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The idea for Family Tree Connection’s www.familytreeconnection.com unique online data service came from a flea market in 1999, where Genealogy Today www.genealogytoday.com owner Illya D’Addezio stumbled upon books from a Masonic lodge. “I thought how interesting it would be if people knew that their ancestors belonged to this lodge,” D’Addezio says. “So I began collecting similar books that contained names and dates of people tied to organizations.”
Since then, D’Addezio has gleaned countless club and society member lists, high school and college yearbooks, graduation lists, church records, employment records and other often-overlooked sources from flea markets, garage sales, auction Web sites such as eBay www.ebay.com, and regional book and ephemera shows. With the help of several dozen genealogists across the country, he’s transcribed these records and made them available online through Family Tree Connection.
Family Tree Connection is just one offering from Genealogy Today, a mostly free digital destination that provides links, databases and how-to information, and routinely makes Family Tree Magazine’s annual 101 Best Web Sites list. (See the August 2005 issue for our most recent picks.) To access the more than 300,000 names in the Family Tree Connection database, you’ll need to purchase a $29.95 annual subscription.
Before signing up, though, take inventory of Family Tree Connection’s holdings. Most transcribed records date from 1830 to 1930, but some go back to the 1700s. You can search this and other databases from the Genealogy Today Web site, but I recommend going directly to the Family Tree Connection site because it offers more-targeted search options. There, you also can find out which records D’Addezio and friends have transcribed, and if any of those records mention your ancestors.
To see record listings, scroll down to the bottom of the home page and click on the Browse All Categories link. Then you can browse Family Tree Connection’s data collections by record type or state. (The database also includes a few records from Canada and Great Britain.) New sources get stored in the Latest Additions listing at the bottom of the page before being added to state and record-type listings.
Once you’ve explored Family Tree Connection’s offerings, try searching the database by surname from the home page. Click on the Advanced Search link to narrow your search by first name, state, record type and/or date range. Hitting the Search button will bring up any relevant data collections. Click on a collection title to see the first and last names of individuals who match your search, plus the year and place the records were created. From this information, you should be able to tell if you’ve found a potential ancestor. If so, consider subscribing to Family Tree Connection so you can see the details. If you can’t find your ancestors in the database, hold off until you do get a relevant match.
What details can you expect from a subscription? Each record contains the person’s name, the record type, event date, state, city, a photo if one exists, source information and any additional details. Here’s an example of records you’re likely to find on the site: “Louis M. Bull, School Records and Yearbooks, 1915, New York, Albion, Signor Prize ($5) Best Declamation 1915.” You also get this source information: “Family Tree Connection, Albion Union Free School (NY) [on-line index], New Providence, NJ, 2005—Transcribed from: Albion Union Free School 1917 Catalogue, 1917, pg. 40.” If Louis were your relative, you’d know not only that he attended the Albion Union Free School, but also that he was a skilled orator—a little ancestral color.
To save a record, click on the Bookmark link. Getting back to a bookmarked record, however, requires you to go through the Genealogy Today Web site, which may be more trouble than it’s worth. You also can sign up for free Surname Trackers; by doing this, Genealogy Today will send you an e-mail whenever new information about your surnames surfaces.
Try running a few searches at Family Tree Connection. Learning such details as ancestors’ professions and affiliations certainly makes their everyday lives more interesting and easier to imagine.
To read our more reviews of software, books and Web sites, and to learn how to transfer your old home movies to DVD, see the December 2005 Family Tree Magazine.