SHERRY PRESTON: Genealogy
I have an ancestor who fought in the Revolutionary War, so I typed his name, Elijah Park, into My Heritage (library edition) to see what would come out of it. I had to guess his date of birth – let’s see… 1775 minus 20 years… try 1752? I press “Enter”. The first thing that popped up was my Aunt Marcia’s family tree, which had my great-grandmother’s name inscribed on it. I didn’t even have to wonder if I had the right guy!
You’ve probably heard of Ancestry, but subscriptions to that site are expensive. Fortunately, the library offers free access to My Heritage. On My Heritage, you can research your ancestors by looking at the US Census and many other records. The basic site is free. If you want to add more than 250 people to your online family tree, you will need to register.
My Heritage and many other useful websites are located on NebraskAccess. You can access it from home with your Nebraska driver’s license or a password. If you don’t have a computer at home, you can use one at the library. If you make an appointment, a librarian can help you start your search.
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Another free site is FamilySearch, which you can find by searching the Internet. Wikitree is also an interesting site to visit; it contains advertisements and links to My Heritage. Each of these sites has a lot of the same information, but they also have different information and they work differently. If you’re having trouble finding something, it might be a good idea to check multiple sources. You can find many other free genealogy sites, but these don’t have pop-up ads and contain most of what’s available online.
Every year, several people contact me by e-mail asking me to search the Courrier de Gering for an ancestor’s obituary. We have the Courier on microfilm from 1892. In addition to the microfilm, we have a complete set of physical copies of the Courier and the Citizen. We also have most of the Gering High School Annuals. One of the most interesting collections we have are city directories, starting in 1954. You can use them to find where people lived in Scotts Bluff County. It gives information about what they did for a living and who their neighbors were. They look like a census, but they are published every year.
The West Nebraska Family History and Research Center at 1602 Avenue A in Scottsbluff is also a great place to get help. They have many more genealogy and local history books than we do, but their best resource is their volunteer staff. They will be happy to help you start finding information about your ancestors.
On My Heritage, I found out that Elijah Park was married twice. He lived in Connecticut, Vermont and New York. He had between 4 and 14 children. I found this out by looking at other people’s research. I stopped after looking at 10 of over 30 different family trees featuring my Elijah Park. The different numbers of children are due to the fact that genealogists have different research styles and priorities. (The research sounds like a future column.) When I take the time to research Elijah myself, I’ll have a better idea of how many children he actually had.
With all the resources available: online and in our community, you may be able to find many new and interesting things about your family tree.