Technophobes can raise all the eyebrows they want, but the Internet for genealogists is here to stay. Sure, there’s plenty of junk out there: poorly researched pedigrees, incorrect information, links that don’t work, shady researchers for hire and scam artists aplenty. But some real gems await you, too: great tips and resources from professionals and seasoned hobbyists, handy tools and references, millions of records to search, original documents and maps to download, fellow researchers volunteering their time to assist you, and rich pieces of history to help interpret your own ancestors’ lives.
Since last year’s debut of the wildly popular feature article, “101 Best Web Sites,” Family Tree Magazine has sorted through thousands of new and, in some cases, improved Web sites of potential use to genealogists. We carefully reviewed each site for what it offers family historians, how easy it is to use and, finally, its design (hey, with millions of sites popping up each day, looks count!).
Beyond the Veil: Using LDS Resources to Discover Your Ancestors
<www.lds-family-history.org> Done by a professional genealogy research company, this site offers a “Rookie’s Guide to Genealogy Research,” explains why you should use resources from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and helps you find your way through the Family History Library. There also are lessons on recording information, family interviews, organizing files and using Personal Ancestral File, the church’s free genealogy software program.
CPRoots Genealogy Resource Center
The CPRoots information exchange center lets you search or add surnames, messages, family mysteries and family Bible records. There’s a marriage directory and guide to ancestors in the news. Also, look for death information and learn about surnames, heraldry, coats of arms, badges, tartans and clans.
Besides a host of updated, searchable links, this interactive site offers a news center, site of the day and guides for organizing your research, family reunions and seeking birth parents.
Jynxey’s Junction Genealogy Depot
Great links and info for beginning genealogists. The site provides 20 links categories and advice on correspondence, privacy and getting started.
Step-by-Step Genealogy How-To Guide
American Family Immigration History Center
This new Ellis Island immigration database lets users easily search and access the records of everyone who entered the United States through the Port of New York from 1892 to 1924. The actual pages showing your ancestors’ arrival in America are only a few clicks away. (See the June 2001 Family Tree Magazine for a complete guide to this site.)
<www.ancestorsupersearch.com> This “precision” search engine indexes English genealogical data from before 1930. Unlike many other search engines, it doesn’t limit itself to its own databases. And you can pass your e-mail address on to someone searching for the same ancestors. The site’s “Cousin Contact” feature will automatically put researchers in touch with each other, if they so choose.
<www.chineseroots.com> For Chinese family history researchers who can’t read Chinese, this English version offers Chineseroots 101, a surname origin library and dictionary, news, links and help from Shanghai Library’s “Gen Gurus.”
Federation of East European Family History Societies
Packed with resources for ancestries from Albanian to Ukranian, this is a must-visit site for Eastern Europe roots research. Besides resource guides and pages for each member society, it contains a searchable database of nearly 500,000 Central and Eastern European surnames.
The FreeBMD project is transcribing the indexes of birth, marriage and death records from England and Wales, 1837 to 1900, and putting them online. This massive project is currently providing free Internet access to 7 million records from the Civil Registration Index, with about 45,000 added per day. A search of the FreeBMD database will tell you the event, quarter and year, surname, first name(s), registration district, volume number, page number and submitter.
Genealogical Word Lists from FamilySearch
<www.familysearch.org/Eng/Search/RG/frameset_rhelps.asp> By clicking on Sort by Document Type and then Word Lists, you’ll get English translations of common genealogy-related words, language characteristics and additional resources for these languages: Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Hungarian, Icelandic, Italian, Latin, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish.
Genealogy at the National Archives of Ireland
<www.nationalarchives.ie/genealogy.html> The guide covers beginning a search at the archives; where to find birth, marriage and death records; census records from 1821 to 1911; genealogy centers listed by county; tithe and property tax lists; genealogical researchers; wills and administration records; and further reading. From this page, you can link to the archives’ searchable online databases.
If you’re searching for more information about family members and friends lost during the Holocaust, or trying to contact survivors, you can post and search messages and photographs on this site for no cost. It also offers Jewish-and Holocaust-related links and news.
Immigration and Naturalization Service’s History, Genealogy and Education
The INS offers information about its Historical Reference Library collection and services. From this site, you can learn more history of the INS and immigration law, procedure and stations. If you’re thinking about using INS records to do historical and genealogical research, the staff gives instructions here.
The all-encompassing site for Jewish genealogy, from how to get started to detailed research guides. Features include a directory of Jewish Genealogical Societies (JGSs), Shtetl Seeker and the Family Finder, with surnames and town names. You can also upload your own family tree for free to the Family Tree of the Jewish People.
Jewish Records Indexing Poland
Using this database, you can locate clues to retrieve family records from almost a million vital records for hundreds of Polish towns and villages. Keep in mind that while you won’t find actual records here, you will get index entries with names, record numbers and years, plus the microfilm number containing the actual documents.
National Archives of Scotland
Here you’ll learn all about Scotland’s national archives, which cover the 12rh to 21st centuries. It offers useful information, particularly the introductions to researching Scottish family history, emigrants, military, local history, maps, trades and crafts. You also can order archival publications and find out how to access indexes of its collections.
Native American Links
<www.accessgenealogy.com/native/> This is a genealogical starting point for the state or tribe you think your Native American ancestor came from, with links to records, newspapers, mailing lists, powwows, other related events and organizations. Other links include medical, historical and records-oriented sites that focus on Native Americans.
See “Genealogy and Poland: A Guide” in the history section to answer those first questions such as how to locate your Polish ancestors’ place of origin and what records are available. Other topics include culture and customs, geography and maps, immigration, events, databases and a surname search.
With more than 2 million entries, this genealogical database network will search every database it knows of worldwide, both free and fee-based sites and tell you how to access the information it finds (listing either a Web site, e-mail address or postal address). You can also download GeneWeb, a free, full-featured genealogical software program.
Designed for historians, genealogists and history buffs, HistorySeek! allows you to search its entire directory of sites. Try the genealogy, community, military and timeline categories.
<www.newspaperabstracts.com> Volunteers submit newspaper extracts to this growing archive of newspapers published in 1923 or earlier. You can search for news of your ancestors in article abstracts from the United States, Canada and Ireland. For content updates, join the site’s e-mail list.
RootsLink will scour its set of family history-related sites, rather than the entire Web, to find what you’re looking for. Categories in the search include Bible records, court documents, deeds, fraternal organizations, government resources, newspapers, professional/occupational records, tax lists and wills.
Tool Kit for the Expert Web Searcher
Type in an author name or title keyword, and BookFinder will quickly offer a list of titles. It also tells you which are available as new, used or rare books, and how much they cost at the top online booksellers (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.) One click takes you to your item of choice at the retailer where it’s available.
With one search of this site, you can tap the resources of the complete, updated Encyclopaedia Britannica, related Web sites with reviews, timely articles from more than 70 magazines and related books.
Bygones is a free software program that allows you to take notes on a computer and later load that data onto your main program (Family Tree Maker, Generations, etc.) Each piece of research is entered as a “research extract,” tracking sources, findings and other notes.
Genealogy Resources on the Internet
Each week, John Fuller and Christine Gaunt add hundreds of mailing lists, e-mail addresses, Web sites and newsgroups that could provide you with just the information you’re looking for. Nowhere else will you find such a comprehensive, up-to-date collection of mailing lists more than 20,000 are currently listed with instructions on how to participate and links.
Genealogy Web Page Tutorial
This site will help get you started posting a family tree on the Web. From design to clip art, hosting to programming, these tutorials can hold your hand as you make your first forays into Web site creation.
A List of Occupations
<cpcug.org/user/jlacombe/terms.html> This page contains a massive, alphabetized list of mostly archaic occupation names and what they meant.
Share and share alike
GenCircles allows you to upload your genealogy; then users can post messages on the individuals in your file. The site promises it won’t sell your data, send you junk mail or sell your e-mail address. Both posting and viewing information are a piece of cake.
Genealogy Look Up Forum
Volunteers are standing by (online, that is) to check indexes of births, cemeteries, censuses, deaths, libraries, links, marriages, obituaries and other genealogical lists.
With this free, full-featured genealogy software program, you can record data, add photos, create family trees, calculate relationships, manage dates, convert calendar dates and display statistical data. If you opt to use the online version, you can share your family tree with others and allow them to add their own data. (You can also keep it to yourself, if you prefer.) GeneWeb also may be downloaded for offline use.
This site’s most valuable service is what its visitors have to offer: transcribed records of all sorts, volunteers to look up certain records for you and hundreds of entries either requesting or offering free information on a bulletin board. Take advantage of GenSwap’s tips, links to other sites offering free services, and an Internet mailing list notifying you of updates and additions.
Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness
This site’s creators organize a network of volunteers who will do some legwork for you in their area. The volunteers usually limit requests to one each month, and there may be a waiting list for your county. All they ask in return is that you do a future genealogical favor for someone else.
Records, records, records!
<censuslinks.com> With 6,000-plus links to birth, death, marriage and, of course, census transcriptions (including slave schedules), this site offers a broad reach with a specific focus. You’ll also find links to other online census research aids.
Census Online & Other Diggins
<www.imagin.net/????tracers/census1.htm> This site is an ongoing project that offers databases of census transcriptions, tax lists, marriages. Civil War soldiers and more. Search the entire site or browse by state. Genealogy tips, books, research and hundreds of links are available.
The Records Room
What makes the Records Room convenient is that it allows you to search vital and military record links and publications through one directory. It includes indexes of Native American and cemetery records, passenger ship arrivals and addresses/links to every US county’s records office.
Where to Write for Vital Records
Ask the pros
Association of Professional Genealogists
Easily search the directory of some 1,200 members, learn more about hiring a genealogist and find out how to go pro yourself.
This site serves as an international directory of professional genealogists, who pay for their entry to be included. Browse by region (from Africa to the United States) or specialty (adoption, photography and more). Each company or individual lists credentials, experience and more specific details on services, prices and contact information.
Scrapbooking and photos
Aunt Abigail’s Photo Album
If you’d rather cut, glue and decorate your scrapbooks using a mouse instead of clumsy fingers, download this free software program. Features of this PC-only program include photo and caption editing, quick page navigation, and fast transfer of photos and captions from page to page. Print pages in color and add them to your albums!
A Few Scanning Tips
Computer programmer and amateur (but very knowledgeable) photo scanner Wayne Fulton shares the secrets of scanning success on his Web site. From resolution to formats, he lays out all the basics plus offers instruction on digitally restoring your faded slides and old photos.
Full of advice for both film and digital photographers, this site includes tips on getting printouts to match what’s displayed on your monitor, creating Web graphics, e-mailing digital photos and adding photos to documents.
Visit dMarie’s “Layout Central” for 300-plus examples of family heritage scrapbook pages. The time capsule (click on Inspiration) provides events and facts about any date in the 20th century, from headlines to popular songs to the cost of milk and gasoline.
If you’ve got a scanner and a pile of family photos to share, how about displaying them in an album you can show to relatives and friends across the country or the world? PictureTrail offers an easy way to display your photos online. Once you sign up for a free membership and run through the site’s tutorial, create your unique album (or albums). Features include uploading pictures in batches, adding MIDI sound, sending digital postcards, presenting photos in a slide-show mode and protecting your album with a password.
Beyond its directory of 24,000 antiques dealers, appraisers, auctioneers and related services, AntiquesAmerica.com offers many other helpful, informative resources. Read a variety of articles about antiques. Enjoy the online exhibitions, house tours and articles provided by the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities. Search for museums and societies, historic homes, art museums and other historical and educational institutions open to the public.
Any heirloom you can think of trophies, Bibles, report cards, furniture, telegrams and yearbooks can be found, bought or sold here. Search more than 1,600 items and 4,400 surnames free, and use the e-mail contact on an item’s entry to get details.
Heritage Preservation Services
Learn about efforts to save American battlefields, historic buildings, landmarks, landscapes and tribal communities. Each section includes “what you can do” to help. You also can find out about HPS products and services, financial assistance and incentives, educational guidance and technical information.
Preservation of Scrapbooks and Albums
The American West: A Celebration of the Human Spirit
Leave it to a Swedish immigrant to present an online history of the American West, from the days of Wild Bill and Wyatt Earp to today’s modern West. Though Bengt Lindeblad died in 1997, his site lives on, full of articles and links on topics such as American westward expansion, European emigration and all you’ll ever need to know about cowboys. Plus look for upcoming events, stories from visitors and the online trading post.
Archiving Early America
Those of you with colonial ancestors can learn more about them through what they read (newspapers, maps, pamphlets), whom they followed (the lives and portraits of important players) and illustrations of events (battles, weddings and more). Includes a searchable digital library.
The Costumer’s Manifesto
Perhaps most relevant to genealogists is the site’s costume history, which displays illustrations and photographs of period costumes as well as fashion timelines. Click on any image to examine a costume more closely.
Find links to online migration and genealogical sources. Also search its database that collects and analyzes migration data and provides migration patterns for genealogical, historical and educational research.
You’ll be able to locate museums by city, state, country, name and topic; explore museums by type; search for exhibits by artist; access educational and industry resources; and more.
My History Is America’s History
This site, sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities, helps you discover your own family’s history by placing it against the backdrop of American history.
The Poorhouse Story
If one of your relatives ended up in a 19th-century American poorhouse, it can be a roadblock in your records search. This site may help you find a book or Web site to access the records you need. It also details poorhouse history, laws and cemeteries. Learn the social history behind the institution and search by state for archives.
The Time of the Lincolns
Learn more about the Civil War’s partisan politics, slavery and freedom, the rising nation, Americans at war, a woman’s world and transcripts from the film of the same name.
United States Historical Census Data Browser
American Women’s History: A Research Guide
Check out these citations to print and Internet reference sources, as well as to selected large primary source collections, from a university reference librarian.
It’s a one-stop Web center for reunion organizing: browse and post announcements; check out the bookstore, genealogy links and news; plug in to a search engine specifically geared toward ideas, tips, products, services and other resources for family gatherings.
International Black Sheep Society of Genealogists
This society supports the idea that public knowledge of murderers, thieves and other “black sheep” in your family enhances the possibility of finding more about these ancestors, who otherwise might be genealogical dead ends.
Local Catholic Church and Family History Genealogical Research Guide
Find links to archdioceses, dioceses, churches, history, genealogy and biographies for whatever geographic region you choose. If you need a refresher course on what kinds of records Catholics keep, the Webmaster (who happens to be a professional genealogist) describes the various sacraments and where to find records of them.
Mobile Genealogy looks rather small on a regular monitor, but fits perfectly on your 3Com Palm Pilot, Handspring Visor or IBM WorkPad personal digital assistant. Whether you’re at the library and need to look up a surname, or stuck waiting for a delayed flight and want to check the latest genealogy news, you can use this site as your jumping-off point.
National Adoption Information Clearinghouse
Resources are divvied up by whom they’re geared to: professionals, adoptees, birth relatives and parents. There are also statistics, databases of books and organizations, legal updates on records access, help searching for birth relatives and links to search and reunion sites.
Search this worldwide directory of Christian churches by city, state and country to find the modern counterparts of your ancestors’ churches.
Notable Women Ancestors
Celebrate the famous and everyday women among our ancestors with this spirited site dedicated to bringing their stories to light. Read about the lives of women adventurers, African-Americans, artists, entertainers, great mothers, aunts, sisters and grandmas. Learn the tales of historical humanitarians, pioneers and emigrants, royalty and witches.
Young researchers can add links to useful sites, post queries and questions and learn the first steps of roots research. They also can join a kids-only genealogy mailing list and connect with other students across the country who are doing genealogy projects.
Events and organizations
Family Reunion Calendar
Thousands of reunions are listed here; search them by month and year, and click on an event for all the details. Adding an event is as easy as 1-2-3, and it’s free!
Historical and Genealogical Societies of the United States
Check this new directory of genealogical and historical societies for ones that apply to your family history research.
History Channel Traveler
Consult this online guide to historic travel across the United States. Just type in the cities you’ll be visiting or passing through, and discover sights to see, events to attend and places to stay for history buffs. Also see the event calendar and guide to historic hotels.
New England Historic Genealogical Society
Search the society’s catalog of 30,000 books, manuscripts and other media, which you can borrow from the circulating library. Join the online discussion forum to talk about your experiences and work out trouble spots. For research assistance, try the site’s QuickSearch or, if you’re a beginner, check out the frequently asked questions section and Getting Started page. The Family Corner and Teacher’s Comer feature educational events, suggested reading and specialized resources.
Family health history
This genetics company explains why family health history is so important and offers a free, confidential database to store your information and share with other family members. Also check out the health-related links page.
Archaic Medical Terms
On this site, you’ll find many common antiquated terms and what they mean by today’s standards.
Cemeteries and death records
Cemetery Records Online
This site offers international burial records along with tips on how to research your family tree, how to find a “lost burial” and where to look for help.
Fieadstone Funter serves as an online matchmaker of sorts for people who want to see what old family graves look like and those who live nearby that cemetery and volunteer to photograph tombstones. It also offers tips on how to clean and photograph headstones without disturbing the burial site.
Search through more than 67,000 politicians, judges and diplomats by name, offices held or sought, birth or death date, state and county of birth or death and more. Find out where politicians were born, lived, died and were buried. The site’s creator also answers common questions and gives links to historical cemetery resources.
American Civil War Homepage
Here you’ll find links to many Civil War sites, categorized under general resources, secession crisis and before, images of wartime, biographical information, histories and bibliographies, documentary records, state/local studies, battles, rosters and regimental histories, other military information, Civil War re-enactors and roundtables.
Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System
More than 5 million soldiers (Union and Confederate) will be included on this site, as well as histories of regiments in both armies, links to descriptions of 384 significant battles of the war, prisoner-of-war records and cemetery records. For now, you can search names and regimental histories of the Union Army’s African-American units or link to other National Park sites that interpret Civil War history.
From World War I to the Persian Gulf and beyond, veterans and their family members can use this place to remember, discuss, find each other and learn more about this century’s military conflicts. Features include a searchable veteran locator, eyewitness accounts, discussion forum for past and current issues, and a calendar of reunion listings, special events and a Veteran of the Month.
World War I Draft Registrations
Charters of Freedom Re-encasement
While the Rotunda of the National Archives building is closed (from July until 2003), gain virtual access to the home of the Declaration of Independence and US Constitution on this special site.
This portal for citizens and businesses is meant to help you interart with government online. You can easily search by topic or place.
Official Federal Land Patent Records Site
Search for your ancestors’ federal land grants in this database of 2 million patents issued between 1820 and 1908 in the eastern United States, and after June 30, 1908, in the West. At press time, patents issued between 1908 and the mid-1960s were being added. You also can view the scanned images of original patents and order certified copies.
Prologue: Quarterly of the National Archives and Records Administration
Check out the selected articles that are posted online. You’ll find the entire special issue “Federal Records and African American Research” as well as a guide to combing congressional records for private legislation and “Civil War Records: An Introduction and Invitation,” a primer on the archives’ holdings.
US Patent Office Searchable Database
Search the database of all US patents issued since 1790. If you discover a patent by someone in your family tree, you can order an official copy from the Patent Office.
US Railroad Retirement Board
First-Person Narratives of the American South, 1860-1920
A digitized collection of diaries, autobiographies, memoirs, travel accounts and ex-slave narratives by prominent individuals as well as those from relatively inaccessible populations: women, African-Americans, enlisted men, laborers and Native Americans. Choose from hundreds of documents and search by keyword, subject, title or author.
Kentucky Vital Records Index
The University of Kentucky made a century of the state’s vital records free and searchable online. On this easy-to-use site, you can check the Kentucky Death Index from 1911 to 1986 and 1987 to 1992, as well as the marriage and divorce indexes from 1973 to 1993. Search by name on, in the death index, by place of death or residence. Once you find what you’re looking for, you can order copies of the original files from the Kentucky Department of Health Statistics in Frankfort.
Marriage Records in Maryland
Find out how to get your hands on Colonial marriage records (1640-1776), marriage licenses (1776-1886), records after 1865, license applications after 1886, public notices of marriages (1890-1941), certificates (1914-1987), indexes and references at the Maryland State Archives.
Michigan 1870 Census Index
The Library of Michigan scanned all of the state’s federal census records for 1870 and made them searchable free! on the Internet. Search by first and/or last name (if you’re not sure of spelling, check the Wildcard option), county and township. Also, you can download a PDF file of the actual census page.
North by South
Anyone whose African-American ancestors migrated from Charleston, SC, to Harlem, NY, from the Mississippi Delta to Chicago or from Birmingham, Ala., to Pittsburgh, Pa., should check out North by South. It delves into each migratory route, explaining why blacks were there, why and how they left, and what effect the migration had on the population.
Western States Historical Marriage Index
Type in any place you’re looking for and access live maps, downloadable data and more advanced services. Genealogists will especially enjoy the Geography Network Explorer, which helps you find and view maps from many map publishers. You can also try one of the site’s software tools to manipulate your maps.
Map Collections: 1500-1999
Map Collections is organized according to seven major categories: cities and towns; cultural landscapes; conservation and environment; military battles and campaigns; discovery and exploration; transportation and communication; and, finally, general maps. Most maps on this site may be downloaded.
Worldwide Directory of Cities and Towns
This directory makes your online search for a foreign city or town as simple as three clicks: one on the country name, one on an alphabetized list of towns and cities, and finally on the place you’re looking for. Each of the site’s 3.4 million towns is represented by a geographic map, as well as links to specific weather, airport, locator map and other information.
From the August 2001 issue of Family Tree Magazine