserve records, make records available, promote educational opportunities, and encourage participation in society activities. By tapping into the society's resources, you gain educational opportunities, instructional articles published in their periodicals, local skill-building sessions, and one- or two-day seminars featuring nationally known professionals. You will find members of the societies who know some or all of the following helpful information:
- Which records are available
- How you can access those records
- What information is online, in books, and in folders
- The experience level of members and other genealogists
- Where information is located if they don't have it
- Who to talk to if they don't know the answer-perhaps leading you to others who may be researching your surname
- History of the immigrants
Many groups form at the county level because of the research significance of local area records; organizations also exist to study a single surname or the descendants of a particular couple. Ethnic or religious origins account for many such groups, such as the Polish Genealogical Society of America and Pursuing Our Italian Names Together (P.O.I.N.T.). Other societies bring together researchers with common locales of origin-for example, groups such as The Palatines to America and Germans from Russia.
Every state has a genealogical or historical society, a state council, or both. In addition to major projects, the following is a list of the types of projects that a state-level group might coordinate with the efforts of local societies within the state:
- Their publications (newsletters and journals) supplement those produced by local societies.
- Some state organizations, such as the Ohio Genealogical Society, offer chapter membership throughout the country.
- Other state organizations operate on a less-structured basis.
- At the national level, a number of organizations serve individual genealogists or societies, such as the following:
- The Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS)-www.fgs .org.
- Umbrella organizations for genealogical and historical societies and research institutes, such as libraries and archives.
- The National Genealogical Society (NGS) comprised of individual researchers-www.ngsgenealogy.org.
- The oldest society in the United States is the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS)-www.nehgs.org.
Volunteer efforts. Most societies create and manage projects to benefit the genealogical community, such as indexing and preservation activities and producing periodicals and other publications. There are also many genealogists who work independently of societies. You will find numerous online indexes and databases created by these volunteers. Many of these projects are on the USGenWeb Project at www.usgenWeb.org. This website is full of volunteer-driven sites that publish historical information and resource material, such as a list of sites that offer cemetery indexes and newspaper abstracts.
Volunteers maintain sites and often provide important local details about an area's history, geography, and settlement. They also usually give an overview of record availability and access and research tips.
Professional groups. You can interact with professional genealogists by writing articles and books, presenting lectures that provide new information, and giving examples of methodologies to help in difficult research situations. Professionals often lead efforts to protect records in jeopardy and to make them available for wide use. Many (but not all) professionals conduct research on a contract basis for others and can assist a family historian with a quest that seems impossible. The research that professionals do ranges from an entire lineage to small but significant tasks in their field of expertise.
In the United States, there are several groups that serve the interests of professional genealogists and their clients, as well as those of the genealogical community. The following is a list of some such organizations, along with some basic information about each group:
Blogs. A blog, short for "web log," is an easy way to post new information online. When a new article or tip is posted, it is sent automatically to anyone who has subscribed to the blog. By subscribing to one or more genealogy blogs, you can keep up with the latest techniques, tips, and databases.
- The Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) PO Box 40393, Denver, CO 80204-0393
- Membership organization that does not administer tests, award credentials, or otherwise endorse individual researchers.
- The association does offer arbitration in the event a dispute arises between any association member and the general public.
- The APG website (www.apgen.org) lists members' names, contact details, and areas of expertise.
- The Board for Certification of Genealogists PO Box 14291, Washington, DC 20044
- Certifying body that is not affiliated with any group.
- BCG screens applicants through a testing process; successful candidates earn the initials CG (Certified Genealogist).
- A roster ofcertified genealogists is at the BCG website: www .bcgcertification.org
- The International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists (ICAPGen)
- Offers independent testing without membership.
- This program, established in 1964 (by the Family History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), is designed to examine and accredit researchers in specialized geographic areas.
- Those who successfully complete the program receive the initials AG (Accredited Genealogist).
- The American Society of Genealogists (ASG)
- Founded in 1940 as an honorary society, limited to fifty lifetime members designated as Fellows (identified by the initials FASG):
- Election to the ASG is based on a candidate's published genealogical scholarship.
- A list of Fellows and news of the ASG Scholar Award can be found at their website (www.fasg.org).
How can you get the most out of your blog reading time? Focus on the title. Look over the article (just a brief scan). Determine if the post is of interest or value to you. If not, carry on elsewhere.
If it is of interest, analyze who wrote the post. What are their qualifications for this topic?
Determine one or two questions that you hope to find answers to by reading the post before thoroughly reading it. This will transform you from a passive consumer of information into an active reader. Read the actual post. Reflect on the questions you asked yourself before you read the post. Were your questions answered? Take mental or written notes about the post. Summarize the post in your own words.
Read more great genealogy tips in Barry Ewell's book "Family Treasures: 15 Lessons, Tips, and Tricks for Discovering your Family History."