Thanks to the Internet, we can get authoritative medical information in the middle of the night, or maybe pay bills or take a university course online. It's also revolutionized many hobbies. Genealogy is a popular and addictive pastime for many who want to explore their family histories, and there are thousands of websites that have really made a difference for people who want to find out where they came from. Since February is Black History Month here in the United States, let's take a look at one site that is both a tool and a community for African-American genealogists. Our Website of the Week is Afrigeneas.com.
OLIVER-VELEZ: "We point them in the right direction. We don't do your research for you, but we can hook you up with people who can set you on the right path."
Denise Oliver-Velez is the host of the "getting started" forum on Afrigeneas. That forum and many others include thousands of messages from people looking to find or share information. One user asks about a particular family, trying to find if other people are researching the same ancestor. Another asks if racial classifications listed in census forms are reliable. There are forums based on geographic area, on cemeteries and even the newest tool of genealogy, DNA research.
Plowing through old census documents, family histories, land records and, for African-Americans, slave records to find your ancestors can be rewarding, but it can also be challenging and even intimidating.
OLIVER-VELEZ: "You never know what you're going to uncover when you start going into the past. And you're able to share with others both the joys of finding family and also some of the heartaches that you uncover when you start uncovering you roots."
Just in the past decade or so, new resources have emerged online to help genealogists conduct research from the comfort of their own computer. There are still many records that have to be viewed in person, but Oliver-Velez says information is available online.
OLIVER-VELEZ: "We not only have resources on the site, we have quite a number of databases available for those who are looking for, for example, a particular surname or who are looking in a particular geographical region for their ancestors."
Denise Oliver-Velez of African-American genealogy website Afrigeneas.com. You can also find the link on our site, voanews.com/ourworld.