Researching Genealogy on the Internet

Yet another great resource from the Internet is genealogy research information. In the past, we wrote things down and had to take pencils and papers to the libraries, cemeteries, historical museums, family members, and governmental agencies. That was the old way, which was slow, time consuming, and expensive.

A lot of these same resources can be contacted or accessed over the Internet. Much of the information is free, with a handful of sites charging for services. If you are lucky, you have someone in the family who did all the work already. They have an extensive album with all the genealogical information at your fingertips. However, most of us are not that lucky, and many of us need to be that person in the family that finally stops talking about it and actually does it.

The Internet has many resources and educational sites regarding genealogy. However, most do not list techniques for your Internet searches. While doing my personal family genealogy, I discovered some secrets that significantly increased the yield of searches. I would like to share that excitement with you, and a few other things. Serendipity was my friend as I kept thinking of other ways to do searches and find information. The search engine tips are of course applicable to any topic. So one day I decided to start my families’ genealogical research. Like most people from Hawaii, I am of mixed ethnicity (Hawaiian, Filipino, German, Irish, Portuguese, and English). I decided to start with my Hawaiian side of the family, and was pleasantly surprised with the results. The emphasis of this paper is doing searches, but I also comment on a few other aspects of genealogy and share my personal exciting discoveries of my ancestors or relatives.

This article is not an all-inclusive “How To Do” genealogy resource. But it should help a lot and supplement other sources of information in a very practical way. The goal is to make it easier for other people to investigate their family history.

Starting the search:
Many specific decisions need to be made before one starts on their research. These questions start with the words who, what, when, where, or how. I can help you with the how. The rest is up to you. Also, a site called refdesk.com has a list or inventory of most, if not all, search engines and genealogical sites. Other links from sites can be helpful too.
Living family members and documents are critical to getting the right names, spelling, states, years, etc.

How to word the searches:
One word of advice is to do all variations of names in your searches (e.g. I am related to John Henry Wise, a half-Hawaiian/German person born in the mid 1800’s in Kohala, Hawaii). I got creative with google and other search engine searches and found more information using “john wise”, “j. wise”, “j.h.wise”, “john henry wise”, “senator wise”, “senator john wise”, etc (putting words in quotes makes it more accurate/specific!!!!!). If they have been published, search their last name, then first initial and middle initial in quotes too. To make the search even better, tag on an extra specific word. The extra word I used was appropriately Hawaii and or Hawaiian (e.g. “john wise” Hawaii). You could also replace the word Hawaiian with Hawaii, Texas, or whichever location is appropriate to your research. Remember that all search engines do not produce the same results. Different search engines bring up different results and this can be used to your advantage. Also, doing a google search for “Hawaiian genealogy” brings up a lot of other resources and personal family genealogy sites. Another critical tip is to repeat searches overtime. Over the next few months or later, historical documents may be archived and accessible on the Internet from various resources. I found this to be true when I was desperate to get more information after my initial searches. You may be pleasantly surprised too. My latest discovery by being more creative with searches helped me find 3 pictures of John H. Wise! He went to college in the latter 1800’s in Ohio (Oberlin), which has historical archives for free. The archive site says how he was their best lineman (football player) with a team picture and solo picture of him posing with a football. He was apparently in the game when they beat Michigan for the first time, but the final score was controversial. He was in another photo in Washington DC with Prince Kuhio in 1920 from another governmental site. Yet another photo came from an owner of a Hawaiian genealogy Website where I listed my information in their guest book. A few days after that, I was emailed a photo of my relative in a costume for a play that he wrote, which was from a historical book with photos. So not only was John Henry Wise a politician, scholar, and athlete, but a playwright and actor too. I even did an amazon.com search with his name, and found a few chapters he wrote on Hawaiian culture and medicine for a book called Hawaiian Civilization.

How to scan a page for specific names or words:

One challenge occurs when you have an extensive text and need to find a specific name in it. I started off reading, skimming, and rereading to find things. I eventually decided that the computer must be able to find specific words in text. And through experimenting, I discovered how to do it easily. The easiest way is to right click the mouse and click on view source. Then you click on edit and then scroll to find. Type in the name or word and click on find next. You can click on find next until it no longer finds that word or name again in the text. Some times it is still difficult to find names in text, but the find next feature will also tell you where in the text the word is. For example, it could help you know it is about a third into the text. That helps a lot and saves time. There is also a feature with regular searches where the searched words are in bold or colored print within text on Website. These features tremendously make things faster.

Random basic genealogy and Hawaiian research tips:

1. I recently did my Hawaiian genealogy and had a great time doing it. The best resource was familysearch.org, which is part of LDS (however references not always documented well with posts) and is free.

2. Another favorite non-internet resource of mine is from from a book by Mckenzie called Hawaiian Genealogy (3 volumes total, which is from old Hawaiian newspapers translated into English).

3. I would recommend keeping good records (especially sources of information) and interviewing family members. The data is more credible and confirmable if sources of information are always included with your data.

4. There are published Hawaiian newspapers from a century ago on the net with some information and published obituaries from various sources. Some are free, and some are not. Refdesk.com again has obituary and newspaper resources inventoried by state.

5. Don’t forget the family medical history. The reason for a person’s death with the genealogy information may save a life. This information might be critical for current and future family members. Many cancers or genetic disorders can be passed on in the family. Passing on this information may mean a longer and or a better quality of life for others in your family.

6. I have even video taped family members and asked them questions about their life and genealogy during the taping. These videos are a family heirloom now. It is fun to get family stories about individuals incorporated into genealogies to add some “flavor”.

7. I also find passages in books citing something about family members. Need to read text since index often not list all names. You can also scan pages and paste them together of blank documents. I underline all family names in text to make it easy to find and copy and paste web sites with information too. Store the files in a folder. Don’t forget to copy onto CD or disk periodically just in case there is a fire or computer dies. You might even want to keep a CD in deposit box for safekeeping.

8. I also save, copy and paste information from websites and things scanned from books (with reference!!!) on a Microsoft works file. I also have it web pages saved with my” favorites” list under Hawaiian genealogy. This keeps it organized and easy to email to family.

9. There are many personal family genealogical websites that are informative. You are often allowed to sign guest books and add a paragraph of information, asking others with information to contact you. I have been contacted twice with information from others, and it was very easy.

10. Family genealogy charts are readily available on the net at ancestry.com, OHA.org, etc. Family genealogy CDs are available at stores too. I put my family tree on a poster board, and have results back to the 1500’s thanks to familysearch.org. I took pictures (4 total) and emailed them to family who can print it out and tape together to get whole poster. I was sure to list sources of information.

After my Hawaiian genealogy research was complete, I finally understood the traditional and Hawaiian cultural concept and importance of ancestors and aumakua. I have a better understanding of where I came from (which also resulted in who I am) and who can help me in my life. There is something to be said for knowing about relatives in the past. It somehow makes you feel grounded. It is fun and exciting and a great excuse to have family reunions. I encourage every one to list their genealogies at sites on the net to make it easier for everyone to share information and make it easier for our children and the next generations. Hope this helps some people. Aloha.

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