Avid Genealogy Buff Became Webmaster

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After researching his family tree history, this hobbiest began a large suite of free researching websites.

Bill Cribbs wasn't always interested in his family history. Not until he met a tall, burly man with his same last name at a refinery back in 1989. Because his siblings and he were all small-framed, Bill couldn't believe that this was a Cribbs from his lineage.

Curiosity prevailed and Cribbs began his research journey in a non-conventional way. He visited Clayton genealogy library in Houston and began to scan the census index books from 1790 to 1870. Most researchers begin with recent information and work backward in time. Making notes of every Cribbs census record, he was no closer to finding his ancestors. Virtually nothing was known about his grandparents, so there were no clues to use to provide direction.

During one researching trip, Cribbs struck gold. An early work on the Cribbs family that was compiled in 1922 was found on microfilm. In it he found references to familiar names. These clues gave him information on which states and counties he should concentrate his researching efforts.

After poring through hundreds of genealogical volumes, microfilm, and microfiche, Cribbs was able to piecemeal his family tree into a database of well over 3,000 names. In the process of doing this he discovered three other distinct Cribbs lines in the United States. His and one other line was of German descent. Another of the lines was of Scottish, and yet another was an African-American line that started during the slavery days.

The man that Bill encountered back in 1989 turned out to be from the Scottish line, hence the man's large frame. In fact, Cribbs states that every person that he has encountered from that line is big-boned and burly.

While compiling his family notes, Cribbs decided to publish his work on the Internet. In 1998 he began his first web page and has maintained it ever since. Realizing he had found his newest hobby, he started the first of a series of genealogy websites called the "Obituary Links Page" at http://www.obitlinkspage.com, a directory of links to obituary resources arranged by states and counties.

After about two years of maintaining that site, Cribbs decided to start a sister site called "Obituary Central", http://www.obitcentral.com. Obituary Central was a compilation of obituary search engines, all keyword searchable.

"These sites just became so popular that it turned into a very time-consuming process to maintain them," states Cribbs. "The Obituary Links Page is by far the largest directory of obituary research links on the web. The site points researchers to many hundreds of obituary collections maintained by online newspapers, funeral homes, as well as private collections."

Late in 1998, Cribbs' wife, Tina, was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer. The sudden calamity caused him to pause his online efforts in order to become her primary caregiver. Being a pressure vessel inspector by day and a caregiver at night, he was resolved to maintain the sites as they were without adding new content.

In 2001, as suddenly as Tina was diagnosed cancer, she was told that she was in remission! Cribbs began to build on the sites and began two new sites: FamGen.net and GenLookups.com. FamGen.net is a site that provides researchers a free place to put their family tree databases. Cribbs offers to build the online database at no charge as long as the researcher allows him to link to his other sites from their family tree. He also promotes Ancestry.com products on these pages in order to help pay for the costs of the sites. GenLookups.com is a directory of online research volunteers who are willing to freely receive lookup requests from their personal collections of books and other resources. Also hosted at GenLookups.com is the popular Marriage Search Engines directory at http://www.genlookups.com/marriages.htm, which contains the highly-trafficked Texas Marriages and Divorces Search Engines.

Now that he was holding together four major sites on the web, Cribbs wasn't prepared for a new calamity. Tina became ill again and it was discovered that tumor had begun to grow again in her lymph nodes and spread to her lungs, liver, and throughout her bone structure. Cribbs once again became her caregiver but this time he maintained his sites while taking care of her. It was during this time that Tina inspired him to begin a new site for beginning researchers. GenealogyBuff.com, http://www.genealogybuff.com, was born.

GenealogyBuff.com, another freely accessible site, funded by Cribbs' thinning wallet and Ancestry.com commissions, houses a unique surname search utility and a data library. The surname search utility works by submitting a surname on the main page form. A dynamically created page of links is produced that contains a well-organized arrangement of database links, prefitted with the submitted surname.

"Hundreds of databases from across the web can be scanned in a very short amount of time," Cribbs explained. From that list are also links to other categories of links including funeral home obituary databases, newspaper obituary databases, census records, military records and user-contributed databases.

Cribbs adds, "GenealogyBuff.com has become an extremely popular site, and now requires the majority of my attention. The obituary sites have been acquired by a partnership in California but I maintain them to keep them the best, most comprehensive obituary sites on the web."

Now juggling a fulltime job as his wife's caregiver, a father of four children, a refinery inspector by day, and a webmaster by night, Cribbs' accepts his challenges with resolve.

"I do it all for Tina. She's the love of my life and I want her to be taken care of. The sites help to pay for her treatments with the few Ancestry.com commissions that I make and my job provides some health insurance."

Cribbs recently posted a dedication page at http://www.genealogybuff.com/dedication.htm


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Bill Cribbs