Connecting with others researching your surname or your geographical area can help you make discoveries that Internet search engines and databases cannot.
Last time we discussed the Rootsweb.com mailing or discussion lists which send messages to your email box and are posted online in an archive. Another service to consider is Genforum, a large collection of free online forums or discussion sites. This service collects the posts online and you need to visit the forums to browse or search the postings.
Genforum, hosted by Genealogy.com, has several unique features. The most noteworthy is that you can set up a My GenForum account free — and then add the forums you are interested in to your personalized site. The forums you choose are all listed at the left side, making it easy to find and review them again.
The categories for GenForums include surnames, U.S. states and counties within states, countries, and an array of special topics from immigration to genealogy software. You can search previous posts and add your own.
Does it work? Yes.
One of the most exciting finds early in my own family research was finding a January 23, 2001, query from Paul Church seeking information about Benjamin Church who came to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, about 1840 from New Paltz, New York. Information previously obtained from my uncle told me that this Benjamin Church was my ggg-grandfather. Consequently, I immediately posted a reply. Paul and I shared information and as a result I was able to find more about Benjamin’s family — Caleb and Hannah Baker Church — in Ulster County, New York.
Since then, I have created a Web page about Benjamin Church and his place in Milwaukee history. He arrived in the new town on November 15, 1835, some 13 years before Wisconsin became a state. He settled on the west side of the Milwaukee River in the village then called Kilbourntown.
He was as a pioneer carpenter and builder who erected a Greek Revival house for his family that today is a Milwaukee area museum. The page includes many links to Web pages about the house — called the Benjamin Church House or Kilbourntown House — which is today on the National Register of Historic Places.
I also wrote the Wikipedia entry about the Benjamin Church House, based on various published sources.
Thus, the Church Family Genealogy Forum helped me connect to my cousin Paul Church, discover details about Benjamin Church’s life in New York and Wisconsin, and share the results with family and online. Give GenForum a try.
This is one in a series of genealogy and family history research ideas to help you find your family and ancestors for modest or no cost.