On the fifth day of Christmas, my genea-Santa gave to me … the Trace Your Roots Online CD.
This CD offers the instruction you need to find ancestors online, including the best websites to search, effective search techniques, time-saving computer tricks, social networking sites and more. You’ll also find online searching caveats, such as this research trap to avoid:
Trap: It doesn’t matter whether online information comes from a record, a transcription or an index.
Fact: An online record is an original document that’s been digitized for viewing on the Web. For example, Ancestry.com, Footnote.com and FamilySearch.org have posted images of original census enumerations. When you pull information from one of those images, you’re looking at the original record.
You have to be more careful with online transcriptions, which have typed text from original documents. You’ll find transcriptions of passenger lists (on the Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild site, for example), tombstone inscriptions (at Find a Grave and Interment.net) and all sorts of other records. Remember that typographical errors easily can sneak into transcriptions. Even a careful transcriber might not correctly read the handwriting on an original document. Always verify spellings and dates by checking the original record.
Online indexes can help you find references to your ancestors in state vital records, books, periodicals and other sources. An index will contain only a fraction of the information recorded in the original source. When you locate your ancestor in, say, the Periodical Source Index (searchable via HeritageQuest Online, free through many libraries), jot down all the information, and then look for the genealogical or historical journal where the data appears. Or if your ancestor’s name is in an online death records index, note the certificate number and request a copy from the state vital-records office.