Or: "Spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, and spam," to quote Monty Python.
Like Bill West, of West in New England, I also received a spam mail from an outfit calling itself Accredited Online Colleges. The e-mail read:
>We at Accreditedonlinecolleges.com recently came across your blog and were excited to share with you an article. "50 Places to Find Your Family History Online” was recently published on our blog at [link deleted] and we hoped that you would be interested in featuring or mentioning it in one of your posts. Please let us know if you have any concern."
>Unlike Bill, who has more self-restraint than I have, I did click the link because I am curious. Dangerous, perhaps, but I have this thing about wanting to check stuff out. (My husband is a certified computer security pro, so we have firewalls and other stuff out the yang on our computers, so I feel reasonably protected.) I have a lot of concerns. Sorry, guys, but you're not going to be terribly happy with what I have to say.
First off, they "came across [my] blog," no doubt, by sending out a 'bot looking for genealogy blogs, the authors of which -- like Bill and me -- would become targets for their advertisement e-mail. Their unsolicited commercial e-mail. Their spam.
Their list is divided into sections. The sites they mentioned in the first section, "General," included some of the best-known such as RootsWeb and Ancestry.com. However, their blurbs were too short, carried little real information, and did not do the reader the service of distinguishing between paid sites and free sites.
The next section, "Search," included FamilySearch.org -- twice. These directed the user to two different interfaces for the same website. That's not quite cricket, lads. Now you're really down to 49. This section also included some "gathering" sites -- use our site to find other sites that you could probably find on your own and that if you've been doing online genealogy any time at all you probably know about already, anyway. Not terribly useful to the more experienced genealogical researcher, and not really the best thing to which to send the novice.
Much of the rest of the list included a lot of these types of sites, some of which I would not trust any farther than I could throw Microsoft's offices. (Hint: That's not very doggone far.) At many of these sites, the trap is that you get to enter your information for the search, and will have returned to you nothing but index information. If you want the actual document, or more detailed information, you will have to pay for it. I'd be rather wary of giving some of these folks my credit card information.
These sites say that they will get you documents. Nope. They get you index information, nothing more. Unless, of course, you wish to pay for it (which is reasonable, but you can pay for it by contacting the vital records office of the pertinent state or county or town yourself, and you will learn more genealogical methodology in the process)
As we go further down this list, we find RootsWeb is also listed twice. Now you're down to 48 and this is getting close to false advertising (50 sites? Nope).
Another trick they use is to direct searchers to a part of a government website, such as eVetRecs on the National Archives and Records Administration website. Again, the blurb that Accredited Online Colleges' blogger posted is too brief and does not give enough information -- such as the fact that eVetRecs can only be used by a veteran himself or herself, or the veteran's legal heirs, to order military records. Other orders must be placed using the paper forms provided by NARA.
Another recommended site could give a novice the wrong impression. They refer the user to the site Make Your Coat of Arms, which proclaims that anyone can "easily create and print out on your printer your unique family or personal coat of arms (or family crest) based on your family ancestry or on the values that are important to you and your family today." Now, this is not to dissuade anyone from going to the site and having fun creating something that is perhaps meaningful or even just silly fun, but no one should take this seriously, because an actual historical coat of arms can only be bestowed by the recognized arms-granting body of a country which recognizes coats of arms as rewards for particular gallantry and service to that country. The United States is NOT one of those countries.
Oh, yes, they got to my orthography button by referring to Interment.net as Internment. Sorry -- interment is what we do to our dead; internment is what the U.S. Government did to its Japanese-American population during World War II.
There are a number of other, more reliable, sources of information about where to go to begin your genealogy searches, or to continue them. One place to start is with Cyndi's List, which is not mentioned. Another good starting place or refresher for the experienced is RootsWeb's Guide to Tracing Your Family Tree, which is not mentioned on the Accredited Online College blog's list, either.
Another good place, of course, to find good information on beginning or continuing genealogical research is to read genealogy blogs! Thank you for reading mine.