Movies have their Oscars; television, the Emmy awards; chemistry, economics, peace, literature and such, the Nobel prizes. For genealogy Web sites, the ultimate annual honor is inclusion in Family Tree Magazine‘s 101 Best Web Sites. And just as the Oscars, for example, help moviegoers discover noteworthy films they may have overlooked, each year our 101 list leads family historians to the latest and greatest resources on the ever-expanding Internet.
Unlike the movies, of course, Web sites stay on screen for more than just a few months; they’re continuing creations. So some extraordinary sites have made our list more than once. This year, our fourth annual 101 list, we’re recognizing these consistently click-worthy sites with a Hall of Fame designation, denoting those that have made the list at least three times.
Also unlike the movies, you don’t have to buy a “ticket” for most Web sites. But with more of the dot-com world moving to paid access, we’ve added a $ symbol to the listings for those sites where users must pay for a substantial portion of the content, or for the “really good stuff.” In general, as we compiled this year’s listing, we gave preference to sites that are free. Some subscription sites are certainly worth the asking price, however, and we’d be remiss if we didn’t point you to paid places where you could view your ancestor’s actual census page, for example, or search millions of vital records.
How else did we choose a mere 101 sites among the zillions that have popped up in the relatively brief history of Internet genealogy? Overall, we aimed for the essentials: If we took our computer to a desert island and our Favorites list would hold only 101 sites, what would we bookmark to bring along? We gave a slight edge to databases and real records over lists of links and how-to sites, though there are plenty of those, as well. We preferred to single out sites from the states, foreign countries and ethnic groups of greatest population and genealogical interest — so, for example, a North Dakota site would have a higher bar than a Pennsylvania one, and that Ancestors from Andorra site probably had no chance. We emphasized genealogy over ancillary interests more so than ever before, while including a handful of “Web Tools” that no genealogist should log on without.
In keeping with tradition, we’ve made touring these 101 standouts a snap by posting links to the whole list online at <www.familytreemagazine.com>, where you can also click on previous years’ honorees. No need to type URLs; just click and surf.
So just which sites made the cut for our toughest-ever, most-rigorous-yet selection of genealogy’s 101 best? The envelope please …
Access Genealogy <www.accessgenealogy.com>
It’s not just a useful online starting place, with genealogy-related news plus lots of links, but also a source for data. Researchers with Native American roots especially will want to explore the collection here, which includes the 1880 Cherokee census and the Final Rolls of the Five Civilized Tribes. Other resources cover military records, cemeteries, biographies, census records, immigration, African-American ancestry, vital records and more.
Cyndi’s List <www.cyndislist.com>
Cyndi Howell’s exhaustive catalog of links — more than 180,000, painstakingly sorted into 150-plus categories — continues to set the standard. It’s no wonder her site has had more than 32 million visits since 1996. A search box now makes this mammoth site easier and faster to use.
Genealogy Resources on the Internet <www.rootsweb.com/~jfuller/internet.html>
The Web isn’t the only way to research your family tree online; don’t forget mailing lists, newsgroups, telnet and Gopher, technologies that predated today’s ubiquitous WWW. This in-depth list, compiled and still continuously updated by Chris Gaunt and John Fuller, covers all those other ways to plug into your roots, as well as Web sites.
Genealogy Today <genealogytoday.com>
A useful stop wherever you are in your genealogical journey: Resources and how-to information are categorized for those just getting started, those who’ve been researching for several years and are mostly interested in recent generations, those who’ve already traced their families back multiple generations, and advanced genealogists (including professionals, librarians and educators).
Begun as a volunteer effort back in 1996, GeneaNet has a French accent and a more global perspective than most US portals. You can search databases with more than 70 million entries or scour the whole Web with the associated GeneaSeek search engine <www.geneaseek.org>. Special sections include databases of family photos and postcards from around the world. “Privileged” members (beginning at about $40 a year) get extra perks, but this site is valuable even for occasional visitors.
Ancestry.com <Ancestry.com >
This giant commercial site can meet almost every online genealogical need, from census images ($99.95 a year) to old newspaper pages ($79.95 a year; see page 68) to family tree software (free). You’ll pay for the best stuff here — $189.95 a year for the works — but Ancestry.com probably comes the closest to delivering on the dream of doing real research from your desktop. The basic US Records Collection ($79.95 a year) includes more than 3,000 sources of digital data; British Isles researchers will also want the UK & Ireland Records Collection ($99.95 a year). Even if you’ve maxed out your credit cards, Ancestry.com still offers enough freebies to be worth a bookmark, such as its message boards and pedigree files (both merged with Roots Web’s).
Among the richest free genealogy sites, this online offshoot of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would be a must-visit if only for the Family History Library catalog, guide to worldwide Family History Centers, vast library of research guides and free Personal Ancestral File software. But it’s also home to the mternational Genealogical Index of vital records, Ancestral File and Pedigree Resource File databases of user-submitted family trees, the US Social Security Death Index of 64 million records, and special vital-records indexes for Scandinavia and Mexico. And now it’s added census records: the 1880 US census, 1881 Canadian census and 1881 British census. See the December 2001 Family Tree Magazine for tips on getting the most out of this family tree treasure trove.
Begun as a home for Family Tree Maker software users (who can still access the site via <www.familytreemaker.com>), this has blossomed into a valuable site for all researchers. You’ll find a wealth of how-to information, celebrity family trees and user Web pages, plus GenForum <genforum.genealogy.com>, still arguably the biggest and best message board system for connecting with others delving into your surname or ancestral stomping grounds. For a fee, Genealogy.com also turns into your gateway to World Family Tree pedigree files ($49.99 a year), the Genealogy Library of digitized books ($49.99 a year, includes 1850 census images), the Family and Local Histories collection ($79.99 a year), International and Passenger Records ($79.99 a year) and the US Census Collection ($99.99 a year). See the December 2002 Family Tree Magazine for a guide to Genealogy.com’s free offerings.
This ever-growing volunteer effort has survived an acquisition and partial merger with the for-profit Ancestry.com and remains a favorite for free online genealogy. Use the multiple search engines to probe Roots Web’s sprawling collections of user-submitted records (notably death records, obituaries, military records and cemeteries). Don’t miss the guides to getting started in genealogy and to mailing lists on everything from surnames to the most obscure ethnic and geographic subtopics. Message boards and pedigree files match the data on Ancestry.com’s versions, but many users prefer the RootsWeb interface. See the October 2001 Family Tree Magazine for more on digging into RootsWeb.
The idea sounds crazy, but the volunteers at USGenWeb have pulled it off: Build a county-by-county network of links, user-transcribed data and queries for the United States. Within the 50 state pages you’ll find pages for individual counties; you can search the archives by state or all at once. Special projects include census transcriptions and tombstones.
Books We Own <www.rootsweb.com/~bwo>
Somebody, somewhere has that genealogy book with the fact you need to get past your brick wall. If only you had some way to find her and ask her to look it up for you! There is — the Books We Own site, where (to the horror of genealogy book publishers) generous researchers all over put their libraries at your fingertips. A wonderful service — see the December 2001 Family Tree Magazine for a review — but don’t abuse it; if you need more than a lone lookup or two, buy the book.
Boasting more than 24,000 queries from around the world, this is among the best standalone sites for hooking up with other genealogists and distant cousins researching your family. (Genealogy.com’s GenForum and the Ancestry-Roots Web message boards, noted on page 22, still dwarf it, though.)
Cliff Shaw created GenCircles to do existing pedigree databases and message boards one better. Not only does his Global Tree contain more than 45 million user-submitted ancestors, you can use Shaw’s matching technology to connect your kin with those in the database. Besides GenCircles’ own forums (“clubs”), the Genealogy Message Searcher also hunts for results in the Ancestry-Roots Web boards.
It ain’t fancy-looking, but Gene Stark’s stalwart server indexes thousands of Web databases covering 40 million user-submitted genealogies on nearly 40 million ancestors. Find one that might be yours, and you can check it out without having to visit the separate database.
Genealogy Helplist <helplist.org>
Another site that shows how genealogists can indeed depend on the kindness of strangers, the Genealogy Helplist connects you with far-flung researchers willing to look up your ancestors in their local libraries, archives and courthouses. Reviewed in the December 2001 Family Tree Magazine.
Heirlooms Lost <www.heirloomslost.com>
The free Ancestry Archive Index searches 200 million names. A subscription to the Kindred Konnections service ($100 a year) gives you complete access to the archive, plus various records resources. Too steep a price tag? Upload your own family file or spend a few minutes helping with an indexing project, and you can earn free access time.
Past Connect <www.pastconnect.com>
Another site that unites people with the lost pieces of their past, Past Connect contains rescued items. Visitors to the site can discover treasures sold at auctions, estate sales, flea markets, yard sales and the like, such as letters, diplomas, marriage certificates, photographs, birth certificates, receipts, postcards and funeral cards.
Allen County Public Library <www.acpl.lib.in.us/genealogy>
Search the catalog of the world’s second-largest genealogy library (after only the Family History Library in Salt Lake City), in Fort Wayne, Ind., or consult the guides to getting started. (Note that although this is the home of PERSI, the Periodical Source Index to genealogy journals, you can’t search it here; PERSI is, however, part of Ancestry’s US Records Collection.)
Looking for a library? You’ll find it in this easy-to-use index to 18,000 libraries worldwide, library home pages, Web-based library catalogs, Friends of the Library pages and library e-commerce affiliates.
Library of Congress <www.loc.gov>
The “nation’s library” can indeed be that for genealogists who know how to mine it. Besides the Library of Congress’ online catalog to pretty much everything ever printed, this site is home to the American Memory project <memory.loc.gov>. Here, you can find images ranging from a map of your ancestor’s hometown to a photo of the railroad he worked on, and the National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections, NUCMC (say “nuck-muck”) for short <lcweb.loc.gov/coll/nucmc/nucmc.html>, the first stop for finding family mentions in old documents. (Only post-1986 catalogs are covered in the online NUCMC.)
Split over two sites (and, yes, you must actually search them separately), this online archive puts digitized books from the 19th century only a mouse click away. The Michigan-based part of the collection contains some 8,500 books and 50,000 journal articles; the Cornell section covers 267 monograph volumes and more than 100,000 journal articles, and is home to a complete online version of the “OR-Navy,” the government’s Official Record of naval action in the Civil War. (You can find the Army equivalent at History.com, at right.) Read more about Making of America in the August 2002 Family Tree Magazine.
National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) <www.archives.gov>
The new site of the “nation’s attic” still contains helpful guides to genealogy and to obtaining immigration, military and other records from NARA. But now it also hosts the Archival Research Catalog (ARC), which so far covers about 20 percent of the archives’ holdings nationwide. ARC includes 124,000 digitized photos, maps and documents. For a review, see the April 2003 Family Tree Magazine. NARA recently launched a new resource that catalogs electronic records, called Access to Archival Databases (see page 9).
Bible Records Online <www.biblerecords.com>
Frustrated family history researchers, this site may be the answer to your prayers: Tracy St. Claire not only rescues family Bibles — she puts them online. At last count, this site was home to 718 Bibles representing 2,431 surnames. You can search the collection or browse by Bible or by surname.
Bureau of Land Management General Land Office Records <www.glorecords.blm.gov>
Answers to your ancestral puzzles may lurk in land records — this is the site to start unlocking them. You can search more than 2 million federal land-title records for Eastern public-land states (generally, Eastern states excluding the original 13 colonies) issued between 1820 and 1908. Land titles issued between 1908 and the mid-1960s, including those in Western states, are now being added. If you get a hit, you may be able to view a digitized image of your ancestor’s land patent. Read more about this site in the October 2000 Family Tree Magazine.
Census Online <www.census-online.com>
This most complete and easiest-to-use guide to online census pages contains more than 36,000 links. Before you buy a census subscription, check here for free transcriptions.
Easily overlooked because it’s not strictly a genealogy site, eHistory serves up more than 130,000 pages of historical content, 5,300 timeline events, 800 battle outlines, 350 biographies and thousands of images and maps. A favorite resource here for Civil War buffs is, incredibly, the searchable 128 volumes of The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. The “OR,” as this mammoth work is affectionately known, is the authoritative reference to army operations during the Civil War.
Find A Grave <findagrave.com>
Among the best and biggest cemetery sites, Find A Grave lets you search 4.1 million grave records or look for specific cemeteries. You can also create virtual memorials and even add “virtual flowers” and a note to an ancestor’s grave.
Our other favorite cemetery site puts online more than 3.2 million records from nearly 7,000 cemeteries worldwide. Browse transcriptions by region and check out special collections of veterans cemeteries.
Newspaper Abstracts <www.newspaperabstracts.com>
Think of this as the USGenWeb (see above) for newspaper abstracts and extracts. Organized by state and county and depending on the flying fingers of volunteers, this site focuses on US newspapers prior to 1923. You’ll also find some articles from other countries prior to 1900. The pages here now number more than 10,500.
Obituary Central <www.obitcentral.com>
Death is a lively topic here, with thousands of links to online obituaries; cemetery inscriptions; birth, marriage and death notices; and divorce records arranged by state and county, plus a collection of search engines that cover only obituaries.
The Olden Times <theoldentimes.com>
Unlike Newspaper Abstracts (see above), this is a one-man show — but it’s an impressive site nonetheless. You’ll find obituaries, birth and marriage announcements, ads and cartoons, all scanned from the Webmaster’s collection of 18th-, 19th- and early 20th-century newspapers from the United States, British Isles and Australia.
Where to Write for Vital Records <www.cdc.gov/nchs/howto/w2w/w2welcom.htm>
This must-bookmark site gives instructions on obtaining copies of your ancestors’ vital records: addresses, phone numbers, Web sites, costs. If the records aren’t stored at the state level, it tells where to find them (“Contact Clerk of Circuit Court in county where divorce was granted,” for example).
Regional & State Sources
Genealogical Death Indexing System <www.mdch.state.mi.us/pha/osr/gendisx/search2.htm>
If you have Michigan ancestors who died in the later years of the 19th century, this ongoing volunteer project might have the answers you’re after about their demise. To date, deaths from 1867 to 1897 have been indexed on this easy-to-use, searchable site.
Illinois State Archives <www.ilsos.net/departments/archives/databases.html>
Envy genealogists with Illinois ancestors: This soup-to-nuts site is packed with essential databases, including a statewide death index (1916 to 1950) and marriage index (1763 to 1900), public-domain land sales, servitude and emancipation records, and almost a dozen compilations of Illinois veterans dating to the War of 1812. You can also search for local government records held by the Illinois Regional Archives Depository (IRAD) system around the state, then write for copies of what you find.
Library of Virginia <www.lva.lib.va.us/whatwehave/gene>
This is one of the best collections of online data from any state, happily covering a place so important to early America: 2.2 million original documents, photos and maps in more than 80 databases. Unhappily, state budget cuts have curtailed the library’s pioneering Digital Library program, but you can still enjoy what was posted before the ax fell — everything from wills to scanned pages of family Bibles.
Maryland State Archives <www.mdarchives.state.md.us>
You’ll have to click a bit to find the goodies here, but it’s worth the effort. You can search marriage records abstracted from materials at the archives, for instance, or explore the Maryland Church Records, Deaths and Burials Index, covering 1669 to 1967, tucked away at <www.mdarchives.state.md.us/msa/stagser/s1400/s1402/html/ssi1402.html>.
Minnesota Historical Society <www.mnhs.org>
Missouri State Archives <www.sos.state.mo.us/archives/resources/resources.asp>
No doubt that this site for the “Show Me” State is packed with genealogical goodies. Don’t miss the guide to records held at the county level. Then do some online research in the Missouri Birth & Death Records Database <www.sos.state.mo.us/archives/resources/birthdeath>, with 185,000 pre-1909 records from 87 counties, and the World War I Military Service Cards Database <www.sos.state.mo.us/archives/resources/brithdeath>, which has abstracts of 145,000 service cards for the US Army and Marines, plus digitized images of 18,500 US Navy service cards.
Sign up for a $75 individual New England Historic Genealogical Society membership to get complete access to how-to articles, research columns, queries, discussion groups and databases, including The Register, with nearly a million documented references for New England families. Members can also browse an online book catalog of more than 200,000 volumes on New England, New York and other regions.
Ohio Historical Society <www.ohiohistory.org/ar_tools.html>
If you have Buckeyes on your family tree, click straight to the society’s Archives/Research Tools section, which includes an Ohio death certificate index (1913 to 1937), searchable rosters from the War of 1812 and a collection of Civil War documents — more than 12,000 letters sent to the governor and adjutant general from 1861 to 1866. You’ll also find a gallery of Ohio photos.
Oregon State Archives <arcweb.sos.state.or.us/banners/genealogy.htm>
Follow your kin to the end of the Oregon Trail with this collection of online resources. The Oregon Historical Records Index covers census, vital, probate and naturalization records, including searchable Portland birth and death indexes. Guides to county and territorial records will help you take the next step on your ancestral journey. The Oregon Historical County Records Guide features maps, scenic images and county histories.
Pennsylvania State Archives <www.digitalarchives.state.pa.us>
The Keystone State has embarked on an extensive digitization project, with a focus on veterans records; 200,000 documents are already online, with another 300,000 in the works. Currently accessible records include the Revolutionary War Military Abstract Card File, World War I Service Medal Application Cards, Spanish-American War Veterans Card File of United States Volunteers and Mexican Border Campaign Veterans Card File. Soon to come is a Civil War Veterans Card File.
Western States Historical Marriage Record Index <abish.byui.edu/specialcollections/f hc/gbsearch.htm>
This ambitious project has already posted some 275,000 marriage records, with more being added almost daily. Coverage includes virtually all pre-1900 marriages for Arizona, Idaho and Nevada. Many Idaho and Utah counties have been extracted into the 1930s. You’ll also find records from Wyoming, eastern Washington, eastern Oregon, western Colorado and selected counties in California.
Canadian Genealogy and History <www.islandnet.com/~jveinot/cghl/cghl.html>
Canadian Genealogy Centre <www.genealogy.gc.ca>
This new site (see page 8) serves as a genealogy umbrella for the National Library of Canada <www.nlc-bnc.ca> and the National Archives of Canada <www.archives.ca>. It offers integrated, user-friendly access to services and research tools at both institutions, how-to guides and discussion areas, plus a name index linked to scanned images of the 1901 Canadian census.
Canada GenWeb <www.rootsweb.com/~canwgw>
Based on the USGenWeb Project (page 22), this site aims to create a similar online library for Canadian research. Besides links, you’ll discover a Canadian history timeline, facts about famous Canadians, trivia and tips for getting started.
Early Canadians Online <www.canadiana.org>
This digital library puts nearly 1.2 million pages of Canada’s printed heritage at your fingertips, from the time of the first European settlers up to the early 20th century. Produced by the nonprofit Canadian Institute for Historical Microreproductions, the site began in 1997 as a pilot project to digitize 550,000 pages from the institute’s microfiche collection; these and selected other pages, including 20,000 pages detailing the history of Hudson’s Bay Company, remain available for free. Members ($50 Canadian per year) can access the complete collection, which continues to grow with the planned addition of 1.25 million pages of colonial, federal and provincial government documents.
Acadian-Cajun Genealogy & History <www.acadian-cajun.com>
This well-designed site will make you wish you had Acadian-Cajun ancestors — or that someone would do likewise for your ethnic group. Its 750-plus pages include queries, history and step-by-step how-to research tips.
A terrific starting place for African-American research, AfriGeneas also stands out for its online data. The clickable collection includes a surname database, slave manifests from the Port of New Orleans (1818 to 1860), deed abstracts from Granville County, NC (1746 to 1864), Georgia slave bills of sale, city directories of blacks in Baltimore (1810 to 1866), the Richmond, Va., city directory of “Free Colored” people from 1852 and much more. You’ll also find a mailing list, message boards, a chat room and other networking tools.
This leading publisher for Jewish genealogy has posted the Consolidated Jewish Surname Index, a gateway to information about more than 370,000 Jewish surnames that appear in more than 31 different databases totaling 2 million-plus entries.
Besides the FamilySearch Chinese Language Catalog, this slick site serves up a wide collection of articles on getting started with Chinese research, surnames and resources. Members (fee not set) will soon be able to access premium content.
Christine’s Genealogy Website <www.ccharity.com>
Here’s another good jumping-off point for African-American ancestor research. Packed with links and articles, this site is a comprehensive resource for family historians. Databases here include Records of the Board of Commissioners for the Emancipation of Slaves in the District of Columbia, as well as A Partial Listing of Negroes Lynched in the United States Since 1859.
The Freedmen’s Bureau Online <freedmensbureau.com>
Established in 1865, the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, known as the Freedmen’s Bureau, supervised relief and educational efforts for emancipated slaves. This site lets African-American researchers sample the records left by the bureau, such as those relating to “Murders and Outrages” and marriage records from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mssissippi, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Washington, DC.
Hispanic Genealogy <home.att.net/~Alsosa>
Begin your Hispanic roots quest here with such helpful guides as “The Truth About Hispanic Surnames, Their Origins and How to Research Yours.” If you can make the link from the Americas all the way back to Spain, there’s also a guide to Spanish heraldry.
Index of Native American Resources on the Internet <www.hanksville.org/Naresources>
Not limited to genealogy, this wide-ranging site will educate you about your Native American heritage, including language, art and art galleries, archaeology, museums, music, history and tribal government.
Start seeking your Jewish ancestry at this genealogy gathering place — where you can share research and join the JewishGen Discussion Group — and online archive, including the mammoth Family Tree of the Jewish People, with data on 2 million individuals. Other files here include the Family Finder of 300,000 surnames and towns, ShtetLinks for 200-plus communities, the ShtetlSeeker town finder and the Jewish Records Indexing-Poland database. Bookmark JewishGen even if you don’t have Jewish ancestors: The site is even easier to use now that it hosts Stephen Morse’s handy one-step search tool of the Ellis Island passenger-lists database (right) <www.jewishgen.org/databases/eidb>.
Civil War Rosters by State <www.geocities.com/Area51/Lair/3680/cw/cw.html>
Learn more about your ancestor’s Civil War service with the links to rosters in this mammoth homegrown site.
Civil War Soldiers & Sailors System <www.itd.nps.gov/cwss>
The Names Index Project is working to put online the names and basic facts from 5.4 million General Index Cards in the Compiled Military Service Records at the National Archives. If you have a Civil War soldier ancestor, and his name is among the 5 million from 30 states and territories that have already been entered, this is the fastest way to check.
National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) <www.dar.org>
Besides being the home of the long-standing national organization and the place to start applying for membership, this site offers a free lookup service in the DAR’s Patriot Index of Revolutionary War soldiers and others who served the cause of liberty. Fill out a simple online request, and you’ll get a speedy e-mail answer. (For more on Revolutionary War research, see page 32.)
United States Army Military History Institute <carlisle-www.army.mil/usamhi>
Notable for its photo archive, this institute puts pictures of the military past, including a Civil War Photo Database, at your fingertips.
Immigration & Passenger Lists
American Plantations and Colonies <www.primenet.com/~langford>
Early arrivals to America are listed here, with more than 800 passenger lists and 25,000 Colonial immigrants dating to the first settlers at Jamestown.
Data Banks on Italian Emigrants <126.96.36.199/radici/ie/defaultie_e.htm>
These databases cover 200,000 Italians who made their way to New York in the decade before Ellis Island opened, from 1880 to 1891, as well as more than a million emigrants from Italy to South America. You have to register (it’s free) before you can use the site.
Ellis Island <www.ellisisland.org>
If your ancestor was among the 17 million immigrants who passed through Ellis Island and the Port of New York between 1892 and 1924, you can find his or her passenger listing here. Once you’ve identified the right record in this vast database, you can view the digitized actual manifests and an image of the ship your ancestor traveled on, then join the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation ($45 a year) so you can create your own online family scrapbook. Even if you don’t have an Ellis Island immigrant in your family tree, check this site to see if you have an ancestor among the 5 million other passengers and crew included in the database. See the December 2002 Family Tree Magazine for tips on searching this site.
Hamburg Link to Your Roots <www.hamburg.de/LinkToYourRoots/english/start.htm>
Not for German researchers only, this site covers emigrants via Hamburg, an important port of departure for many European nationalities. Digitized manifests cover only 1890 and 1891 so far, but eventually the site plans to cover 5 million passengers from 1850 to 1934. Basic searches are free, but detailed results cost $20 for one to three names or $30 for four to 10.
Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild <istg.rootsweb.com>
Another impressive volunteer effort, this site serves up transcriptions of passenger lists from more than 4,000 ships. If your ancestors didn’t come through Ellis Island, start here — and don’t miss the search engine buried near the bottom.
Besides links to passenger lists, TheShipsList offers a virtual education in 19th-century shipping, from photos of ports and vessels to period narratives. How much was a trans-Atlantic ticket when your immigrant ancestor sailed? You can find the answer here.
United Kingdom & Ireland
1901 Census Online <www.census.pro.gov.uk>
There’s no charge to search through this transcription of the 1901 British census from the UK Public Record Office, enumerating 32 million Brits, but you’ll have to pay about 75 cents to see full details and about $1.15 to view the actual census page. The minimum charge is about $7.75 per session, which is limited to two hours of continuous use.
Ancestor SuperSearch <www.ancestorsupersearch.com>
Get fast-and-flexible searching of 1.46 million English birth and census events from 1755 to 1891. The Cousin Contact feature will automatically e-mail you when another researcher conducts a similar search.
Free BMD <freebmd.rootsweb.com>
The Civil Registration system has been recording births, marriages and deaths in England and Wales since 1837; Free BMD (Births, Marriages, Deaths) lets you search the Civil Registration index from its inception to 1902, nearly 50 million unique records. Search by type of record, surname, county, district or date range. Visit the site to find out how to contribute to the project.
This “virtual reference library” for British Isles researchers concentrates on primary historical material, such as census and church records, as well as links and tips, all organized by country, county and town.
This comprehensive network of sites covers England (including Boyd’s Marriage Index for 1538 to 1840, about $9 for 48 hours), Ireland (including a free search of 2.1 million names in other Web sites) and Scotland (a free parish-level search of the International Genealogical Index). A new Origin Search promises “smart searching” for genealogists of all interests for $5 a day or $15 for two weeks. Read more about Origins.net in the April 2003 Family Tree Magazine.
Take a virtual walk in the footsteps of your Irish ancestors with Other days’ free libraries of photos, maps and 18th- and 19th-century prints. A subscription ($8 for 72 hours, $44 a year) lets you access a wealth of Irish databases, including Griffith’s Valuation from 1847 to 1864, complete with images of the original documents. See the October 2002 Family Tree Magazine for a full review.
Pay about $9 for 30 page credits, valid for one day, and you can dive into this Loch Ness-monster-sized official database of church, vital and census records. Nearly 37 million names are indexed in births from 1553 to 1901, marriages from 1553 to 1926, deaths from 1855 to 1951 and censuses for 1881,1891 and 1901.
Scottish Archive Network <www.scan.org.uk>
Thank Scottish gamblers for this site, which used Heritage Lottery Funds to digitize the catalogs of 50 Scottish archives. Visitors can access more than 350,000 Scottish wills and testaments from 1500 to 1875, now a companion site at <www.scottishdocuments.com>. View some examples of wills, and check out the handwriting guide. Register to receive e-mail updates about the site.
Arkion s Swedish Census Database <www.arkion.se>
This subscription site ($95 a year or $4.50 for three hours) puts Swedish census records of more than 6.6 million people at your fingertips. Available — with search instructions in English — are the 1880, 1890 and 1900 head counts, with the 1870 underway.
Federation of East European Family History Societies <feefhs.org>
Check out the Ethnic, Religious and National Index of Home Pages and the Resource Guide Listing of organizations associated with the federation for an exhaustive listing of links covering 14 countries and dozens of ethnic groups, ranging from Albania to Volhynia.
German Roots <home.att.net/-wee-monster>
In addition to being a terrific starting point for pursuing your German ancestors, this handy site includes lists of links to US military records and death records of interest to all genealogists.
Heraldry on the Internet <www.digiserve.com/heraldry>
Also of interest to British Isles researchers, this site offers the best crash course on coats of arms on the Internet.
Norway’s Digital Archive <dig italarkivet.uib.no>
A testimony to those industrious and organized Norskies, this collection of databases includes Norwegian census transcriptions (1660, 1801, 1865, 1875, 1900), emigrant lists (largely from 1867 to 1930), probate indexes (1677 to 1856), tax lists, military rolls and church registers. Of particular interest to American researchers are indexes to Norwegian immigrants in the 1850,1860,1870 and 1880 US censuses.
Register the Polish surnames you’re researching with the Surname Search and find your ancestral towns in the translated entries from the Slownik Geograficzny, a 19th-century Polish gazetteer.
This global version of USGenWeb covers more than just Europe. Drill down to individual sites for most nationalities of interest to researchers on this side of the Atlantic.
Maps & Gazetteers
American Factfinder <factfinder.census.gov>
Even if your census interests run to well before the 2000 head count, this site from the Census Bureau is worth bookmarking for its free, customizable maps. Once you’ve found your ancestral town using the Geographic Names Information System (see below), put it on the map here.
Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection <www.lib.utexas.edu/maps>
Texas Historic Sites Atlas <atlas.thc.state.tx.us>
Limited to the Lone Star State, but a knockout nonetheless, the atlas features more than 200,000 historic sites, including historical markers, National Register of Historic Places properties, museums and even old sawmills. Interactive maps let you plan your own heritage tour of Texas.
US Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System <mapping.usgs.gov/www/gnis>
Stumped by tricky geographic references in genealogical documents? Find that old churchyard or obscure hill in this database of almost 2 million physical and cultural geographic features from sea to shining sea.
Worldwide Directory of Cities and Towns <www.calle.com/world>
Though not recently updated, this hidden geographic gem lets you browse an online gazetteer down to the tiniest villages and then click to locate them on the map.
Ancient Faces <www.ancientfaces.com>
Claiming to be the largest visual genealogy exchange on the Internet, Ancient Faces boasts more than 17,500 old family photos of more than 20,000 people. Help identify unknown folks or find missing pages from your own family album here.
Dead Fred <deadfred.com>
The original online orphaned-photo site has grown to more than 20,000 old pictures. Your ancestors might be waiting for you here.
Western History Photography Collection <gowest.coalliance.org>
This searchable selection of 95,000 images from the collections of the Denver Public Library and the Colorado Historical Society documents the history of Colorado and the American West. Bring your Old West family history to life with scenes of American Indians, pioneers, railroads, mining, frontier towns, ranch life, scenery, news events and more.
Sharing & Saving Family History
Center for Life Stories Preservation <www.storypreservation.com/home.html>
Daunted by oral history interviewing or putting your family’s story on paper? Start with the guides, tips and resources here.
Click here before you plan that big family get-together for tips, links and everything you need for a harmonious reunion.
Scrapbooking’s answer to Cyndi’s List, this site will get you started in the world of heritage albums.
Advanced Book Exchange <www.abebooks.com>
Bringing together used-book shops from around the country, the Advanced Book Exchange offers one-stop shopping for the old tomes that hold your family’s secrets.
Known for tirelessly digitizing old books — think of it as a trip into your ancestors’ library — Bartleby.com has grown to include contemporary reference works such as the Columbia Encyclopedia, the Columbia Gazetteer, the World Factbook and the Encyclopedia of World History.
Your heirlooms or family Bible may be floating around in cyberspace; use this gigantic online auction site to find and bid on them.
Free Translation <www.freetranslation.com>
Offering a different mix of languages than Babelfish (see below left), this site translates up to 10,000 characters among English and seven other languages.
The essential Web search engine shouldn’t be overlooked as a genealogy tool: Try searching for your surname plus “family history” or genealogy. Google’s powerful images search is also a fast and easy way to find old photos and maps across the far-flung Web.
If Google casts too wide a Web for you, try this search engine geared specifically for genealogists, historians and history buffs.
When you need more than the freebie translation tools can handle, or need to look up an obscure old word in English, turn to this compendium of links to 2,000 dictionaries and translation tools.