A recent addition to everyday vernacular is â€œstaycation.â€ Its definition is to spend a vacation at or near oneâ€™s home. The global economic recession and huge increases in fuel prices have caused people all over the world to consider ways to conserve money. That includes how people choose to spend their vacations and leisure time.
My vacations have always included genealogical research of some sort. That has meant scheduling travel to or near places where I can conduct some sort of research. I feel the economic crunch like everyone else, and I realize that my genealogical research can be done, in very many cases, from my home or through nearby libraries and archives. I am fortunate that the public libraries in Tampa and Largo, Florida, each have intensive genealogical and local history collections. In addition, the University of South Florida in Tampa holds an impressive group of special collections related to genealogical pursuits. And of course thereâ€™s the Internet.
Investigate the Internet
There are massive amounts of materials available on or through the Internet. Many records have been digitized and indexed for easy access. Ancestry and its various geographical entities (UK, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, and most recently China) are home to many record types including census records, shipsâ€™ passenger lists, WWI draft registrations, civil registrations, military service records, death certificates, family and local history books, original governmental indexes, newspapers, and much more. Other online subscription sites also provide access to these and many other types of digitized original records. If you havenâ€™t taken the time to investigate these digitized records in a while, youâ€™ll be surprised how much treasure is available.
Some governmental agencies have published indexes or have digitized original documents at their websites. Use your browser to search for the governmental offices of that entity. For example, the following is a search for Augusta County, Virginia. (Quotation marks are included to narrow the search.)
government â€œaugusta countyâ€ virginia
Even if the government office does not have records online, they may have indexes to them. You will also find e-mail and postal addresses to which you can direct inquiries and requests for documents. In addition, remember that all government offices now accept credit cards and this reduces the turnaround times previously required when writing a check, processing a money order, or submitting international postal coupons.
Most genealogical and historical societies now have a presence on the Internet. You will want to visit those sites in the local geographical area you are researching and make contact to determine what records and indexes they may have. They also can be extremely helpful in directing you to other organizations and facilities that can be of help to you. You can communicate via e-mail or telephone, and this too reduces turnaround times.
Cyndiâ€™s List (www.cyndislist.com), as well as the USGenWeb Project (www.usgenweb.org) and the WorldGenWeb Project (www.worldgenweb.org) are excellent resources for locating original documents. Once you know where the documents are, you can make contact to request copies of the originals.
Find-A-Grave (www.findagrave.com) is a premier online resource for locating or posting interment information. At this writing, with 25 million grave entries for cemeteries all over the world, there may be a good chance of locating some of your ancestorsâ€™ or family membersâ€™ graves.
The number of websites at which you can locate digitized original documents is enormous, and even more have indexes and transcriptions to point you to the repositories holding the originals.
Explore Library and Archive Databases
Libraries and archives provide access to a number of expensive subscription databases that are available either in their facilities or via remote access using your library card. Plan a short trip to some or all of these nearby locations. You can determine what databases they offer by visiting their individual websites.
Among the databases that may available to you are Americaâ€™s Genealogy Bank (newspapers and documents), HeritageQuest Online, Historical Newspapers (Atlanta; Chicago; New York; Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles; and others), the Biography and Genealogy Master Index, Digital Sanborn Maps, Whoâ€™s Who, and other databases. All of these resources can potentially provide additional resources you may never have seen before.
Read and Post Some Messages
Message boards, such as those at Ancestry (boards.ancestry.com), and GenForum (genforum.genealogy.com), provide you with access to surnames, geographical locations, and many other topics. You can read the posted messages and the archives, and you can post your own queries. You donâ€™t have to subscribe to Ancestry to use the message boards; you simply need to be a registered user. After that, you can post messages and have Ancestry send you an e-mail alert whenever a new message has been posted to a board in which you are interested.
Mailing lists remain an exceptionally powerful resource for sharing information with other researchers. RootsWeb hosts the majority of genealogical mailing lists in the world. These are listed at (lists.rootsweb.ancestry.com) and you can subscribe to messages and post your own. I personally suggest subscribing to the Digest Mode version of mailing lists. This format sends one message with many postings inside, as opposed to List Mode, which sends each message, posted as an individual e-mail.
As you can see, you donâ€™t necessarily have to take a fuel-expensive road trip or spend big bucks to fly somewhere to advance your genealogical research. A staycation can be the way to spend your vacation time. Using the Internet or visiting local libraries and archives can yield a rewarding batch of new and important information to your research. You can then expand your contacts in other geographical areas via telephone or e-mail to request copies of original documents. It may not be as enjoyable as â€œbeing thereâ€ but, in these economically stressful times, youâ€™ll feel good about being fiscally practical.
George G. Morgan is the best-selling author of “The Official Guide to Ancestry.com” and “How to Do Everything with Your Genealogy.” George and Drew Smith produce The Genealogy Guys Podcast each week (www.thegenealogyguys.com). George is also now teaching online genealogical workshops for Pharos Tutors and for the Continuing Education Division of the University of South Florida in Tampa. Visit his company’s website at AhaSeminars.com (www.ahaseminars.com) to view his schedule of upcoming conference events.Â Â