A New Years Wish

01/15/2012

 
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A new year can lift our spirits and create a feeling of fresh beginnings; spiritual rebirth and hope. The study of our history--the widely growing hobby of genealogy--appears to be swinging headfirst into 2012. New websites are spilling forth and the "oldies but goodies" are growing even larger and stronger.

Feeding off of the rapidly growing interest in genealogy, PBS is launching a new series March 25th called Finding Your Roots. It will be a one-hour, 10 part series that like NBC, will feature important Americans and their journeys to ancestor discoveries. And speaking of NBC; Who Do You Think You Are will begin season three on February 3rd. Each program sounds enlightening and most likely, very inspiring.

Over the years, as I have delved deeper into genealogy, I have witnessed an increasing growth of new websites and blogs. But what I am seeing now excites me for the future. The granddaddies--Ancestry.com and Fold3--are taking notice of the smaller sites that are publishing digital records free for the taking.

These subscription websites are offering more free access to records. Ancestry.com has announced making the 1940 US Census free and available starting April 2012 until 2013. And they are bringing direct access to free sites such as Rootsweb, directly to their members.

Fold3 is a partner with the Federation of Genealogical Societies in their War of 1812 Project. They have been digitalizing all 1812 Pension Application Files and offering them free on their site.

The two largest lineage organizations--the DAR and NSSAR--are now providing their patriot records searchable on-line and I must not forget the wonderful website FamilySearch.org. This great organization has rapidly grown during the last year, adding new records daily. It has quickly become a leader in the field of genealogy.

As I explore the Internet, I am delighted with sites such as Archive.org-a free access site that provides searchable and downloadable ancestral books. And I have been thrilled to find ancestor's tombstone records on FindAGrave.com and Interment.net.

But what continues to stun me the most, is the little county courthouse websites with free access to land, wills and probate records. Town historical centers with archived city directories and genealogical societies with realms of free files.

These small, individual websites are flooding the Internet. They are providing all of us with our history at our fingertips.

All for free.

Which is my wish for the New Year. It is my hope that with time and the growth of more websites providing free access to digital records; some day in the new future, genealogical records will be free to all.

You never know; it's a wish that just may come true.

Keep searching for answers,

Cheryl






 
 
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The end of a year traditionally places us at a point of nostalgic review while instilling a spark of hope for new beginnings. And as this genealogy blog has matured throughout the last twelve months, I am forced to examine its functionality to the website it is planted upon.

When developing my website, I originally viewed it as a vehicle to make my family history book more available to genealogists. With that, I have attempted to provide visitors quick access to genealogy sites I have found useful, available and at little to no cost.

But as I quickly learned, the "build it they will come" phrase, does not apply to new websites. So, after long nights of studying the assertions of experts much wiser than myself, I began writing a weekly blog in order to increase traffic to my site.

Gradually developing this weekly stint into something the researcher could grab hold of and make useful, I in turn, learned from my experiences and mistakes. And as a lover of story, I am drawn to the uniqueness of life: the curiosity of another individual; peeling back the layers of my ancestors to discover bits of their personalities and histories. And I have been humbled by my realizations.

As I have uncovered my ancestor's stories, I have been blindsided by their tragic life experiences and their ability to withstand loss: parents that buried their babies, year after year. Entire families erased away by diseases such as Typhoid Fever and Smallpox. In contrast, our daily worries appear trivial in comparison.

Though very proud to be a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, the discovery that my Scottish ancestor was jailed as a Loyalist lead me to face the "dark side" of the Revolution. The war atrocities within both armies and the bitter hatred amongst neighbors: Loyalists who lost their properties and were subjected to brutal, horrific attacks.

As I uncovered the wills and personal writings of my great-great-great-grandfathers, I was chilled with the reality that I had ancestors who owned other human beings. And to understand that an entire culture coldly accepted that a person could be sold and traded like furniture or be discarded like old, worn out shoes.

I was disheartened to think of the prejudices my Irish ancestors had to withstand just to settle and raise a family within the same country as I currently live. And I pause to wonder if the prejudices my ancestors faced are parallel to the current struggle of our immigrants of today.

Where would any of us be, had our ancestors not been allowed to immigrate to America?

The undertaking of genealogy, if done properly, can and will change you as an individual. If you look for the story and seek out the truth; you will be moved into a different direction. And as you find your ancestors, you will find yourself.

The development of this blog has, as the experts predicted, increased traffic to my little site. Over the last year I have welcomed over 70,000 visitors; much more than I ever imagined.

With fresh eyes to review a year in the life of my blog, I do see the value of its being. I have grown through my discoveries and stories and I hope you have benefited from my revelations.

I'm not certain what direction this blog will take next but it most likely will continue to reveal more stories; at least in some form. Because once you start peeling away the layers, you struggle until you reach the core. And as you find your ancestor's core, you will find your own.

Thank you for visiting and keep searching for answers.

Cheryl