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The Unofficial Guide to Online Genealogy

   by Pamela Rice Hahn

    09 October, 2000


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Editorial description(s):

From the Back Cover
The inside scoop... for when you want more than the official line! Remember when researching your family history meant hiring expensive consultants to trace your family tree and connect you with long-lost ancestors? Today, the Internet has made going back to your roots easier, cheaper ... and more fun! Genealogy is one of the hottest topics online, with thousands of sites, forums, and newsgroups clamoring to help family history enthusiasts. But with so many options available, how do you sift through them to find the most reliable online resources? If you're researching your genealogy on the Net, you want to know which sources the professionals and successful amateur genealogists use. You want the inside scoop. The Unofficial Guide to Online Genealogy is designed to give savvy consumers such as you a foolproof appraisal of everything from getting started with your cybersearch to charting a clear path through the e-maze of history. The Unofficial Guide to Online Genealogy is intensively inspected by The Unofficial Panel of Experts: Matthew Helm is the publisher of Journal of Online Genealogy; John Scroggins received the Federation of Genealogical Societies Award of Merit for his efforts to increase public access to the government's genealogy files; and Tim Stowell has provided expertise to 13 countries for the USGenWeb Project. These specialists ensure that you are armed with the most up-to-date insider information on the subject of online genealogy and are told exactly what "the Official establishment" doesn't want you to know. Vital Information on the Web sites, user groups, and other Net resources you can't be without! Insider Secrets on optimal record keeping and savvy e-mail tactics. Money-Saving Techniques on using free search services rather than paying for resources. Time-Saving Tips on mapping out a clear, focused research path. The Latest Trends in filling mysterious family history gaps--names, places, dates, and relationships. Handy Checklists and Charts for locating and tracking legacy family documents. visit us on-line at

About the Author
About the Author Pamela Rice Hahn says her interest in genealogy began with what she considers her writer's curiosity--a desire to learn more about the history behind the hand-pieced quilts that were stitched by her maternal grandmothers and other family stories and artifacts; it evolved from there. In addition to The Unofficial Guide to Online Genealogy, Pam is also the lead author of Teach Yourself Grammar and Style in 24 Hours (Sams/Macmillan General Reference, June 2000), Master the Grill the Lazy Way (Alpha Books/Macmillan General Reference, June 1999), and How to Use Microsoft Access 2 (Sams/Macmillan Computer Publishing, July 1999). She has served as editor for a local community-action commission newsletter, The AMCAC News, as well as for a number of computer-related and business newsletters. In addition, she has taught business and sales training seminars; her most recent speaking engagements have been about writing opportunities on the Internet. Pam has published several hundred bylined and ghostwritten business, general interest, technical, and humorous articles that have appeared in Glamour, Country Living, Business Venture, Current Notes, and other national publications. In addition, she works as a technical editor and writer for Macmillan Computer Publishing, Sybex, Osborne, Quessing, and DDC. Pam is publisher and editor-in-chief for the online magazine The Blue Rose Bouquet at, and she maintains several other Web sites, among them her personal site at as well as,, The Ultimate Chronic Illness Resource Directory at, and, along with Keith Giddeon, the Authors on the Undernet chat channel pages at Pam is the 1997 winner of The Manny Award for Nonfiction from the MidWest Writers Workshop.

Book Description
Genealogy is one of the hottest topics on the Internet, with thousands of sites, forums, and newsgroups clamoring to help--or confuse--family history sleuths. How do you cut through the noise and find the best tools to trace your roots? This opinionated guide can help. Zeroing in on the science of online genealogical research, author Pamela Rice Hahn shows you how to:

Reader review(s):

I never knew I could do this!, December 2, 2000
I have been interested in Genealogy for some time now and never thought it was possible to pursue it so thoroughly the Internet! One of the reasons that I bought this book is that I am not an "Internet expert" by any stretch. In the process of learning how to find information on genealogy I learned a few things about my computer. I live way up in Canada and regardless of where you live, this book is a must have for anyone interested in the subject.

I especially liked the step-by-step process that begins with teaching you first how to use the necessary tools to accomplish your goals and ending with results you were after. In any subject that interests me I hate to buy a book that reminds me of the dry texts I read back in school. I have seen them while wandering bookstores and despite the fact the subject interests me I will not buy it. This book was nothing like any of those books, which was very refreshing.

* Helps anyone not particularly well versed in the Internet get started with learning the necessary tools.
* Takes a well thought out step-by-step approach to attainting your ultimate goal.
* I thought it was very well laid out and easy to read.

The Unofficial Guide to Online Genealogy, November 7, 2000
The Unofficial Guide to Online Genealogy is extremely well written and informative. The author not only directs the reader with expert advice on the "How to" part of going about the task of recreating a family's history but she does it in an entertaining manner too. Unlike most works on this subject, which are reminiscent of grade school text books, this author has added numerous short, rich and colorful examples that bring the necessary information to the reader in a manner they will appreciate and relate to. It's all there; Internet sites of interest, other offline resources, investigative techniques, procedures, helpful hints, insider knowledge, and directions written in an easy to digest manner for the beginner and the seasoned pro alike. As a retired police officer knowledgeable in investigations I highly recommend this book and am confident that it will provide all the information you'll need to discover and document an informative chronicle of your family's history and stories.

A good book for someone new to genealogy, November 9, 2000
As a new researcher to genealogy I have to say that I found this to be a very helpful book. Ms. Hahn seems to have gone into depth trying to help people who are new to genealogy find ways to do research on the web. Her insights and book layout are a very easy way to jump into researching the web for family information. I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for an easy to follow "instruction" guide for genealogy!!

Can't get all the information you need without this book!, November 25, 2000
For a lot of people, the courthouse is where the search for the bulk of your family's background research begins. This book has great information on how to go about getting the most out of that research.

*I also like how the author put all of the links from the book online at That means I don't have to type them in; she's done it for me!

*I recommend this book because the writing is easy to understand yet full of information.

Great sources for online genealogy research, October 4, 2001
Author Pamela Rice Hahn has written a book that is aimed at genealogists hoping to learn more about using the power and advantages of the Internet to assist them in their search for information about their ancestors. Each chapter in the book covers the basics of learning about genealogy while recommending web sites that will supplement the information presented.
The first chapter describes some of the common documents that every genealogist needs to have in their family files. Learning what to expect from an online search for records is an important lesson. Even though the number of vital records available online is increasing every day, you will still find the bulk of your documents at courthouses, libraries and archives. Chapter 2 gives ideas and tips for organizing your home work space and getting online. Since you are reading this online article, I'll assume that you've handled that part of the setup.

The next two chapters cover organizing all the accumulated papers, charts, and forms that you will be collecting at an alarming rate. The advice I found most helpful was the idea of setting up a research notebook that includes enough information to aid you in your research trips without bogging you down with copies of every record in your collection. This section also includes ideas for setting up a full filing system and choosing a genealogy database software.

Chapter 5 describes the various types of information available online. Choosing a Web-based email service, learning about the options available in full-fledged email programs, and subscribing to newsgroups and email lists are topics that are covered in this chapter. This is followed by a chapter covering some of the major genealogy web sites and how to maximize your time while surfing.

The remaining chapters cover in greater detail the various types of information that you should be collecting and which web sites may offer the most help in your search. Topics include search engine tips, immigration, census records, libraries, courthouse research and preservation of family photographs. Chapter 14 contains suggestions to aid you in setting up your own genealogy web site. Several appendices finish out this content-rich book.

Good Stuff!, November 2, 2000
I had no idea where to start looking for online sources. I knew of a couple places to go, but as far as not leaving my computer, I was lost. This book really helped me find places to start looking for my family. It was a big help.

Far from the best, but not bad, July 23, 2002
It seems there's a new computer-genealogy "how to" book being released every month -- more the result of the marketing department's presumed wisdom than because we need yet another such volume. This is especially true when genealogy is simply one in a long line of topics: There are now "Unofficial Guides" to wine, children, stock picking, job interviews, and menopause. However, each volume in this series is prepared with the assistance of a panel of experts -- in this case Matthew Helm (publisher of the JOURNAL OF ONLINE GENEALOGY), John Scroggins (who received the FGS Award of Merit for his efforts in increasing public access to government files of interest to family researchers), and Tim Stowell (active in the USGenWeb project). Actually, the advice and information you'll receive here is pretty good, including setting up a computer workspace, the difference between primary and secondary sources, setting your research goals, managing your information as you find it, how to find genealogy web sites (method as well as a list of addresses), strategic tips for online research, the proper use of search engines and online library catalogs, creating personal genealogy web pages, and publishing a book as well as publishing to the web. The style is not unlike the popular "Dummies' Guides," with tips, time-savers, caveats, and informative sidebars scattered throughout.

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