As a “detective,” Crocker uses a wide variety of available technology to discover new tid-bits of information. For example, he uses Web site geared toward genealogy research to find family trees relating to his family history. He also uses national databases in the United States, as well as in England.
“There are a lot of different ways you can track people,” said Crocker. “There is so much you can discover.
According to Crocker, advances in technology have made discoveries much easier than when his sister-in-law began working on a family tree in the mid 1970s.
“At that time, as far as research went, if you had family Bibles you could get information from that, or you could get birth and death records to prove your lineage,” he said.
Information was also available from the Mormon Center in Salt Lake City, Utah.
“It was a little bit difficult to come up with some of the stuff —and costly—because you had to hire people to do the work for you,” said Crocker.
When Crocker began to “get serious” about genealogical research in 1999, he said, research processes were improved from the ’70s.
“At that time, there was a fair amount of data available on the Internet but it wasn’t terribly well-organized,” he said.
Crocker also made use of CD- ROMs containing family trees and various archives.
“[The CD- ROMs] were really helpful because you had all of the stuff that you could go through at your leisure and look at, whereas prior to that you couldn’t have a lot of that,” said Crocker.
Further technological advances have improved research techniques even more, with five main areas being affected: Storage and organization; contacting and networking on a global scale; researching surnames; places and topics of interest; and sharing discoveries, photographs and data.
Storage and organization
Crocker recommends using available technology to take photographs as well as to store and organize them.
“I would tell people today to take more photographs of your families growing up—and label those photos.
“We have the capabilities to do that electronically, to save the photos and label them,” he said.
Contacting and networking
Not only has Crocker found distant living relatives in the United States, he has also been in contact with researchers in Canada, England and Germany.
Through his contacts, Crocker has been able to locate additional information about his family, including a book he had been unable to find.
“During the last few months I’ve been in contact with a man in England,” he said. “He was able to direct me to a book that I was able to purchase that gave me the history and the story of Sir Hugh Crocker.”
Crocker lists many Web sites of interest to people researching surnames. Web sites include traditional genealogy sites such www.ancestory.com, but also extend to search engines like Google and even eBay.
“You can find a lot of (sources) by typing your surname and genealogy into eBay,” said Crocker.
According to Crocker, many sources found on eBay can be purchased at a lower price than other places selling similar items.
“I’ve come up with scanned books for around 10 bucks,” he said. “(The eBay site) has been really helpful.”
Places and topics of interest
For Crocker, one of his personal topics of interest for his research was finding he is a direct descendent of Governor William Bradford and Reverend John Lothrop, who arrived on the Mayflower.
“It’s pretty interesting,” said Crocker. “I wish as a child I’d have known some of this stuff.
“I loved history, but it would have been so much more interesting to know that the people we were studying were relatives.”
Sharing discoveries is an important element for Crocker, who has very few family photographs.
“My family on my mother’s side doesn’t have some of the photographs and family Bibles because they had a couple fires out on the farm and that stuff burned up,” said Crocker. “It’s nice when you can find people who have those photographs and to be able to share that stuff.”
For people interested in beginning genealogical research, Crocker said the best time to start “is yesterday.”
“People don’t keep records, they don’t keep baby books and they don’t keep Bibles like they used to,” he said.
“It would be helpful if each individual family would keep some of that information—and keep stories.”
According to Crocker, the record-keeping and the research is worth it.
“It’s pretty wild the stuff you start discovering,” he said.