Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Those Lists of Lists

There are people in my beginning genealogy classes who groan at the prospect of actually finding anything on Cyndi's List. Why? Not because it's a skimpy overview of the universe of genealogy. Quite the opposite: it's immense. If it seems hopeless to find a needle in a haystack, just enlarge that haystack exponentially to get the feel of what a search on Cyndi's List feels like to some people.

But we are not "some people." We are fearless researchers.



I've been using Cyndi's List for, well, it seems like decades. And to say that is nearly correct. Cyndi's list of lists started out in 1995 when owner Cyndi Howells put together a short list of genealogy links from her Internet explorations and presented it to her local genealogical society. That list grew—and grew, and grew—from there. Now, there are upwards of 332,000 links spanning over two hundred genealogical research categories contained at www.cyndislist.com.

So, how does something as sprawling as that website help someone like me find what I need to know about the background of the slavery experience King Stockton and his family might have endured? Here's an illustration of the different ways we can configure a search on this topic. If I want to see what links Cyndi's List has found for the subheading of slavery under the heading of African-American, I get a page full of links. I can look through that list of links, and if any one of them looks like information I might want to pursue further, I simply click on that link.

If I alter my search terms only slightly—let's say, to Slavery with a subheading of United States—I would get another set of links to explore. Or if I wanted to explore the topic by regions, I could enter yet another set of search terms—say, African-American and Locality Specific—and explore yet another universe of possible resources.

Admittedly, it must be hard for a one-woman-show like Cyndi's List to keep up with ever-changing URLs and other disruptions in cyberspace. While Cyndi asks her faithful followers to help by reporting broken links, every now and then, a click does not return its hoped-for destination. When that happens, I use the target site's root address and then try to search for the subheading through that website's own directory.

Cyndi's List is not the only list of genealogical resources, though. There are, of course, others. Why else would I tell you we'd take a tour through the possibilities over the next few days? There are other ways to find what we are seeking about the context of slavery in the American south during the life of our King Stockton and his family. We'll check out a few more, tomorrow. 


  1. Oh I remember the EARLY days of Cyndi's List. What a sweet little website that was. And yes even now it is still sweet - sugar overload - but a necessity in our arsenal, that's for sure.

    1. I like how you put that, Wendy: sugar overload! But one thing about such lists: they incorporate redundancy, which ends up helping us find what we're looking for, no matter which way we set out to find it.

      Some of us set out to find xyz by heading to the left, while others decide to head to the right. Eventually, no matter which way we choose, those huge lists seem to find a way to lead us to our answer, in one of a multiple array of options for discovery. Perhaps that is what makes them such huge sites.


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