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Research on the Internet

The Internet is a wonderful place for genealogy enthusiasts; however, it is important to understand that almost all of the information out there has been transcribed from original records (including our databases) and is prone to human error.

For example, one very useful tool (and one of the most frequently used) is the Social Security Death Index. Its value cannot be underestimated; however, we have found its error rate to be between 10-15%. These shortcomings can be easily overcome with one method only -- ALWAYS use the index information to obtain the original and certified record. And to make the index more useful for the next person, if you do find an error, always submit the correction along with a copy of the original record to the administrator of the database.

I Dream of Genealogy currently has a project underway to digitize the Social Security Death Index. This will include images of the actual social security applications, which can date back to 1936, include original signature of your ancestor, and include place of birth, place of employement, residence at time of application, as well as parents and mother's maiden name. These are invaluable tools. One shortcoming of the Social Security Death Index has always been the lack of reference to a female's maiden name, the result being if you don't know who your female ancestor married, it is difficult to find her in the index. I Dream of Genealogy is correcting this by cross-indexing all females with their maiden and married names. This exciting new interactive index is available for always-free viewing here.

How will the Internet and our online research change in the coming years? It is quite evident that the Internet and its rapidly changing economy will have a significant impact on your online research capabilities. The Internet has solved several problems that genealogists have dealt with for centuries, the major one being the fragmentation of records across the world, many inaccessible to the average hobbyist. Now these records are being found, restored, scanned and placed online, usually for free viewing. However, as the Internet grows, the same problems come back to haunt us. How many of you become frustrated when looking for a popular name like William Smith? The search usually turns up over one million hits. Many of these links can be defunct or cluttered with images, music, javascript, and other "goodies" that considerably slow down your online experience, if they don't freeze it out altogether. Now that genealogy research has exploded on the Net, records are again being fragmented across a myriad of homepages and link centers. It is apparent that we will have to establish one central ground for all records, that uses a unified format, and that is convenient for everyone's access needs.

In addition, the Internet economy as it struggles to survive will soon move out of it's "everything's free!" stage and into a subscription-based world. By 2004, many homepages and free sites on the Internet will disappear, unfortunately taking their family secrets down with them. This punctuates our need for this information to be placed in a central location that is reliable, always free, and dedicated to the evergrowing fascination with the footsteps of our forbears.

I Dream of Genealogy is committed to being that always-free center for the information you submit. In addition we are actively cross-indexing records so that someday, one search for your ancestor will return an interactive result that will allow you to go from his census records, to his marriage record, to his death and burial records.

How to submit your records to I Dream of Genealogy:

1] Electronically by . Send any type of record you have, the source of the records, and it's complete transcription to us. Put "Database Submission" as the title of your e-mail. IMPORTANT: If you include an attachment to your e-mail, the attachment must be clearly labeled with the record type and you MUST note in your e-mail that you have included an attachment. Because of the threat of viruses, we do not open attachments without knowing their contents. If your e-mail includes image attachments such as JPEGs or GIFs, please make sure they are compressed so that their size is no larger than 100k.

2] By mail. Send copies (no originals please) to I Dream of Genealogy, 27542 Fairport Ave., Canyon Country, CA 91351-2036.

You will receive full credit for all your submissions and retain copyright of all published material.

A note regarding links. We do use links for several databases, however, we do not place links to home pages, as we have had several complaints over the links going invalid. If you have home page information, please let us know the link where we can find it. We will place a copy of the information on our server to guarantee its accessibility. You will receive full credit and retain copyright of your material.

One of the best investments you can make in your online genealogical research is a membership to Ancestry.com. For about $1 per week you can have access to over 1 Billion names from all over the world; this amount is less than you would normally spend on genealogy supplies during the year.

Try it out right now by searching for your ancestor's name in the search box at the top of the page

Beginning Your Research - An Overall View

Initially, it is most important to sit down and plan out your goals for your research, keeping them narrow and focused. For example, instead of trying to find every name of your eight great-grandparents, narrow your initial research down to discovering the birthdate of your paternal great grandfather. Focus all of your energy on this one goal until it is accomplished -- resist the temptation to move on to another task; only move on when you are satisfied with your results.

This will bring structure and purpose to your research and will improve your overall results.

Continuing Your Work

Becoming "stuck" on a name/date/place is common and requires perseverance and sometimes re-evaluation of your methods. Don't become bogged down in a mire of dates and events. Instead, think about the lives of your ancestors, their occupations, their geography, the economic climate, their financial position, was it war or peacetime, were they migratory or stable, etc. Trying to piece together a typical day in the life of your ancestor will often give you fresh ideas upon which to search. For example, if your great grandfather was a farmer in Nebraska in the 1890's and seemingly disappeared, think about his livelihood. He depended on crops and the land to make a living. Crops and land depend upon the weather, notably, rain. Some geographic/history research will reveal that Nebraska was subject to a horrendous drought in the mid 1890's that caused many farming families to abandon their property. Many sought the fertile valleys of Oregon and Washington to continue their lives and knowing this may lead you to the new life of your ancestor.