How to utilize modern technology to enhance family history research

My parents had tried in vain for years to get information for my dad's side of the family. Recently, though, I hit pay dirt on the Internet. I did a search on the Internet to see if there was anyone listed with the same last name as my maiden name (not a very common name). There were a few listed. I was put in their research group and later was contacted via e-mail by someone who turned out to be my second cousin. This cousin had already traced the family line back quite a ways. I was able to download the information directly from a web site that had my family's history with a picture of my grandfather and his siblings, and my great-grandparents. I have put the information into my Personal Ancestral File program and have done the TempleReady check. There is a lot of temple work that needs to be done. This has been so exciting!

I offer the following tips:- Search the Internet for people with the last name you are researching. Also, do an Internet search for family history pages that might exist.

  • Get a family history program such as the Church Personal Ancestral File. Much outside computer information can be loaded directly into your program.
  • Share information with other family members who have e-mail capability. Getting everyone involved will build a family bond.
  • Participate in a research group that shares information on common lines. This is an invaluable means of sharing information and doing research. - Beckie Barnhouse Manning, Orem, Utah

What we did:

Countless blessings

Being a bit past middle age, my husband and I feared we were too old to master the intricacies of a computer. However, when we considered the continuous time-consuming task of filling out family group records and pedigree charts by hand, the Personal Ancestral File program really appealed to us.

So, without any previous knowledge of computers, we bought one, took a computer awareness course, then purchased and installed the program. Now all the information on our forebears is on the hard disk to edit or print out as needed, or to prepare floppy discs to take to the temple.

We have also received countless blessings through site searches via the Internet. Oh, how our family rejoiced when my husband received information on his paternal lineage dating back to 1725! The brick walls he came up against for 30 years were torn down seven weeks from the time he submitted the surname to the site. We know that Heavenly Father has blessed us with this technology to help speed up this most important work. - Marilynn Domroe, Busselton, Australia

Critical information

Many counties offer free look-up and query services. For example, at the Dodge County, Wis., Internet site, volunteers offer to do free look-ups of the Dodge County Pioneer, a German language newspaper. I e-mailed them the death dates of my second great-grandparents, Frederick Fink and Caroline Ganschow. Two weeks later, I received an e-mail that included a full translation of both obituaries. With this critical information, I used the Family History Library catalog at our family history center to order the microfilm of the church parish records. I found Frederick and Caroline and nine other pairs of great-grandparents, going back to 1700 in these records. We completed the temple work earlier this year. - Jim Ison, Cincinnati, Ohio

Immediate response

One of the most exciting ways to use modern technology to enhance family history research is the use of e-mail to correspond with others working on the same family lines. It is a real blessing to be able to "talk" back and forth about your people, research findings and problems and get immediate responses. - Lila Eubanks, Provo, Utah

Easily accessible

I have loved family history research since I was a teenager. I have found two great challenges to this work, one is keeping the information organized and easily accessible. The second challenge came after I became a mother. I have found it very difficult to go to family history centers or libraries to do research because it takes so much time away from my family or is expensive to hire a babysitter.

The computer has basically solved these two great challenges. By putting our family history in a family history program it made it so much easier to keep information organized with notes and all. And when there is a correction it is so simple to change it in one place and all records are then corrected. - Toni Norman, Haslet, Texas

Tremendous success

I have recently had success by checking surnames on the Roots Surname List on the Internet at

This site is excellent for contacting by e-mail someone researching a surname in a specific time and place. When you check the surname and see the list of other researchers, you look for a common county and a common migration pattern. It usually will guarantee a connection, particularly if you can see in the list of the researchers' other surnames another match with yours. I have had an amazing amount of exact hits, without entering any given names, and I have quickly received by e-mail and attachments further information (pictures, documents, journals, etc.) for me to research and prove. - Marcia W. Green, Redlands, Calif.

Don't worry

Children and grandchildren, please assist your parents and grandparents in obtaining a computer and becoming familiar with at least the Personal Ancestral File. Load the program on the computer. Be available to assist if there are any computer questions. Call and ask how things are going. - Jeanne Ludlow, Sandy, Utah

How to checklist:

1 Obtain a computer, if possible; purchase a family history program.

2 Don't be afraid of computers; ask others to help, be patient.

3 Use Internet in positive way; there is a lot of family history information available.

4 Participate in research group; share information by e-mail.


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Had any good experiences or practical success in any of the above subjects? Share them with our readers in about 100-150 words. Write the "How-to" editor, Church News, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, Utah 84110, send fax to (801) 237-2524 or use internet E-mail: [email protected] Please include a name and phone number. Contributions may be edited or excerpted and will not be returned. Due to limited space, some contributions may not be used; those used should not be regarded as official Church doctrine or policy. Material must be received at least 12 days before publication date.

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