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Family Web sites help you find the past in cyberspace
By DONNA MURRAY ALLEN
Mark Miner launched his family genealogy Web site two years ago to make his 15 years of research available to others and to reach and engage the thousands of Minerd-Miner-Minor descendants spread across the country.
Engage he did.
The site at www.minerd.com now features 24,000 documents and photographs representing 1,300 branches of the family. It won the Golden Gate Genealogy Forum's "Best Site Pick" in July. It long ago achieved the "100,000 hits" benchmark, thanks to word of mouth, e-mail and newspaper articles.
Miner, who owns a public relations consulting firm near Pittsburgh, has done a great job of meshing pedigree charts and old documents with photographs and American history to create a site that is informative, educational and interesting.
"I'm amazed at how easy it was," Miner, 41, said during a phone interview.
"I had a plan in my mind for how I wanted it to look, and I spent several months mapping out the architecture. I also got some technical advice from others."
You don't have to be a technological wizard or a professional writer to create a good Web site, Miner says.
"I used Microsoft Front Page and Adobe Photo Deluxe software and a scanner. The software comes with a tutorial CD that teaches you how to create a site, place photos and wrap text. Once you create the site internally (on your computer), you just transfer it to a service provider.
"Most of the providers have technicians to help you upload it onto the Web."
Miner pays $30 a month to Earthlink to host his site. Other Internet Service Providers may be cheaper. The price often depends on how much space you need. Your ISP may offer free or reduced rates. Or you may be able to get free space at places like Yahoo's GeoCities (www.yahoo.com) and Angelfire (http://angelfire.lycos.com).
Once you get your site going, you'll want to publicize it through e-mail, message boards and register it with various search engines like Yahoo and Google.
Miner hopes the Web site will spark an interest in genealogy among younger descendants. "I'd like to rope in younger cousins," he said.
"The Web format is more likely to capture the interest of younger minds."
To others contemplating such a venture, Miner has this advice: Just do it! "It will become a source of pride and of intellectual pleasure," he said. "What better legacy to leave?"
Intimidated by technology? There are other ways to track down your roots in cyberspace. Take Lee County, for example. You don't have to be a member of the nonprofit Southwest Florida Pioneers Historical Society to place your family genealogy on the Past to Present Web site at www.Rootsweb.com/fllee/index.html. You just need to have genealogical information pertinent to Lee County and the desire to share it.
The site features a history of the county, photographs, message boards, a history of the formation of nearby counties and family genealogies. Anyone may post family photos or documents by scanning and e-mailing them to the site. Not online? Send copies (not originals) to: Southwest Florida Pioneers, P.O. Box 274, Boca Grande, FL 33921.
You'll find a different format at www.Rootsweb.com/usgenweb/pa/fayette, but one that is just as valuable. This site focuses on genealogical information about families with roots in Fayette County, Pa. Dozens of wills, obituaries and cemetery records have been compiled by volunteers and e-mailed to the site coordinator, who then uploads them. The Fayette site also includes items of general interest, such as a list of all persons in the county receiving a military pension in 1883.
As you may have guessed, such county sites are often full of genealogical information that could help you with your own quest. Not every county has a site -- all are maintained by volunteers -- and not all are hosted by Rootsweb, but that's the best place to start looking for one (www.Rootsweb.com).
- Donna Murray Allen welcomes your questions about genealogy and will respond to those of general interest in future columns. Sorry, she can't take phone calls, but you can write to her c/o Floridian, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731, or e-mail her at email@example.com.
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From the wire