News From Terre Haute, Indiana

January 26, 2008

Genealogy: ‘Virtual surname wall’ is handy online tool

By Tamie Dehler

TERRE HAUTE — The Southern California Genealogical Society and Family Research Library has recently introduced a “virtual surname wall” on its Web site that is free and open to the public. According to, the wall “provides a worry-free way to post information about your ancestors online and find others who are researching your families.” So, far, more than 1,000 family researchers have contributed their information to the virtual surname wall.

The search engine is searchable by either surname, location, or submitter ID. You can, for instance, search for a single surname, a single location, or the submissions made by a particular submitter. The results of your search, if successful, will show the ID number of the person who submitted the information, the surname, the places where the family has lived, and the years of the research. For instance, a search result for the name “Brown” might yield the following: “submitter number 1793, surname Brown, locations England (Laenham, Suffolk Co.) > Massachusetts (Conrod, Middlesex Co.) > New York (Genesee Co.) > Indiana (Anderson, Madison Co.), dates 1621 to 1885.” If your Brown family information matches or overlaps with the submitter’s information, you can e-mail the submitter through the Web site. You may also want to do a submitter ID search to find out other surnames the submitter has posted on the site.

To contribute information to the virtual surname wall, you simply click on “add your surnames.” You will then be asked to fill out a confidential form, including your name, address, and e-mail address. You will choose how you want the site to handle your confidentiality by picking one of three scenarios: 1) The site can serve as intermediary for you, and not release any of your contact information to people who send you an inquiry. 2) The site will release only your e-mail address to the person when an inquiry is received. 3) The site will release all of your contact information (name, mailing address, plus e-mail address) when an inquiry is received. You will then submit your surnames into the form provided (surname, locations, dates). Each form allows the submission of up to 10 surnames, but you can go back and submit multiple forms. At the end of the submission, you will receive your submitter ID. You are known only by this number on the Web site; your personal information is not displayed to the public.

If you want to contact someone who has submitted information you are interested in, you can simply click to send them an e-mail. Their personal information will be handled by the site in one of the three ways mentioned above.

If you would like to contribute information to the virtual surname wall, but are not on line, mail a SASE to Virtual Surname Wall, Southern California Genealogical Society, 417 Irving Dr., Burbank, CA 91504, to receive an informative brochure on how to contribute by mail.

Visit this interesting site and contribute to it. Its success depends upon public participation.


• I recently submitted a query wanting to know when the J.R. Swain Photography Studio in Dana, Vermillion County, Indiana, was in business, as well as the Swain and Rice Photography Studio. I have some photographs of relatives taken at these studios. My last query had incorrect contact information. If you have information on these studios, please contact me. Robert Blue, 400 E. Colonial Dr., Orlando, FL 32803, e-mail