10 Best Big Web Sites

10 Best Big Web Sites

You're sure to find information about your family in these stellar genealogy Web sites.

Access Genealogy
This free site just keeps growing, with recent additions ranging from early South Carolina marriages to the roster of the 1st North Dakota Volunteers. It’s especially strong on American Indian data, including the 1880 Cherokee census, the Dawes Rolls, and new lists of Indians in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

This online hub for African-American research has 27 forums, chats, more than 100 mailing lists, news feeds, a surname database, death and marriage databases, a slave records collection, census schedules, a documents and articles library, and a family reunion primer—and it’s all free. No wonder AfriGeneas attracts 225,000 visitors a month.

After a long period when this invaluable site seemed to have plateaued, FamilySearch is once again where it’s happening. A new Record Search is under development. FamilySearch has struck deals with commercial sites to expand US and Canadian census offerings, and added records ranging from Ohio court files to Florida state enumerations. All the features that made the online genealogy home of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints a must-visit are still here, too, including the Family History Library catalog, International Genealogical Index, family trees, Scandinavian and (recently much enhanced) Mexican vital records, censuses and invaluable research guides.

Footnote $$
A rising star because of its partnership with the National Archives, this subscription site ($11.95 a month, $69.95 a year) digitizes the records the government can’t afford to: documents about the Revolutionary War, Civil War and both World Wars, historical newspapers, naturalization documents and more. Plus, it’s interactive, letting members share family history finds. And new Footnote Pages, described as “Facebook for the deceased,” contain profiles of deceased individuals, populated with the 80 million names from the Social Security Death Index and WWII enlistment records.

GenealogyBank $$
Strongest on US historical newspapers—more than 2,400 publications with 139 million articles spanning 1690 to 1977—this subscription site also features historical books and pamphlets, and a variety of documents, including military records, Revolutionary and Civil War pension requests, widow’s claims, orphan petitions and land grants. You can check out the site for $19.95 a month or $69.95 a year.

HeritageQuest Online
Ask if your local library is already footing the bill for this valuable site—if so, you can access the complete US census, the Periodical Source Index to genealogy publications, 24,000 history books and other goodies. Truly lucky library patrons can log in from home through their libraries’ Web sites.

NewEnglandAncestors $$
An essential investment for researchers with Yankees in the family, membership in the New England Historic Genealogical Society ($75 a year) unlocks more than 2,400 databases encompassing 110 million names. Other online privileges of membership include early American newspapers, Sanborn fire-insurance maps, more than 150 years of the society’s research journal, The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England, 1620-1633, and more.

Still a handy free starting place, this huge volunteer site offers help files, mailing lists, message boards, the WorldConnect Project of user-contributed family tree files, and more than a million surname entries.

This venerable (established in 1996) all-volunteer site links to helpful pages for every state plus, within these, sites for most US counties.

World Vital Records $$
No, we didn’t make a mistake listing this site here instead of under “vital records.” The ever-expanding aggregation of 1.2 billion records goes far beyond births, marriages and deaths. You’ll also find family trees and histories; census records; immigration records; court, land and probate files; military records; directory lists; newspapers; and more. Total access costs $14.95 a month or $119.40 a year, or pay $39.60 a year for US records only.

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