Just starting your family research? These beginner-friendly destinations are made to order.
It's no coincidence that this ever-growing gateway to genealogy Web sites was one of the first sites ever spotlighted in Family Tree Magazine's pages. It's an ideal online starting place for family historians. Whatever pool of the genealogy world you're looking to dip your toe into, Cyndi's List will have links—at last count, 263,750 in 180 categories from Acadian, Cajun & Creole to Writing Your Family's History.
If you're starting from a pile of old photos or looking for lost family pics, this photo-reunion site is the place to click. DeadFred's collection encompasses some 14,600 surnames and 76,00 records, and it's reunited 1,227 old photos with families.
Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter $
Let expert Dick Eastman guide you into the world of genealogy, especially its technological side, with this blog-format daily newsletter. The free basic edition is generous with information, but if you like what you see, you can upgrade to the Òplus' edition for $19.95 a year.
The online home of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' vast genealogy holdings is so packed with data that we also could have listed it among the best sites for Web-centric researchers. Offerings to date—all free—include the 1880 US, 1881 British Isles and 1881 Canadian censuses; Scandinavia and Mexico vital records indexes; the US Social Security Death Index; the International Genealogical Index; and user-submitted pedigrees. Millions more digitized documents are still to come under recent partnerships with a variety repositories. You can see a sampling using FamilySearch Labs Record Search. FamilySearch is a must-stop on our for-beginners list because of its extensive research guides and help files, a how-to wiki drawing on the experience of researchers all over the world, and online Family History Library catalog of microfilmed records you can borrow through the worldwide branch Family History Centers.
An alternative to investing in shrink-wrapped software, Geni was picked by PC Magazine as one of the best free online applications of any kind. Its simple interface lets you create an online family tree, add photos and family news, then email relatives and invite them to join in the fun. You can now import and export GEDCOM files, making it easy to transport data from your desktop program.
Library of Congress: American Memory
Anchor your ancestral quest with this friendly front end to the library's wealth of digitized historical documents and photos—-more than 9 million items in all, organized into more than 100 thematic collections. The library's regular catalog catalog.loc.gov also is an easy place to look up pretty much any book in existence, and its National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections (NUCMC) catalogs rare, one-of-a-kind materials in repositories nationwide.
Free genealogy software and family pages, a genealogy search engine and the fun extra of a facial-recognition tool (what celebrities do you look like?) make this an appealing launch pad for beginners. You'll incur a cost here only if you build a beyond-basic family Web site.
An easy place to start delving into online databases, My Trees lets you search 1 billion names with a single click. Its own Ancestry Archive totals 328 million names. Though subscriptions start at $7 for 10 days, you can earn free access by submitting your own family tree file.
What better and easier way to learn about genealogy than watching TV? This online Internet television station with 24 "channels" brings family history experts to your computer screen to teach the ins and outs of researching your roots. And unlike broadcast TV, you can choose what you want to watch and when to watch it. Roots Television is free except one Pay TV channel.
This venerable volunteer site, now residing in Ancestry.com's Web domain (though still free), has kept its friendly feel and remains an ideal jumping-off point for genealogical newbies. Besides helpful advice such as the RootsWeb Guide to Tracing Family Trees rwguide.rootsweb.com, you'll find more than 31,000 mailing lists and 132,000 message boards, the WorldConnect Project of uploaded pedigree files containing more than 372 million names, and the RootsWeb Surname List of more than 1.2 million surname entries.
This innovative collaboration site hosts more than 175,000 pedigree files, a database of more than 80 million names and 2 million photos. Plus, you can store your own family tree data here and generate charts and reports right from the site.
Get started tapping the treasures of more than 10,000 libraries worldwide with this one-click search of more than 1 billion holdings.
When you're ready to start foreign research, this global counterpart of US GenWeb (see below) will guide you to getting going in your ancestral homeland. Most countries have their own sites—a new batch under the AfricaGenWeb banner is the latest addition—and many, especially for European ancestries, are packed with advice for beginners.