Publisher of Quality Genealogy Materials
Volume 8, Number 19 Mountain Press, P.O. Box 400, Signal Mountain, Tennessee 37377, 1-423-886-6369 October 19, 2016
Publisher's Notes In this article we discuss researching your family tree on the internet. I think that the internet can be very useful in finding out some information about your ancestors, but I really want to know more than the dates they were born, married and died. In order to find out about the actual person, it takes looking through all types of records to piece together their story. You never know where you will find those tidbits of information, but it is so rewarding when you do.
As always, I enjoy hearing your comments.
James L. Douthat
COMPUTER GENEALOGY In doing many workshop across the United States, I keep hearing the same comment about computer genealogy, “I can get all I need on the internet!” In a report from the Association of Professional Genealogist a few years ago, their research indicated that there was less than 10% of the raw data available on the internet. This would include all of the records put out there by the various commercial and volunteer organizations. I am sure that this amount has increased, but there is still lots of information not found on the internet.
To illustrate some of the frustration on this matter, I picked one of my ancestors to demonstrate the difficulty of internet search. I chose my fifth great grandfather, Captain James Moore. Captain Moore moved from the Shenandoah Valley area of Lexington, Virginia to a tract of land granted him in Fincastle County, Virginia in 1774 on the Bluestone River in what is today Tazewell County, Virginia. In 1786 the Shawnee Indians from Ohio came through searching for his horses to steal, but instead massacred the family by degree. Some were killed on the home site and others taken captive to be killed either on the way back to Ohio or killed when they got to their village. This was the set up for the search.
The first search was for ‘James Moore’ which brought up about 238,000,000 listings. Nobody in their right mind will attempt to look at each of these since the list included everyone whose name was ‘James’ or ‘Moore’. If you will add a set of quote marks around the name as “James Moore”, you will get only that name in the search. When this was done, I received 570,000 listings. While this list is less than the first one, there are still way too many.
Next we can add a series of dates to the listing that will eliminate all of the current James Moore as found on Facebook or other social media listings. We are not interested in the current people named James Moore. You can also add the area where they lived which will help as well. By narrowing the search, you can get in the ballpark of the information you want.
Over the last sixty years, I have gathered a great deal of information about this family. There is little, if any information, on the internet that we have not discovered. However, there is a great deal more to be found in court records and county records such as probate, marriages, deaths, etc. If all I knew was what I found on the internet search, I would know very little about this man and his family. My greatest source is an eyewitness accounting by one of the girls captured and taken to Ohio, sold into slavery to the French in Canada, and eventually returned to her grandparents in the Shenandoah Valley years later. She dictated the story to her grandson in 1854 and this was published by the Presbyterian Sunday School Board. I have three copies of the original to pass on to my family in time. This information is invaluable to knowing what happened with this family.
Please be cautious with the information found on the internet and always verify it. If you are searching for your family and you find a full “genealogy” of that family, do not just take what you find at face value. Especially if the family chart does not include documentation. As an example, I found a family chart with my name on it. It turns out that I am grandfather to my grandfather. Even though I can say I am my own fifth cousin, there is no way I can say I am my grandfather’s grandfather. What was funny about this was the dates were shown on the chart and it was obvious that with my birth of 1939 I could not have been grandfather to my grandfather born 1888.
We are so intent on getting information about a “name” that we let truth and reason go by the wayside. Plain old research work in the libraries, court houses, and other records will be so much more satisfying and allow us to give concrete documentation to the facts. If you have ever tried to gain admission to one of the patriotic societies around, you will fail completely if you use many of these charts found on the internet. You might use them as a guide, but not as the complete answer. As one lady asked me to help her get into the D.A.R. We started with her comment that she did not know the patriot, but had a photograph of his daughter. “What is her name?” I had to ask. “I do not know, she is Indian.” she answered. “How do you know she is Indian?” I questioned. “She looks Indian and I am sure she is his daughter as Grandmother told me so.” Needless to say, this ended that project.
While the internet is a great starting point for your research and it can provide useful information, just be sure and verify everything. A person is so much more than just the dates of their birth, marriage, and death. Look in the court records, county records, and other places to find out more about the actual person.
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