Internet helps find roots of family trees

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SAN FRANCISCO – Tracking family history is taking cyberspace by storm – the Internet makes it easy, with one-stop information for the beginner to the ardent enthusiast.

One of the most amazing things about family is that everyone has one. Big or small, close knit or seldom contacted, in every individual’s past there is a family.

In the last few years, the power of the Internet and sites like Ancestry.com, has been a key booster to those in the pursuit of genealogy.

“We’ve found that often, curiosity about family traits or a desire to know where the family ‘came from’ is the catalyst that has led people to begin to discover more about their own family history,” said Andre Brummer, general manager of Ancestry.com.

“Where we live is often a result of an ancestor’s decision to emigrate from another country, or move to a certain state.”

Genealogy – the search for one’s family roots – first gained widespread popularity as a hobby in the 1970s, following the publication of Alex Haley’s Roots and later, the miniseries based on the book.

“I replied to a message board because we were both named Sandra VanOrden,” said Sandra Anne VanOrden, a family historian and avid Internet user. “After corresponding for a few weeks, we discovered that my great-grandfather, Jacob VanOrden, is the brother of her great-grandmother, Elizabeth VanOrden.

“We have been swapping family stories ever since. She was able to furnish me with firsthand details about our family.”

The Internet has transformed the time-consuming effort of researching old names and dates, corresponding with relatives and visiting old libraries and data repositories into a speedy search, a couple of quick e-mails and message board postings, all from the comfortable glow of your personal computer.

Among the many genealogy resources available online is Ancestry.com. The site lets visitors search the 700 million names contained in 2,500 different databases.

Database information includes government and military records as well as court, church, parish, immigration and census documents going back hundreds of years.

Ancestry.com offers a premium, paid subscription service, but nearly half of the records are available free to all Internet users.

The site allows family historians to view maps, create an online family tree and sign up for free genealogy newsletters.

Free e-mail newsletters provide family history enthusiasts with an opportunity to keep abreast of the latest developments in research areas and techniques.

To sign up for the free newsletters, visit www.Ancestry.com.

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