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Cindy Bogan, of Raleigh, N.C., and Mike Fedder, of Edwardsville, had no  reason to meet, much less to discover they were fourth cousins.

They found the connection through an Internet message board and met for the first time at a reunion of the Fedder family Sept. 5 at the Collinsville Recreation Club.

That meeting was one way members of the Fedder family used the Internet to increase the number of people at their reunion.

The Fedders, who trace themselves to two brothers who came to the area from Germany, cited another example: A cousin from Germany found them on the Internet.

Another Fedder family relative - Wally Kern, of west St. Louis County - knows what it's like to do research without the Internet. He started doing genealogical research in the 1970s, long before the word "online" was commonplace.

Using the Internet, "It's almost immeasurable, 10 times faster or 1,000 times faster," Kern said.

Instead of painstakingly studying census records in a library, a person can find an ancestor through a few key strokes, Kern said.

"It's just made a lot of information available to people that they could not get before," said Ed Dolata, president of the St. Louis Genealogical Society.

Before, a person would have had to go to a place where certain records are kept, he said.

Gerald Perschbacher, of Grantwood Village in south St. Louis County, has seen vividly how the Internet can speed up a search for people in a person's past.

Perschbacher is one of three founders of the German Special Interest Group, a joint effort of the St. Louis Genealogical Society and the German American Heritage Society. It has members in more than a dozen states, including many in Madison, Monroe and St. Clair counties.

Perschbacher is interested in this area because 21 Perschbachers came to St. Louis in 1833 and started buying land in St. Clair County, including more than 150 acres near what's now Scott Air Force Base.

"Through the Internet, I was able to find the website of my ancestral village" and its historical society, Perschbacher said.

That led to trips to Germany for more personal research. Now, "I can communicate with people in Germany and have an answer within 24 hours," he said.

For all of this, Perschbacher offers a caution.

"Not all information is necessarily true or verifiable, but through e-mails and the right contacts in Germany, verification is possible," he said.

Another caution came from Dolata.

"You can't find everything on the Internet. There may be 5 to 10 percent of the information on the Internet," he said. "The rest you've got to go find yourself."

But this is changing, Dolata said. The St. Louis Genealogical Society is one of many groups that are digitizing their records so they can go on line, he said.

For now, "The Internet is just one of many libraries," he said





Tending the family tree online
From the St. Louis Suburban Journals on September 13, 2010. By Jim Merkel

From the Fürther Nachrichten (Germany) on October 15, 2010. By Armin Leberzammer



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