Researching family history on the Internet

Researching family history on the Internet

By PAMELA HOWELL

S-T Correspondent

Standard-Times Online
San Angelo, Texas
Article Ran on June 20, 1999

 

Charles Stringer of Georgia, where are you? Your great-great-great-great granddaughter wants to know and she's getting frustrated.

"I've found one meager land record on him in Georgia and that's it," said San Angeloan Dorothy Roberts with a sigh. Roberts, who has been researching her family's history since 1984, has dug through dusty courthouse records, braved 100-plus-degree heat in forgotten cemeteries and thumbed through countless census, birth, marriage and death records. Now, like many other family history buffs, she's using a different tool: the Internet.

"Some of the geneaological web sites are pretty good and others you have to subscribe to in order to get additional information," said Roberts who lists www.ancestry.com, sites.rootsweb.com/~usgenweb, www.familytreemaker.com and www.familysearch.org as some of her favorites. She has yet to find the elusive Charles Stringer, but that hasn't stopped her from logging on time and again. Roberts has also started to e-mail fellow researchers and is hoping her address, [email protected], will one day shed some light on her great-great-great-great grandfather.

"I think he went from Georgia to Mississippi sometime around 1800 to 1840," she explained. She, like at least one other San Angeloan, is hoping technology will help unlock the mysteries of history.

Peg Gordon, who serves as treasurer of the San Angelo Geneaology and Historical Society, Inc., has spent a decade doing family research and is enjoying what the Internet has to offer those bitten with the geneaology bug.

"Oh, you can go wild every minute of your life on it," she said. "I love the links and sometimes I've wondered 'Oh, what's that about?' One time I found a web site about steamers and some kind of boats on the Ohio River and I have a wonderful letter (my ancestor) wrote about looking out and seeing that steamer.

"You can contribute your information to people and it's there for everybody. It's fun and it really is great," said Gordon. "I'm 72 and, when I see somebody in their 80s who has just gotten a computer because they want to do their geneaology research, that's exciting."

One of Gordon's favorite web sites is the Tom Green County geneaology page, www.angelfire.com/tx/spiel/tgindex. One of the features of the site notes that Gordon will help researchers located unclaimed marriage licenses in Tom Green and Sterling counties. Interested persons may contact her at [email protected] She also researches numerous family names including her maiden name Pike as well as Beuhring and, thanks to the Internet, she's been able to fill in some gaps on the Beuhring line.

"My brother had searched for years and years trying to find out about (Beuhring's) German family, his parents and such," she explained about her ancestor Fredrich George Louis Beuhring who was twice married and lived in a part of West Virginia that was once Virginia. Obituaries and other documentation failed to provide Gordon with Beuhring's first wife's name and other family information.

"I put a query on the Cabell County, West Virginia home page and about a year and a half or two years later, I had an e-mail from someone from (Beuhring's) first family," she said. "It seems that those folks from his first marriage knew their German relatives and I even found out that Beuhring's son went to school in Germany." Gordon went on to glean new information from a book published by the e-mail author. The information allowed Gordon date the Beuhring family back to 1600.

"The Internet, in a flash, put me back," she said. "I've put so many new surnames in my line just from that and now it's piqued my curiosity about the ones who lived during World War II."

Suzanne Campbell, director of the West Texas Collection at Angelo State University, said she's noticed an increase in the number of local geneaologists who are using the Internet and there are even some researchers who take along their laptop computers when they visit the collection. Some of the more popular geneaology web sites being used by San Angeloans, she said, are www.usgenweb.com, www.familytreemaker.com, www.CyndisList.com, www.genforum.geneaology.com and www.kindredkonnections.com.

"Geneaology gives you a connection to your past; it's a connection to history," said Campbell, explaining the popularity of family research. "Part of it has come about because we don't have connections with grandparents like we used to. People today tend to move around more."

Connecting with the past as well as keeping in contact with relatives afar seems to be part of the Internet's draw for geneaologists.

For Maggie Stewart-Zimmerman of Ohio, geneaology on the web has become something of an art form. Stewart-Zimmerman's home page homepages.rootsweb.com/~maggieoh/mindex.html is titled "Maggie's World of Courthouse Dust and Geneaology Fever" and has more than 20 links to various sites including one for Ohio's upcoming bicentennial celebration. Her site is artfully done with backgrounds such as old homesteads and farm houses, blue and purple pansies, antique family photographs and animated graphics.

"My favorite stuff is my holiday pages. I have a page up for each holiday with links and information about what the holiday means to me," she said in a recent e-mail interview. For instance, in honor of Father's Day, she has posted old family photos along with related information in tribute to fathers everywhere.

"My other and main love is geneaology. I created "Maggie's World of Courthouse Dust and Geneaology Fever" to assist folks looking for ancestors in Ohio," she explained. "The background on that page was made from an old photo of my grandmother Johanna Corbin Rawson and the pansies just seemed to be the right touch.

"From there, I also have listings of my family trees and other miscellaneous pages. I also have a mailing list and, although it is Ohio-oriented, we discuss many states," she said. "The biggest thing I learned recently is 'keep it simple' so that it loads fast and folks don't have to sit and wait a long time."

A registered nurse who now stays at home, Stewart-Zimmerman says she enjoys the contacts she has made via her web page which was started in 1997. For instance, last month she discovered three new cousins in different branches of her family.

"I have been doing geneaology since I was 12 years old and I am now 44 years young. My father loved to 'visit' with the older members of our family so I grew up listening to stories about ancestors and developed a true love of both history and geneaology," she explained.

'True love' of geneaology can also turn into an obsession. Just ask Peg Gordon.

"My husband says he's immune; he's been innoculated," Gordon said with a laugh. The wife of Robert Gordon, the former administrator of the Clinic-Hospital, which is now San Angelo Community Medical Center, said her husband even had a 'prescription' made to help her 'cure' the geneaology bug.

"The label says: 'Take one tablet each morning before breakfast and then take one additional tablet immediately upon the first urge to go to a library, courthouse, graveyard or any other symptomatic warnings of mental departure do to severe addiction to an acute, chronic geneaological disorder.' The medicine -- which actually contains M&M candies -- is called Geneodryl.

"Bob was in the pharmacy and the pharmacist said the medicine had to have a name, so Bob happened to look up and see Benedryl, so he said 'I guess we'll call it Geneodryl'.

"I nearly died laughing," she said, then added: "Uh-oh! This was filled 12/24/92 and it expires 12/31/99. I guess I'm going to have to get a refill."

 

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