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Article posted: September 7, 1998

Genealogy Online For Dummies - Review/Interview
By: Ryan Taylor, Biography and Archived Articles

Are you feeling overwhelmed by the Internet? Join the club, lots of people do.

Many genealogists feel pressured to use the internet when they are not familiar with the terms used or the machinery itself. Computer hackers assume everyone knows what they do and sneer at amateurs.

Click Here For More Information Rest easy. A new book in the valuable ‘...For Dummies’ series will give you the instruction you need to use the Internet profitably in your research. Genealogy Online For Dummies, by Matthew Helm and April Leigh Helm presents the information in a straightforward way, with plenty of examples and advice. The ‘...For Dummies’ series is not really for dummies (whatever they are), but for people who want and need to know something. The formula tries to instruct without pain, and the Helms have succeeded.

I met Matt Helm in Cincinnati recently at the Federation of Genealogical Societies annual conference. He described how he and his wife April came to genealogy when they were very young, after her grandparents left April their research notes as a legacy. It happened that the Helms moved to Washington, D.C. not long after and used their proximity to the Library of Congress and American National Archives to start their own work. They have never looked back, and their son was probably the youngest attendee at the conference. He easily found his way around lying in a carrier with a handle.

Helm told me that other books on genealogy online tend to be too resource oriented. In Genealogy Online For Dummies, their aim was to help people find names and locate resources, but not supply lists of websites. Lists are available elsewhere and change addresses so often they are best not listed in printed books.

In particular the Helms wanted to teach people to do their own searches step-by-step. “We give open-ended examples,” said Matt, “So that people can insert their own questions.”

The book is not meant to be read from cover to cover. Instead, it can be dipped into depending on the subject you want to read about. Helm emphasized that it is made for beginners. No previous Internet experience is necessary.

Using the Internet for family research requires two kinds of expertise, genealogical and computer. Helm says that this book is one tool of many in gaining this expertise, which should lead you back to original records. He explained again, as all Internet experts do, that the Net can be used to find resources, but rarely to find information about individual ancestors. They display their mastery of genealogy by combining references to print materials as well as online ones, the way that any researcher must.

Some of the examples show online resources by copying actual screens from the web and printing them in the book. This enables the authors to examine them in detail and offer suggestions to users. Canada’s own online genealogical magazine, The Global Gazette, is one of the principal examples which the Helms chose to illustrate.

People wanting an introduction to online genealogical sites might start with Cyndi’s List, which has links to a dazzling 30,000 sites. You can find it at .

Genealogy Online For Dummies comes with a CD-ROM to assist you in learning. It is available in Canada from Global Genealogy, 13 Charles Street, Milton L9T 2G5, who can be reached toll-free at 613-257-7878. More information about Genealogy Online For Dummies.

The Global Genealogy & History Shoppe online catalogue and can be accessed at

The Global Gazette can be accessed at .Subscriptions to the Gazette are free.

Other volumes in the ‘...For Dummies’ series, many of which deal with computer subjects, can be found in your neighbourhood bookstore. They are inexpensive and straightforward teaching aids to demystify your computer.

Books By Ryan Taylor

Across The Waters, Ontario Immigrants Experiences 1820 - 1850 - by Frances Hoffman & Ryan Taylor, 1999. Riveting first-hand accounts of the immigration and settlement experience, taken from the diaries and letters of 150 immigrants.

Routes To Roots, The Best of Ryan Taylor's columns from the Kitchener Waterloo Record, by Ryan Taylor 1997

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