Best for Web Researchers

Best for Web Researchers

If you dream of doing all your research in your pajamas, get comfy and feast on these data-rich sites. If you're on the lookout for a free lunch, keep in mind the gratis portal sites herein may link you to some fee-based databases.

Access Genealogy
Besides oodles of links, this portal also serves up census, vital, immigration, cemetery and military records; plus biographies and such Native American essentials as the 1880 Cherokee census and the Final Rolls of the Five Civilized Tribes (aka the Dawes Rolls).

Ancestry.com $
From complete US census indexes and images to vital records, from old books to historical newspapers, Ancestry.com brings the data to you with powerful and flexible search tools for finding your ancestors in the haystacks of history. US researchers can get annual access for $155.40, or go global with the $299.95 World Deluxe membership—a good value if you have British Isles ancestors, where Ancestry’s overseas offerings are richest.

Ancestry Insider
Keep up with the latest in online research—especially the doings at Ancestry.com and FamilySearch—with this unofficial, unauthorized, must-read site.

Bible Records Online
Who says you have to venture to some musty attic or repository to research in family Bibles? Not Tracy St. Claire, who rescues old Bibles and digitizes them for all to see—1,158 to date, covering 3,469 surnames.

Diigo
Though not targeted specifically at genealogists, Diigo—short for “Digest of Internet Information, Groups and Other Stuff”—can be a powerful companion to your Web research. Use it to highlight and annotate parts of Web pages, not only for your own future reference, but to share with fellow researchers. Diigo works right inside your favorite browser.

DistantCousin.com
A grab bag of newspaper obituaries, city directories, census records, ship lists, school yearbooks, military records and other resources, DistantCousin dishes out more than 6 million records from 1,500-plus sources.

FamilySearch Labs
If the FamilySearch Web site is old hat to you already, check out this “lab” where you can preview the next generation of the site as well cool tools that the brains behind it are developing. An accompanying blog lets you give feedback on these works in progress.

Find a Grave
Who needs to go tromping around graveyards when you have this easy-to-search site, which makes it easy to, well, dig into graves? You can make quick progress finding not only ancestors’ final resting places but also their birth and death dates, transcribed from tombstones, among the 22 million records here.

Footnote $
This commercial offering is making available digitized National Archives and Records Administration records that Uncle Sam can’t afford to—27.7 million images and counting. Already online or underway are Confederate service records, naturalizations by state, a mix of newspapers and old photos, Revolutionary War records and the Pennsylvania Archives series. Searching is free—and you can learn a lot from your hits—but viewing actual records requires a pay-per-view fee or a subscription ($59.95 a year or $7.95 a month).

GenealogyBank $
This growing data trove aims to give Ancestry.com a run for your money, with more than 42 million records added last year alone. Collections cover historical newspapers (108.6 million articles from 2,400 US newspapers, 1690 to 1977), books (more than 11,700, 1801 to 1900), recent obituaries, the Social Security Death Index and a wide range of documents including Revolutionary and Civil War pension requests, the American State Papers (1789 to 1838) and genealogical goodies from the US Serial Set (1817 to 1980). Subscriptions run $19.95 a month or $69.95 a year.

HeritageQuest Online
You can’t subscribe to this institutional offering yourself, but your local library can. Ask at the reference desk to find out if it does. If so, use your library card to unlock the complete US census, 22,000 family history tomes, Revolutionary War pension and bounty-land applications, Freedman’s Bank records and the PERSI index to genealogy articles. New to HeritageQuest is the LexisNexis US Serial Set of memorials, petitions and private relief actions of Congress.

Interment.net
Another popular cemetery-records site, Interment.net includes foreign and US graveyards. You can search 3.9 million records from 8,375 cemeteries worldwide without even putting on your shoes.

MortalitySchedules.com
If your ancestor died within the 12 months preceding the 1850, 1860, 1870 or 1880 census enumeration, you won’t find him or her in the regular census—but you will find the dearly departed in this free site, which searches those “mortality schedules.”

Newspaper Abstracts
Find your ancestors in the news—without getting ink on your fingers. At last count this volunteer project included nearly 52,000 pages of abstracts and extracts from historical newspapers, with an emphasis on items of interest to genealogists such as obituaries.

One-Step Web Pages
Serious Web researchers will appreciate Steve Morse’s site, which “drills down” into databases on other Web sites, including Ellis Island, Castle Garden, censuses and vital records, enabling users to perform complex searches with a single click.

Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection
Maps? We don’t need no stinkin’ paper maps! This site brings historical maps from around the world straight to your computer screen.

Shared Tree
As long as you’re on the Web, why not keep your family tree there, too? This free online application is a shade more sophisticated than the alternatives. There’s nothing to download, it’s GEDCOM compatible, files have no size limit, and you can collaborate with fellow researchers in real time.

WeRelate
Somewhere between MySpace and Wikipedia, but just for genealogists, WeRelate is a community Web site that works on the “wiki” principle, where users generate and update the content. Created by the Foundation for On-Line Genealogy in partnership with the Allen County Public Library, the free site has pages for 1.5 million people/families. Users can upload GEDCOM files, upload and annotate scanned documents and photos, share family stories and biographies, and generate maps of ancestors’ life events.

World Vital Records $
Founded by Ancestry.com co-founder Paul Allen and several members of that site’s original team, this site has accumulated more than 1 billion names in 10,00-plus databases to date. Despite the name, there’s more than vital records: You can delve into family history books, military records, newspapers, yearbooks and more. Some of those records are available elsewhere online, but here you can search them all under one digital roof. Membership for the US Collection costs $5.95 a month or $49.95 a year; the World Collection costs $14.95 for a month or $119.95 per year. Also check out sibling site FamilyLink, the most research-oriented of the new genealogy social networking sites.

 


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