However your ancestors got here—be it on the Mayflower or a 747—the Internet makes it easier than ever before to track them in the old country. Just consider these 51 world-class Web sites: Such collections of family facts are your ticket to faraway genealogical sources without leaving home.
If you’ve surfed foreign-focused family history sites, you know real records resources—indexes, transcriptions and digital document images—can seem scarce in international cyberspace. You generally can’t expect to find a country’s full slate of censuses, for example, or an expansive roster of its vital records (that is, unless your kin came from the United Kingdom or Scandinavia; see pages 24 and 27).
Not so for these sites: In our quest to honor the best foreign databases, we searched for sites that deliver actual ancestral data, not just how-to tips and links lists. Our search targeted tools for tracing your ancestors in their native lands, rather than records generated upon their arrival in America.
Though we aimed for the broadest possible geographic coverage, our choices ultimately favored areas that reflect our readers’ research interests. Of course, we also took into account the quality and quantity of sites available for a particular place. So you’ll see more selections from Germany than Greece, for example, and stiffer competition among British Isles sites than Belgian ones. (If the selections for your ancestral country are sparse, turn to page 26, where we highlight our favorite help sites for under-represented regions.)
You can search most of these sites for free, but you usually have to pay to view images of original documents. We’ve indicated paid-access sites with a dollar sign ($) and noted their approximate prices in US funds. Don’t sweat the currency conversions—most sites accept credit cards, which handle the exchange for you. Surfing the sites is equally easy: Just click over to <www.familytreemagazine.com/apr06.asp>, where you’ll find links to all 51 picks.
Australia and New Zealand
Helen’s Page of New Zealand History
This site has an impressive collection of Wellington-area directories, New Zealand passenger-arrival and departure lists, military records, cemetery and diary transcriptions and more—but brace yourself for pop-ups galore.
Society of Australian Genealogists
Search online indexes to late 18th- and early 19th-century soldier lists, ship musters and convicts’ tickets of leave, among other databases. For a complete list of the site’s offerings, click Collections, then Search Indexes to the Above.
State Records New South Wales
Here you can access census, probate, divorce and immigration records, as well as documents regarding “assisted” immigrants (the government subsidized their passage), convicts and court cases. Depending on the index you search, results may show the person’s full name, date of death, town and ship name.
United Kingdom and Ireland
Finding English and Welsh birth, marriage and death records is now much easier, thanks to this site’s indexes covering 1837-to-2003 civil registrations. The site catalogs British vital events back to 1761; it also offers the 1861 census. For $9, you can view, save and print up to 50 index pages.
Access to Archives
Where can you do one-stop searching for 8.6 million English records dating back more than a thousand years? Look no further than Access to Archives. Its citations summarize wills, court and property records, and give the names of the record offices that have the items.
Part of the UK national archives’ site, DocumentsOnline has digital images of more than a million wills proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury from 1384 to 1858. You can search the index for free; it costs $6 to download most wills.
Family History online $
Family history societies across England and Wales transcribed the 58 million church, cemetery and census records in this database, which the British Federation of Family History Societies compiled and now hosts. If your free search turns up any hits, you’ll pay 11cents to view an index entry and 14 cents for transcriptions.
You can search vital-records indexes for England and Wales from 1866 to 1920 and 1984 to 2003, and view images of the printed indexes from 1837 to 1983. Although searching is free, you’ll be charged 2 units to view each page of transcribed results. You can buy 60 units for $10.
Before you shell out for a paid-access vital-records site, check this gratis index to English and Welsh births, marriages and deaths from 1837 to 1919. So far, volunteers have transcribed more than 108 million records. FreeBMD’s sibling volunteer project, FreeREG <freereg.rootsweb.com>, provides baptism, marriage and burial details transcribed from English, Welsh and Scottish parish and nonconformist church registers. Some of FreeREG’s records date back as far as the 1500s, but this volunteer-run project is still in the development stage — the search feature isn’t fully operational yet.
The Genealogist $
Like 1837online.com, The Genealogist serves up indexes to English vital records from 1837 to 2003. You’ll also find partial indexes to the 1841 to 1901 censuses, landowner records and church records. Unlike 1837online.com, this site operates on subscription basis rather than a pay-per-view plan. Rates start at $9 per month.
National Archivist $
Don’t let the title fool you: This is a commercial Web site, not a government project. The site’s owners license content from the UK national archives-including an index to 1796-to-1891 death duty registers (useful for finding wills and administration military records, passport applications, directories and records from colonial India. You can search the databases for free (after you register) and set up an account to view original documents for as little as $12.
Origins Network $
You can trace British, Irish and Scottish roots with this network’s threesome of sites: British Origins <www.britishorigins.com> brings you a will index, the 1841 and 1871 a marriage index for 1538 to 1840, and apprenticeship and court records. Irish Origins <www.irishorigins.com> delivers Griffith’s Valuation-a key substitute for destroyed 19th-century Irish censuses-plus city censuses, an index to wills and passenger lists. Scots Origins <www.scotsorigins.com> lets you limit your International Genealogical Index (IGI) search on FamilySearch <www.familysearch.> to a district within a county, so you can zero in on the most likely matches; though the IGI search is free, you can’t access the trio’s other collections without getting a subscription. Prices start at $11 for 72 hours of access.
In addition to Griffith’s Valuation, this Irish site offers newspapers, directories, grave stone transcriptions and maps. Access fees begin at $8; some resources are free.
Scotland’s official online source for church, vital, census and probate data contains more than 43 million records. Indexes cover births from 1553 to 1904, marriages from 1553 to 1929, deaths from 1855 to 1954, censuses from 1861 to 1901, and wills and testaments from 1513 to 1901. Many index entries link to digital images of original documents. You can search the index to wills and testaments for free (use the surname search on the home page). Access to other resources costs $11 for 30 page downloads within seven days.
Search a complete every-name index to the 1901 census, then link directly to the record images on the Library and Archives Canada’s ArchiviaNet Web site (see right). Automated Genealogy has begun indexing the 1906 census of Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan and the 1911 nationwide enumeration, too.
Dictionnaire Geéneéabgique des Familles Canadiennes Depuis la Fondation de la Cobnie Jusqu’aé Nos Jours
Father Cyprien Tanguay’s “genealogical dictionary” is a must-use resource for tracing early Quebec families. Now you can consult it from the comfort of your home computer: The National Library of Quebec has posted all seven French-language volumes online as downloadable PDFs.
Genealogical Research Library $
For $9 weekly or $64 annually, you get full access to a database of 14 million Canadians. The library culled the ancestral details from farm property maps, directories, cemeteries, censuses and church, land, vital and American Indian records. More than a million names link to images of the original books and documents.
Library and Archives Canada: ArchiviaNet
The online home of Canada’s national archives holds a host of searchable digigtized records, including WWI personnel files, western land grants from 1870 to 1930 and immigration records from 1925 to 1935. You’ll also find page images of the 1871 to 1911 Canadan censuses.
Programme de Recherche en Deémographie Historique $
A tremendous resource for anyone with French Canadian ancestry, this 710,000-record database encompasses pre-1800 Catholic baptisms, marriages and burials in Quebec, plus some burial records from 1800 to 1850. You can search the index for free, but you must subscribe to get complete information ($18 to retrieve 150 records).
Don’t Get Lost in Translation
As you might expect, overseas genealogy sites-including several in this roundup-often appear in their countries’ native tongues (especially government sites, which exist to serve constituents, not cater to American genealogists). So what do you do when the online resource you need is in a foreign language?
First, check for a link to an English version, sometimes indicated by a British or American flag. Failing that, free online translators can give you rough interpretations. Google <www.google.com/language_tools> Babelfish Translation <babelfish.altavista.com> both can translate brief bits of text, as well as entire Web pages (except for any words embedded in graphic files). Different translators support different language combinations, so look around for the one you need. For more online translation tips and tools, see the June 2003 Family Tree Magazine.
Federation of Eastern European Family History Societies
The dozens of databases here cover Germany, Austria, Poland, Croatia, Slovenia and Russia, as well as immigrants named in American records. Click on Databases to find links for Austrian immigrants to the Carpathian Ukraine (1775), the Wischnitz parish registers of baptisms and marriages from Polish Catholic churches, and names of German-Russians extracted from St. Petersburg church books. Don’t miss the site’s Ethnic, Religious and National Index for a list of resources specific to yow ancestral country, or the Map Room, where you’ll find high-detail scans from several historical atlases.
Even if your Jewish roots extend beyond Eastern Europe, bookmark this site and visit it often. You’ll find an index to more than 2.6 million 19th-century Jewish birth, marriage and death records from 400 Polish towns, plus databases of Holocaust victims. The site hosts a variety of other records from countries such as Romania, Hungary, Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia, Belarus and Russia. JewishGen’s ShtetlSeeker <www.jewishgen.org/shtetlseeker>, a searchable database of place names, is especially handy for tracking ancestral villages.
Polish Genealogical Society of America
Click Directory, then Databases to find vital-records indexes covering six Polish parishes (30,000 total entries). Some birth records contain the parents’ names, mother’s maiden name, grandparents’ names and village.
Click Databases for links to military, church and school records. Other highlights include gazetteers, maps and a registry of genealogists’ surname interests.
Latin America and the Caribbean
Search the military databases for soldiers who served in the 10 Years War (1868 to 1878) and Cuban War of Independence (1895 to 1898). You also can browse lists of people buried at various cemeteries and transcribed marriage records from the city of Cienfuegos, and search for passengers who sailed from Asturias, Spain.
The Genealogy of Mexico
Genealogist Gary Felix has posted 16th-through 18th-century passenger lists of Spanish immigrants to Mexico on his Web site. While you’re there, read up on the DNA Surname Project.
San SalvadorDefunciones, 1896-1899
El Salvador GenWeb volunteers have transcribed Family History Library <www.familysearch.org> microfilm of 1890s death records from the country’s capital city. The list provides names, ages, dates and times of death, and parents’ names.
Tombstones and Burials
Search an index to transcriptions of pre-1950 tombstones in Antigua, Barbados and other Caribbean islands. Once you find a relative, click Ask for Details and fill out the form to get additional information.
Vital Records Index: Mexico
Hit the Search tab, then select Vital Records Index from the left frame to comb electronic entries for 1.9 million births and christenings, and 300,000 marriage records. The results typically provide a Family History Library microfilm number, so you can check the sources for yourself. Narrow your searches by selecting Mexican locations from the pull-down menus.
The Danish State Archives aims to provide free access to all its pre-1893 church records and census records from 1787 to 1916. So far, scanned images of parish registers and most censuses have been posted, but name indexes aren’t available. Select Oprette to register and receive a password by e-mail. Then log in with your e-mail address and password and click on English. Under How Do I Proceed? choose SØg i KirkebØger (Search in Parish Registers) or SØg i Folketoelling (Search in Population Census). When searching church records, you can select an Amt (county), Herred (district) and Sogn (parish).
Danish Demographic Database
Dig up the Danes in your family tree with census records from 1769 to 1916 and an index to probate records in four counties. This site also encompasses the Danish Emigration Archives <www.emiarch.dk/home.php3> database of 394,000 people who left Denmark between 1868 and 1908. You can search by name, occupation, age, last residence, destination, parish, census year and more.
Norway’s national archives maintains an impressive collection of databases, which include the transcribed 1801,1865,1875 and 1900 Norwegian censuses. You’ll also find emigrant registers (mostly from 1867 to 1930),probate indexes (1600 to 1900), tax lists, military rolls and church registers. Start searching by clicking the Database Selector link.
This pedigree database contains visitor-supplied information on more than 10 million Swedes who lived before 1905. Its Finnish counterpart <www.dis.se/search-fi-index-e.htm> has information on 160,000 ancestors. You can search the databases for free, but you’ll need a $15 annual membership to get submitters’ names.
The Emigration From Iceland to North America
Don’t freeze up at the prospect of tracing Icelandic roots: Hilfdin Helgason brings you essential resources such as the 1816 Icelandic census and guides to the Icelandic alphabet and patronymics. For lists of parishes and farms in each county, click Where From? under the Emigration heading.
<www.slaktdata.org/en>These Swedish church records date from 1609 to 1936 and cover dozens of parishes. Hit the first Search link on the left to begin looking for free record transcriptions.
Genealogical Society of Finland: Hiski Project
This growing database offers transcribed church records, mostly dating from before 1900. Click on Search Program for History Books to begin.
For Swedish genealogists, this site is the holy grail of online research: You can access more than 14 million digitized church records from the 16th to the 20th centuries. Searching is fast, flexible and easy-so is viewing record images with the site’s Family Finder utility. (See our review in the June 2005 Family Tree Magazine.) Subscriptions start at $9.
Institute of Migration $
These five Finnish emigrant databases cover 318,000 names from passenger lists and 166,000 passport records. Basic searching is free; full access costs $12 per year.
This growing database has information on more than 61,000 passengers who left Norway between 1825 and 1875.
The Norwegian Historical Data Centre
Like Digitalarkivet, this site lets you search the 1865,1875 and 1900 Norwegian censuses, but it uses a simpler search form.
The Swedish National Archives’ site features several important databases — particularly, its collections of birth, marriage and death records and the 1860, 1870, 1880, 1890 and 1900 censuses. One three-hour login costs $7.
Register of Northern Germany
This German database lets you search more than 275,000 names from 424 registers in northern Germany from 1769 to 1864. Scroll to the middle of the page and use the pull-down menu on the left to change the language to English. Then click on VZ-Datenbank to begin searching. The results page shows you the name, profession, place, status within the household, year of census, family number religion, profession, age and more. If you click the button with the family number in it, the database will bring up all the people in that family-a nifty tool for learning not only about your great-great-grandfather, but also his parents and siblings.
Anillo de Genealogiía Hispana
Click on Archivos, Bibliotecas, Documentos y Censos (Archives and Documents), then hit the Censos(censuses)link to find sites with listings of primarily 18th- and 19th-century enumerations in Spain. Go back to the Archives and Documents page and scroll down to the Registro Civil(civil registry) link-it’ll take you to pages with information on requesting birth, marriage and death certificates.
Die Maus: Bremen Passenger Lists 1920-1939
Bremen ranked as Europe’s top departure port during the heyday of American immigration, but unfortunately, most of its records were destroyed. This database contains more than 568,000 of the surviving passenger lists. You can search them by family name, ship name, date of departure, destination and hometown. Click the button with the ship’s name on it to view a picture of your ancestor’s vessel.
Tap into indexes of South Holland christenings and court records by using the search boxes on this site. To get the actual data — parents’ names, christening date and location — you’ll have to purchase a $39.95 CD. The site also supplies guides to Dutch records, research and naming practices.
Nearly a million records from throughout the French-speaking world were abstracted to create Geneactes’ databases. To start a search, select a country or French department from the pull-down menu and click on Commencer la Recherche. You’ll primarily find church records from the 1500s to the 1800s.
Genealogie in Belgie¨
Click on Databanken WF to search for your family’s name in this database of millions of Belgians. But be sure you have your translation tools handy (see page 25): The data are all in Dutch and French.
Genealogy.net: The German Genealogy Network
Wilkommento a database of your fellow researchers’ family tree files, as well as an index to obituaries (most of the information’s in German). The network covers other German-speaking countries, too: For details, click Regional.
This site already has about 7.5 million Dutch records covering 32 million people and it’s still growing. Civil records of births, marriages and deaths begin in 1811 and go to 1952 for some locations; church records date back to the 1600s.
GeneaBank boasts more than 19 million records of baptisms, marriages, deaths and burials from France dating back to 1424, but you’ll have to join a French genealogical society to access them.
Link to Your Roots $
The Hamburg State Archives’ passenger-records database lists emigrants who passed through the port of Hamburg between 1890 and 1908. Eventually, it’ll cover 1850 to 1934. You can search the index for free, but complete data, including birthplace and state of origin, starts at $25 for one to three emigrants.
Transcribed Vital Records of Italian Towns
The Worldwide Web
Couldn’t find your ancestral country in our roundup? Having trouble finding online tools for your family’s homeland? Naturally, some places have more prominent genealogical presences online than others. But don’t hang up your mouse just yet.
We selected the following sites as standouts at supplying how-tos and links for countries not covered by our 51 picks. For more online options, browse Cyndi’s List <www.cyndislist.com> categories for your ancestral area. Try using Google <www.google.com> (or another search engine), too: Enter a country name plus the word genealogy. New family history sites hit the Web every day, so check back regularly.
? Alex Glendinning’s Award Winning Hungarian Pages
? Chinese Surnames
? Czech Census Searchers
? Czech Research Outline
? Family History in India
? Geneabgia Espanñ ola/Spanish Genealogy
? Genealogy in French-Speaking Switzerland
? Greek Genealogy: Family History
? LusaWeb: Portuguese American Commmunity
<www.lusaweb.com>: Click the Genealogy link to get started.
? Luxembourg Civil Registration,Table Decennales,1853-1863
? Luxembourg on My Mind
? Public Record Office of Northern Ireland
? Researching in South Africa
? Researching Your Lebanese or Syrian Ancestry
? South African Genealogy
? Stuart Terashital’s Japanese-American Genealogy Home Page
? Volga Village Census Index (Russia)
From the April 2006 issue of Family Tree Magazine.