26 October 2011

Technology Tuesday - What's the fun, if the Search is Easy?

As I've come along in my own genealogical research, and as my network of genealogical friends has grown, there's something I've heard a LOT: "OMG, I can't FIND anything...but the searching is SO fun..." 

I would've thought these two things would be mutually exclusive, but there seems to be a certain joy in the pain of having to dig with a proverbial toothpick to find the deeply buried treasure that are the details of our genealogical roots. 

I give as an example, my ONE GUY, Randolph Richards. When I started to look for him in earnest back in about 2001, there was nothing. Oh, of course, I could've gotten in my car, driven to Ohio (or Kentucky...or Wisconsin...still not sure yet) and started physically going from place to place to try to find the records. but I had neither the time nor the finances to take a trip like that!  So, I guess the 'search' I'm talking about is the "new" generation of research, where materials are located via computer and then you have the option to physically go see the record. 

So, when I put his name into Ancestry.com (I received a free trial with my new FTM 2011...yes, I'm a version behind) about a month ago, there were about 20 or so records with his name, all of which were actually him! I was also able to use a few of those records, which pointed in new directions, to uncover other clues. I then went to FamilySearch.com and had a similar experience. 

What's truly remarkable is the amount of newly digitized material out on the Web. As an Archivist, one of the most challenging aspects of our current work is the desire by our clients to have everything digitized. When collections are digitized, the material can be used for marketing purposes to drive traffic to a repository, just as a virtual search drives traffic to a website. But a very large percentage of Archives maintain a backlog of unprocessed material and if there's not enough time to get the material processed where is the time going to come from to digitize? What's more, it's not as if you can take material and run it through a high-speed scanner; great care has to be taken when handling archives material for scanning. So I respect the heck out of the fact that so many places have found the resources to get this vital information digitized, indexed and out there.

And this brings me to the "cool places you would've never thought to look." Naturally, there's Google. You can even use Google Alerts to automatically send you an email if a name has been recently posted on the Web. But my new favorite? That would be Geneablogger.com. What? That's right!! How many times have you been on Thomas MacEntee's awesome website and missed the fact that there is a 'Search' function? Well, I'm here to tell you that there's one on the right side bar and it's sole purpose is to search the nearly 2,000 blogs for whatever term you want!! How awesome is that! And easy! I don't know about you, but I have trouble finding time to read the blogs I really want to read, let alone trolling 2,000 to see if one of my names comes up.  

So, get out there and try some new places for searching. There may be one that really makes things easier. I'd love to know if you've found one that's particularly helpful and/or easy. Happy searching!

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