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Twigs & Trees with Rhonda: Down Memory Lane
by Rhonda R. McClure

January 03, 2002
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Not surprisingly, it is that time of the year when I look back over the year to see what has been accomplished. I look back to see if I did all that I hoped to for the year. I also marvel at how the world has changed over the last twelve months.

I am sure I am not the only one who reflects at this time of year. If I am, just don't tell me, allow me this little delusion. And I am thinking that this has been some year.

Time to say farewell to another year.

Personal Victories

Like all of you I had hopes of accomplishing some genealogical feats this year. And like most of you I still have some brick walls that did not come tumbling down this year, much like last year.

I will say that with the great advances in technology that we saw this year that I was able to accomplish more online and on my time than ever before. I would never want to give up going to libraries, especially the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, but it is nice to know how much can be accomplished online now.

And when I did go to the library, the preparation I was able to do at home before the trip made the trip, even those to the local library, more satisfying. Instead of spending the first thirty minutes or so at the catalog getting call numbers, I was able to claim my table and then head straight for the stacks.

As I look at this last year I am pleased. I did manage to crumble one brick wall. Though to be truthful I accomplished that one within the last couple of weeks, getting it in just under the wire.

Most of my year was spent learning, as I found myself tackling all sorts of unique research areas. Never before had I spent so much time working with African American genealogy. Quite an experience and one that I am glad I was able to be involved in.

Community Advances

Genealogy is very much alive and kicking on the Internet. Each time I go to give lectures and I update my screen captures I am always surprised by how high the number of Web pages for genealogy is. I know I shouldn't be surprised, because it is one of the fastest growing hobbies. I guess I am just so happy to see so many people getting involved and willing to share online what they are finding.

The digitization of the census records, and the ability to search them in online indexes has perhaps been the biggest boon to many of us. While it was begun last year, this year we saw major advances in this area. I am always so thankful when I am working on a line and instead of having to make a note for the next time I can get to a library with the Soundex files, that I can hit the 1900 census here on This has allowed me to accomplish some research in such a short time that I am astounded.

Genealogy software has seen some changes as well this year. Family Tree Maker being no exception. The inclusion of the Individual Fact Card in version 9 is a time saver for me and a feature I am happy was added.

Even the Family History Library underwent a major renovation this year. Visiting through the summer and fall as the library was going through its changes was an adventure. I am just pleased they never closed the library while they were making such major changes. Each of the research floors now has a bank of 40 computers that are networked so you can access all the Family History Library databases as well as the Internet. Talk about time savers. They also went to copy cards, so no need to weigh down the suitcases with rolls of dimes and nickels. And the addition of the microfilm scanner to CD-ROM has been a great addition.

In Conclusion

I don't know about you, but as I look back over this year, I find myself smiling. It's that smile of satisfaction. While I still have many brick walls yet to crumble, I see that as a possibility like never before. The science fiction-like future is helping us delve into the past like never before. This was an amazing year and I hope that the coming year will see just as many positive changes and advances.

See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Rhonda R. McClure is a professional genealogist specializing in celebrity trees and computerized genealogy. She has been involved in online genealogy for fifteen years. She is the author of the award-winning The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy, now in its second edition. She is the author of four how-to guides on Family Tree Maker. In late 2001, she wrote The Genealogist's Computer Companion. She is a contributing editor to Biography Magazine with her "Celebrity Roots" column and a contributing writer to The History Channel Magazine. Her latest book is Finding Your Famous and Infamous Ancestors. She may be contacted at

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