Ancestors and Family Trees, Part Three: Clearing the path

The Johnstown Incline. (A little too steep for me!)

NOTE: Click here for Part One or Part Two of this series.

Let’s face it: unless you are a professional genealogist – or a librarian – the methods and resources used to research your family tree will be unfamiliar to you. There’s a lot to learn and a lot to understand.

And no matter how effective your searching is, part of it is luck of the draw. How many other researchers have cleared the path for you? If someone else has researched your tree, or has worked to document and archive information in your area, you’re far more likely to succeed in your searching.

And one of the reasons I wanted to write this series of posts in my blog is to sing the high praises of the people who cleared the path for me.

I live in Chicago now, but I was born and raised just outside of Pittsburgh. And both of my parents were born and raised near Johnstown, Pennsylvania. You know – mountains, railroads…..the setting for All The Right Moves and Slap Shot, and oh yeah….major floods every 60 years or so?

Johnstown may not be the biggest city in the country, but aside from its rich history and its beautiful mountains, it also can boast one of the best organized, best documented mother lodes of genealogical resources. In the entire country, folks.

I’ve looked at other cities and done research for ancestors or relatives in almost every area of the country, and the Cambria County genealogical project puts most others to shame. I have yet to find a resources with as much depth and detail as this one. (And lucky for me, at least three-fourths of my tree is in Cambria County!)

There are so many people who make great contributions to the project (and who have helped me personally) that I couldn’t name them all. But a big hats off must go to Lynne Canterbury and Diann Olsen, who are leaders of the efforts in Cambria County.

THEY WANT YOU: If you are interested in genealogy, it’s really important to get involved not just in your own research but to help the genealogy project in your area.

I know the people I’ve mentioned above appreciate the praise, but more than that, they need help. If there’s a genealogical group doing this kind of research in your area, I can guarantee they are an all volunteer enterprise. They can use a set of eyes or hands to help.

What would you do? You might be entering names and data into a spreadsheet. You may be asked to read a few issues of an old newspaper and document any names and events of local citizens that appear in print. Or if you’ve a wiz at HTML, you may be asked to help build a Web page.

I’d like to especially encourage any younger armchair genealogists to get involved. Many groups have a limited number of volunteers that are elderly, and in order to keep these projects alive and viable (with new ideas, new technology and new energy), people must continue to get involved.

Next: The final part of this series, with some suggestions from my friends at the CamGenPA project.

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