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Web site provides help in genealogical research

July 10, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

Al Henneberger, a Smithsburg resident who does genealogical research, said Wednesday that an Internet site available for free to Washington County Free Library patrons will make the work easier and less expensive.

People usually would have to pay a subscription fee in order to access all of the information at the HeritageQuest Online pages but as of July 1, it is free to users of Maryland libraries because Maryland Public Libraries paid a fee, Marsha Fuller, Washington County Free Library public relations coordinator, said Wednesday.

Through the site, people can access federal census information from 1790 to 1930, along with out-of-print historical books, wills, tax rolls and other data, Fuller said.

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Henneberger used the site's searchable database Wednesday to type in his surname and look at copies of the census records mentioning family members.

"There is my grandfather. And there is my father," he said, pointing at the results of the search. "There is an uncle and another uncle."

HeritageQuest is a particularly good, user-friendly Internet site for people just starting to research their family history, Henneberger said.

"Start here. You can't beat this," he said.

The site gives people access to information they previously might have been able to obtain only by driving to look at government archives and combing through records, Henneberger said.

"Before, I had to go digging for this," he said.

Fuller said the county library's reference desk received 15,310 requests for genealogy information during the last year, an increase over prior years. That reflects the trend of genealogy as the nation's most popular hobby, outstripping stamp and coin collecting, she said.

"The wonderful thing about HeritageQuest is that genealogy researchers of all ages will now have free, 24-7 access to the information they need to climb their family trees," he said.

Henneberger has traced his family back to 1660 and his wife, Karel, has traced some of her relatives back to 800.

When they've gotten stuck while looking for a piece of information, they've combined research with vacations, making trips to Switzerland, Salt Lake City and elsewhere, he said.

Some of their trips would have been unnecessary if they had access to this and other Internet sites during the more than 30 years they've been doing research, Henneberger said.

"We would be a lot further than we are now," he said.

The appeal of genealogy is simple, he said: "It is part of us."

"We are the sum of our parts," Karel Henneberger said. "What do you gain? You know who you are."

Schools and families should encourage everyone to learn more about their family history and to pass that information on to their descendants, he said.




To get to HeritageQuest Online's free genealogy information from any computer:

Type in www.wmpl.net/html/databases.html and click on the link for HeritageQuest.

You will be asked to type in your Washington County Free Library card bar code number and press a button. When that is done, you will be at the site.

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