20 January 2008

California: Virtual Surname Wall database

There are myriad ways to get your family quest out there so people searching your names can find you.

In addition to those we know about and use frequently, such as the very popular JewishGen Family Finder, the Southern California Genealogical Society has announced the roll-out of its searchable Virtual Surname Wall database.

According to the SCGS's Paula Hinkel, entries from more than 1,000 genealogists around the world are now searchable by family name, by geographic region and by each participant's Submitter ID. Participation is voluntary.

Privacy is a major concern among some researchers and I was happy to see that those submitting data can choose from three privacy options. Additionally, only your unique Submitter ID will be shown online.

If an inquiry is received about a possible family connection, you can authorize SCGS to release all contact details, only an email address, or ask SCGS to be the contact intermediary.

Members of the Tribe are located around the globe, so it isn't a bad idea to let people know what names you are searching. In the case of Jewish genealogy, you might find those people who haven't heard of JewishGen (it is possible!), but listed their names elsewhere.

If you'd like to search your surnames, click here. Under "Breaking News," scroll down to Virtual Surname Wall and click to either search the database or add new names.

The database can be searched by surname, location, or Submitter ID or any combination of the three. It is a "begins with" search, which means a search for Tal will currently bring up only Talbott/Talbot, Taliaferro and Talley/Tally. I just added some Talalay variations, so the hits will increase as the database is updated and more people list their names of interest.

You can also search within a field by adding % to the term. Writing &penn will bring back references with Pennsylvania.

It's easy to add names. Enter surname information (including variations), the geographic area in which the family lived, the migration path and time frame. See the page for more detailed information.

Each entry screen has room for up to 10 names, but you can enter multiple screens. Note that entries are not limited to California.

As entries are added, the Virtual Surname Wall will become more valuable.

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