By Ardeana Hamlin
of The Weekly Staff
BANGOR — Bangor Public Library, as all libraries are, is a repository of knowledge patrons may access for free, including informal classes on computer use.
Seven women took advantage of library knowledge on Sept. 9 when they attended the class, Ancestry.com and other Recommended Online Genealogy Resources, conducted by Bangor Room librarian and local history expert Bill Cook.
The class met in the reference room where a dozen computers were available, making it possible for attendees to use a computer while Cook walked them through his presentation.
Cook said the most commonly used family history website is ancestry.com, which can be accessed free of charge through Bangor Public Library. “It has everything [you’d get with a home subscription to the website] except the ability to upload your family data to the website. It’s great for the professional genealogist to use at home. It has so many records it’s mind boggling.” Information family historians can access include census records from throughout the United States, Canada, England and Europe, making it an ideal tool for those who trace their ancestors beyond U.S. borders.
He emphasized the importance of relying on primary documents, such as census, birth, death and marriage records, because information that someone posts to a website may contain typographical errors. Indeed, any record can contain errors, including mis-spellings of names or incorrect dates. “Genealogy is not an exact science,” Cook said.
“Always record the sources where you found family information — where, when and the website address,” Cook said. That way if the family historian needs to retrace his steps, it will save a lot of aggravation.
Other sources Cook covered in his talk included:
• archives.com offers birth, death and marriage records, but not census records.
• cyndislist.com. “Cyndi’s List is a fabulous place to go,” Cook said. It contains state records, a list of links to sites related to genealogy, and family association and genealogical society Web pages.
• linkpendium.com is a directory of links to other genealogy websites.
• findagrave.com offers millions of cemetery records posted at the site by individuals, and the information is constantly updated. Sometimes the information will include a photograph of the gravesite, or an obituary of the deceased. It also offers a discussion forum where family historians can give and receive advice or assistance.
• familysearch.com is the website of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Days Saints, or the Mormons. “They have incredible records that are easy to use,” Cook said. “It’s easier to use than ancestry.com and it’s free.”
• generousgenealogy.com is a communal genealogical site where users contribute their knowledge. The site is free to use and accepts donations to help keep it up and running.
• heritagequest.com is a part of ancestry.com. “This site gives you just enough information to get you started,” Cook said. It can be accessed from a computer at home through Bangor Public Library at http://www.bpl.lib.me.us/. It allows the user to search census records, but gives only the names of heads of households and wife.
• genealogytools.com helps family historians get organized by providing tips, forums and downloadable forms.
• roostweb.com is where users can post queries, access family forums and find links to genealogcal societies.
And that’s only skimming the surface of what each of those websites offers.
“There’s an overwhelming amount of information available. The best way to learn how to use the websites is to use them and explore,” Cook said, pointing out that the wealth of information at genealogical websites also includes military records that span several centuries.
Kathleen Cronin of Bangor who attended the class said, “It was really interesting to find out about the different resources. It’s was a big help. My father’s family goes back to Ireland. Now I have more resources to work with.”