How to Search USGenWeb.org for Family History Details
USGenWeb.org is a site that is dedicated to keeping Internet genealogy free. The site contains information and records on citizens and inhabitants of the United States, the District of Columbia, and the Indian Territory of Oklahoma. The States are listed individually and each state and county has a website. The sites contain general history, public records, census records, newspaper archives, cemetery records, and veteran records. Search boxes offer several options for finding information. You can enter the last name, but it may give you too many hits. The family name may also be the name of a country or a city. Having a first name or location will help you weed through the many results.
If you are just beginning a family history project, start with all the facts you know. Use some kind of a consistent form. There are several computer programs that will help you in this, but you can make up your own if you want to only use a hard copy. Note every bit of information you gather. Write a narrative of what you find. Tell where you first found a family member, who was with him or her, where they moved, what they did, and how they are related to you. You may be tempted to guess or conjecture about relationships, movements, or dates—don’t do it. It is a dangerous habit, and it may send you in the wrong direction. Always try to find some kind of proof to confirm what you think. Marriage records, veteran’s service, wills, and deeds will help you confirm dates, names, and activities.
Cemetery records are a good way to find the area where the family lived. Sometimes these will also identify date of birth and death, as well as family relationships. Newspaper articles often mention business dealings, travel, and family events like weddings or christenings. Newspaper articles are good sources because they were created at the time of the event. Family stories may give you a place to look for evidence of someone, but the records are proof.
The Federal Census is a good source, but spelling is often a problem. Not all census takers were good spellers. In your search look for all the known spellings of a name, even if you think you are unlikely to find a relative. You can’t be too thorough. Handwriting from our forefathers is often difficult to read, and spelling and grammar conventions have changed. Deciphering it may be a learning process. Don’t give up.
Each of the county pages has a bulletin board where you can post questions about someone you are looking for. Family names are listed that may give you a hole in a brick wall. There are also lists of look-up volunteers in each county that will search local records that are not posted on the site. You will need to arrange to pay the expenses of anyone who does this kind of work for you.
Researching family history is a compelling endeavor. It may reveal your connection to extraordinary events or people.