Match an ancestor, and you could hit pay dirt. Our guide to the top 10 pedigree databases reveals how to cash in on millions of pre-researched family trees. (That's 944 million ancestors!)
On many occasions, I've hit brick walls in my family history research. I resign myself to the stark reality that I've exhausted every possible source and will add nothing more to that branch of my family tree. Then, out of the blue, comes someone with an old family Bible, letters or other documents that solve the mystery and reinvigorate my quest.
Thanks to the Internet, its easier than ever to make those out-of-the-blue connections. We can collaborate with other researchers at sites from message boards to heirloom auctions. But perhaps the best online tools for tapping fellow family historians' discoveries are pedigree databases — compilations of family files from genealogists around the world. Typically, these family tree collections contain not only names, but also dates and places of birth, baptism, marriage, death and burial. Individuals are linked together in families, so once you make a connection, you might instantly extend your pedigree back several generations. You'll also find the name and contact information for the submitter, who may be able to provide additional details.