Monday, December 16, 2019

Toolkits From the
Dawn of Internet Genealogy

What do you do when the typical go-to places for online genealogical research fail you? Why, you fearlessly strike out with your trusty search engine—and end up, umpteen pages beyond the first hits, finding those websites of yesteryear which used to be the mainstay of early family history buffs.

Remember USGenWeb? In seeking what could be found about a now-nonexistent Virginia county, that's the best LinkPendium could do for me. Though the USGenWeb archives for Nansemond County have been updated within the past month, most of the findings amounted to posts from hopeful researchers seeking to connect with others as equally stumped as they.

Thankfully, the undaunted search engine led me to other resources. To help with maps, VirginiaPlaces provided a couple, along with a brief overview of the county's formation timeline. Unfortunately, though, the maps were both for different portions of the Lower Parish—come to find out, the Boothe families I've been researching lived in the Upper Parish.

When in doubt, though, one could always check the catalogs of genealogical holdings—or holdings of any library, for that matter. WorldCat is indispensable for that, and served up a generous portion of reading material for Nansemond County's history—including, to my surprise, an entry for the "workbooklet" of the very researcher I had mentioned contacting years ago on the Boothe story, which I found in a more extended search at WorldCat for Nansemond's general entries. Unfortunately, the WorldCat entry noted they were unable to get any information on libraries which held that item.

Besides the WorldCat listings for background information on Nansemond County, there is always the catalog at I originally looked there (and at WorldCat) because I had found a listing for a book which seemed pertinent to my research question, supposedly now being sold online—I located a mention of my target surname in the index—but strangely, I could not locate any reference to that title in either library catalog.

But, oh, the other possibilities, once I learned to search for Nansemond County listings under Virginia's Suffolk County. Believe me, I'm making my list and checking it twice for the books and microfilm reels I'll be using when I arrive in Salt Lake City in mid-January.

It already looks like I'll be quite busy with the items I've already found—let alone any more I discover between now and then. Top of my list will include any records for both personal property tax and real estate tax for the years since my second great-grandfather William Alexander Boothe attained majority age until his likely move to Tennessee by 1850. If the family stories about the reason behind his leaving Virginia are accurate, surely that will have scattered a paper trail for me to follow back to the place of his own roots.


  1. I recall when I worked at the museum that we had many family books and references...not sure that anyone ever used them...but what a shame that they are not listed online someplace.

    1. What is exciting, Far Side, is that many organizations are finding ways to digitize their book collections so that they can be shared online. There is a tab on specifically to search that list of books on that website, but it is a collection shared by several major libraries, not just the FamilySearch organization.

      Hopefully, smaller organizations like your museum will someday be able to contribute online versions of their books to such a digitized collection. It certainly opens up resources for a wider group of researchers.


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