Where in the World is Aunt Martha?

My Favorite Web Sites - Winchester Star - 5/10/01
 by Martin Zombeck

This is a bi-weekly column providing an annotated list of Web sites that may be of interest to the community. Each column will list sites that belong to a particular category: search engines, art, online newspapers and magazines, health and medicine, history, business and economics, etc. or sites relevant to a particular season, for example, skiing or gardening. Most sites will be non-commercial. To make it easier to access the sites, each bi-weekly column will be posted on the Town of Winchester's Web site so that the sites can be accessed and bookmarked without having to be typed. Previous columns will be archived at the Winchester site, also.

One of the most popular uses of the web is for genealogical research - the study of family ancestries and histories. Everyone wants to discover his roots.

About 40% of all Americans can trace ancestors to immigrants who passed through Ellis Island between 1892 and 1924. In late April a Web site was opened to allow people to search a database of passenger records. It was initially a disaster; so many people tried to use the site that it crashed. I'm happy to report that the site now appears to be able to handle the traffic.

Besides the sites below, don't neglect the search engines or online telephone directories as tools in trying to find a long lost relative. A couple of years ago I entered my mother's maiden name into the search field of one of the popular search engines and discovered that a long lost cousin was a teacher in Idaho. Using an online telephone directory, I contacted him and found that he was getting married within the week. As an experiment, I entered my surname and discovered my uncle's World War II history. A junior officer on my uncle's torpedoed ship wrote a history of their common experience for his Web site (fifty years later). Of course, it helps to have an uncommon surname like Zombeck rather than Smith.

Ellis Island, The American Family Immigration History Center (AFIHC)
Between 1992 and 1924 more than 22 million passengers and ships' crews came through Ellis Island and the Port of New York. This web site provides information about individual immigrants, including arrival date, ethnicity, ship name, departure port, and marital status. Try also Stephen Morses's tools for searching the Ellis Islamd database.

Cyndi's List of Genealogy Sites in the Internet
88,650 categorized and cross-referenced links!

Vital Record's Information - United States
This site contains information about where to obtain vital records (such as birth, death and marriage certificates and divorce decrees) from each state, territory and county of the United States.

Social Security Death Index Interactive Search

New England Historic Genealogical Society
A national center for family and local history. Although the emphasis is on New England and eastern Canada records and genealogies, resources from other parts of the country are listed.

The oldest and largest free genealogy site.

The USGenWeb Project
The USGenWeb Project consists of a group of volunteers working together to provide Internet Web sites for genealogical research in every county and every state of the United States. The Project is non-commercial and fully committed to free access for everyone. Organization is by county and state, and this Web site provides you with links to all the state Web sites which, in turn, provide gateways to the counties.

Tree of Lives Genealogy
Church of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) Web site. Not bad, if you can stand to wait for the rising Sun.

Geographic Names Information System - USGS
Contains information about almost 2 million physical and cultural geographic features in the United States.

Local Sources For Genealogical Research
A selective list of Boston area archives and research libraries, including hours. This is from the Winchester Historical Society's Web site.

List of Genealogy Web Sites from the Winchester Home Page

Online telephone directory for the entire United States.

Randy Bairnsfather, of the Winchester Historical Society, is acknowledged for her assistance in the preparation of this column.

The next column will feature sites on photography. Previous columns with live links can be found at www.winchestermass.org/wstar.

When he is not updating the Town of Winchester Web site (www.winchestermass.org), Martin Zombeck can be found at either the Packer tennis courts or at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, where he is a physicist.