Cyber Champs

Cyber Champs

Which genealogy sites bypass the competition? Hightail it to these 101 online overachievers, and you'll surge to the family history finish line.

Our annual 101 Best Web Sites compilation is hardly the only time we scour the Web for great family history sites. We’re constantly on the prowl for new ways to rev up your online research, putting Web sites’ claims to the test and noting which digital destinations are no longer worthy of your clicks. Several times a year, in fact, we publish other compilations of online favorites clustered around a single topic: international research, for example, or sites specializing in historical photos.

For this year’s 101 honors, we decided to use those other Web site roundups as our starting point — a sort of qualifying heat for the big 101 competition, if you will. Only sites we’ve already selected as among the best in a particular category were even eligible for consideration.

We’ve recently revisited all these sites, of course, to update our entries and to make sure they’re still worthy. Some have improved dramatically since we first singled them out, several have relocated, and others no longer made the cut. Our 2006 list reflects all these changes, as well as a rigorous (not to mention difficult) paring down of 300-plus stellar sites to a mere 101. In short, this year’s list represents the best of the best of online genealogy, as filtered by our staff and our expert contributing editors.

As usual, our selections reflect a preference for sites where you can do real research or find essential additions to your family history. Sites that mostly just link to other sites, where the real good stuff hides, tend to get axed. Ditto for mere collections of tips or advice. (After all, you’ve got Family Tree Magazine for how-to information from experts.) The number of subscription sites truly worth your money has increased dramatically in recent years — but all other things being equal, we’ll pick a free site over a paid one. (We’ve noted primarily paid-content sites with a $.) So which sites finished ahead of the pack in our 2006 competition? We thought you’d never ask …

First-place foreign databases

1837online.com $

<www.1837online.com>

This site’s unusual name derives from the July 1837 debut of birth, marriage and death civil registration in England and Wales — indexes to those records are its chief focus. But you also can access the 1861 and 1891 censuses. About $9 buys you the ability to view, save and print up to 50 index pages.

Access to Archives

<www.a2a.org.uk>

Though you won’t find actual records here, you will find out where 8.7 million items reside in 396 repositories throughout England. The cataloged records date from the eighth century to the present day.

arkivalieronline.dk

<www.arkivalieronline.dk/english>

Track ancestors from Denmark via the Danish State Archives’ massive (and still-in-progress) digitization project. Ultimately, free images will cover all pre-1893 church records plus 1787 to 1916 censuses.

Danish Demographic Database

<ddd.dda.dk/ddd_en.htm>

Your first stop here will probably be the emigration database, encompassing 394,000 records from 1868 to 1908. Once you’ve found your Danish passengers, you can search for them in the old country using census records from 1769 to 1916 and an index to probate records in Thisted, Viborg, Aalborg and Randers counties.

Digitalarkivet

<digitalarkivet.uib.no>

Oh, lucky researchers with Norwegian ancestors! You can tap censuses (1801, 1865, 1875 and 1900), emigrant registers, tax lists, probate indexes and military rolls at this national archives site. The latest addition: Digitized parish registers, probably the most important tool for Norwegian research.

Documents Online $

<www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/documentsonline>

Besides images of more than a million English wills (1384 to 1858), this official UK national archives site lets you search death-duty registers, service registers of more than a half-million Royal Navy sailors and other military records. Searching is free; each record image costs about $6.

Family History Online $

<www.familyhistoryonline.net>

The British Federation of Family History Societies serves up 60 million transcribed church, census and cemetery records, which you can search for free. Viewing most index entries costs 11 cents and transcriptions 14 cents, deducted from prepaid vouchers (minimum $8.70).

FamilyRelatives.org $

<www.familyrelatives.org>

Find your British ancestors among more than 300 million searchable records — 150 million fully transcribed — including digitized images of all known civil registration indexes from 1837 to 2003. Databases of births, marriages and deaths cover 1866 to 1920 plus 1984 to 2003. Each page view costs about 33 cents.

Federation of East European Family History Societies

<feefhs.org>

More than just an organization site, this has become home to databases not only from Eastern Europe but also about Eastern European immigrants in the United States. Notably, the San Francisco Call vital-records restoration project now numbers about 121,500 people whose civil records were destroyed in the 1906 earthquake.

FreeBMD

<freebmd.rootsweb.com>

Teams of volunteers have transcribed an astonishing 112 million — and counting — English and Welsh birth, marriage and death records from 1837 to 1933. Though some years are still sparse, others have almost 100 percent coverage. Be sure to check out the sibling sites for census data <www.freecen.org.uk> and parish registers <www.freereg.org.uk>, too.

Geneactes

<www.geneactes.org>

Wherever your French-speaking ancestors landed, you can look for them in this collection of nearly a million documents — primarily 16th- to 19th-century church records — from the Francophone world.

Genealogical Society of Finland: HisKi Project

<www.genealogia.fi/historia/indexe.htm>

Unlike most online versions of Scandinavian church records, this growing volunteer transcription project is searchable.

Genlias

<www.genlias.nl>

Extracted from the civil register — the most important source for Dutch genealogical research — Genlias’ 8 million-plus records name nearly 34 million individuals. Most documents date from 1811, but a few begin with 1780.

Genline $

<www.genline.com>

Though pricey — starting at about $25 for 20 days — Genline essentially replaces microfilm for Swedish researchers, offering digitized images of more than 15 million pages of church records.

GENUKI

Voted one of our all-time reader favorites in February 2005, the volunteer-maintained GENUKI is a rich resource for UK and Ireland genealogy. Along with directories, maps and how-to help, you’ll find user-contributed databases of all sorts, organized geographically.

Institute of Migration $

<www.migrationinstitute.fi/index_e.php>

Find your Finnish immigrant ancestors in this collection of more than 550,000 entries from passports (1890 to 1950), steamship passenger records (1892 to 1910) and information on Finns who died abroad (1918 to 1950). Searching for names is free; an annual $12 subscription gives you complete data access.

JewishGen

<www.jewishgen.org>

This site spans European Jewish history, from 2.6 million 19th-century Polish vital records to a database of Holocaust victims. The ShtetlSeeker database of place names will help you track ancestral villages. Find country-specific data under the SIGS tab.

Library and Archives Canada: ArchiviaNet

<www.collectionscanada.ca/02/0201_e.html>

Canada’s national archives has digitized a wealth of searchable records, including censuses from 1871 to 1911, western land grants, passenger lists, WWI service files and divorce records from 1841 to 1968. (Note that Library and Archives Canada has begun migrating records to a new online system, Archives Search — which you can link to from ArchiviaNet.)

Link to Your Roots $

<www.linktoyourroots.hamburg.de>

Even if your ancestors weren’t German, they may have embarked from the popular port of Hamburg. This slowly growing database currently covers 2.2 million emigrants from 1890 to 1910. Searching is free, but you’ll pay $25 for full records on one to three emigrants.

The Origins Network $

<www.originsnetwork.com>

Irish researchers will be most likely to pony up — about $13 for 72 hours of total access — for this trio of sites: Its Irish Origins <www.irishorigins.com> features the Griffith’s Valuation tax enumeration, the 1851 Dublin census, a wills index and more. British Origins <www.britishorigins.com> has a wills index, 1538-to-1840 marriage index and the 1841 and 1871 censuses. The free Scots Origins <www.scotsorigins.com> searches the International Genealogical Index at FamilySearch.

PolishRoots

<www.polishroots.org>

Besides a long list of databases — most recently, a compilation of 33,000 marriage records — this volunteer project boasts maps, heraldry, history, culture and customs.

Programme de Recherche en Démographie Historique $

<www.genealogy.umontreal.ca/en>

Experience the crème de la crème of French Canadian genealogy online: This exhaustive reconstruction of Quebec’s population — back to the 17th-century beginnings of French colonization — includes 710,000 parish and other records such as baptisms, marriages and burials. Searching is free, but complete access costs $18 for 150 records.

ScotlandsPeople $

<www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk>

This official Scottish-government site serves up almost 50 million church, vital, census and probate records. Most indexes span the 16th to the 20th century, except for deaths (1855 to 1954) and censuses (1851 to 1901). Searching the wills-and-testaments index is free; other resources cost $11 for 30 pages within a week.

State standouts

Afro-Louisiana History and Genealogy 1719-1820

<www.ibiblio.org/laslave>

Gwendolyn Midlo Hall spent 15 years com piling data on 100,000 Louisiana slaves. This handsome site lets you search in a dizzying variety of ways, including by plantation location and place of origin.

Alabama Department of Archives and History

<www.archives.state.al.us>

You can use this site to search for Alabama Civil War soldiers, WWI casualties and historical photos. A new database of 1867 voter registrations includes Wilcox, Winston, Walker and Tuscaloosa counties.

Arizona Genealogy Birth and Death Certificates

<genealogy.az.gov>

Fortunate is the family history researcher with Arizona roots: This site lets you search indexes to births (1887 to 1929) and deaths (1878 to 1954), then view the original certificates as PDFs.

Colorado State Archives

<www.colorado.gov/dpa/doit/archives>

Besides the state’s 1870 US census, searchable indexes here include the 1866 Denver/Auraria city directory, probate files, old-age and poor records, military records, marriages and divorces. Look for entrepreneurial ancestors in the database of territorial incorporations.

Delaware Public Archives

<www.state.de.us/sos/dpa>

Tucked away within this site are a 1680-to-1925 probate-records database <www.state.de.us/sos/dpa/collections/probate.shtml>, digitized photos <www.state.de.us/sos/dpa/exhibits/photograph>, and scanned naturalization papers, Civil War records and other documents <www.state.de.us/sos/dpa/exhibits/document>.

The Florida Memory Project

<www.floridamemory.com/collections> Search databases of Spanish land grants, Confederate pension applications, WWI service cards and more — all linked to digitized originals. You also can picture your Florida ancestors’ past with 121,000 scanned images in the Florida Photographic Collection <www.floridamemory.com/photographiccollection>.

Georgia Archives

<www.georgiaarchives.org>

Bite into a juicy collection of Peach State maps, photographs, Colonial wills, Confederate muster rolls and pension files, legislative papers and historical postcards.

Illinois State Archives Online Databases

<sos.state.il.us/departments/archives/databases.html>

This rich records roundup includes veterans files dating back to the War of 1812, a statewide marriage index (1763 to 1900) and twin death indexes (pre-1916 and 1916 to 1950). You can use the Illinois Regional Archives Depositories (IRAD) index to track down other records.

Indiana State Archives

<www.in.gov/icpr/archives>

In addition to help for your Hoosier genealogy quest, this site delivers databases of naturalizations, land records, convicts, residents at the Indiana Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Children’s Home and more. If your Indiana ancestors kept the same farm for 100 years or longer, look for them in the Hoosier Homestead Awards Database.

Kansas State Historical Society

<www.kshs.org/genealogists>

This site gives you the basics for finding Jayhawk State kin. Also, search the Kansas Biographical Name Index <www.kshs.org/genealogists/individuals/nameindex.htm> and an index to the 1895 state census <www.kshs.org/genealogists/census/kansas/census1895ks.htm>.

Kentucky Historical Society

<catalog.kyhistory.org>

Find your ancestors’ old Kentucky home with the help of the online catalog and statewide virtual library, then look for their final resting places in the Kentucky Cemetery Records Database of 179,750 grave records from 3,170 cemeteries. The Digital Collections range from maps to oral history to quilts, including a wealth of photos.

Library of Virginia

<www.lva.lib.va.us>

Perhaps genealogists should call Virginia the Online Dominion State: Here you’ll find images of 6,000 family Bible records; a WPA inventory of 18th- and 19th-century buildings; and searchable indexes to death registers (1853 to 1896), wills and administrations (to 1800), and Confederate pension applications. Don’t miss the Virginia Gazetteer <fisher.lib.virginia.edu/collections/gis/vagaz>, with digital maps, aerial photography and geographic information for more than 51,000 places, or the Holsinger Studio Collection of old photos <www.lib.virginia.edu/small/collections/holsinger>. This site’s worth a stop even if you don’t have Virginia ancestors: Search for soldiers’ names in the Confederate Veteran magazine published between 1893 and 1932, or visit the Plymouth Colony (yes, as in Massachusetts) Archive Project <etext.virginia.edu/users/deetz>.

Maine State Archives

<www.maine.gov/portal/facts_history/genealogy.html>

You’ll find online indexes to marriages (1892 to 1996), deaths (1960 to 1996), court records, and Revolutionary War land grant and pension applications, plus a primer on Maine genealogy here. Click on the Maine Memory Network <www.mainememory.net> for a digital tour of the state’s past.

Maryland State Archives

<www.mdarchives.state.md.us>

This site buries its treasures, but they’re worth digging for. Try the indexes of church records, deaths and burials <www.mdarchives.state.md.us/msa/stagser/s1400/s1402/html/ssi1402.html>; the Assessment of 1783 <www.mdarchives.state.md.us/msa/stagser/s1400/s1437/html/ssi1437e.html>; censuses of various counties for 1776, 1778, 1870 and 1880 <www.mdarchives.state.md.us/msa/refserv/html/censussearch.html>; and the historical photo collection <speccol.mdarchives.state.md.us/msa/speccol/catalog/cfm/dsp_photos.cfm>.

Massachusetts Archives

<www.sec.state.ma.us/arc/arcidx.htm>

More than a million immigrants arrived via Boston between 1848 and 1891, and archives volunteers are busy entering their passenger records into a database here. You also can search the catalog of 17th- and 18th-century documents, which include Colonial, ecclesiastical and town records.

Michigan Family History Network

<www.mifamilyhistory.org>

From Michigan volunteers in the Spanish-American War to user-submitted births, deaths and family group sheets, use this as a jumping-off point for your Michigan family tree research.

Minnesota Historical Society

<www.mnhs.org/genealogy>

This handsome site will help you get your feet wet in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, with indexes to deaths (1905 to 1996), births (1900 to 1916), Minnesota place names <mnplaces.mnhs.org/upham> and microfilmed newspapers. Photo collections

<collections.mnhs.org/visualresources>, maps and building histories let you recreate your ancestors’ lives.

Missouri State Archives

<www.sos.mo.gov/archives/resources/resources.asp>

When researchers said, “Show me!” the Missouri archives responded. Among the online riches: more than 185,000 pre-1910 birth, stillbirth and death records; a death index with some record images through 1955; naturalization records from 1816 to 1955; and the Soldiers Database, abstracted from service cards of 576,000-plus Missourians who served from territorial times through World War I.

Nevada State Library and Archives

<dmla.clan.lib.nv.us/docs/nsla/archives>

Genealogical success is no gamble in the Silver State: You’ll hit the jackpot with obituaries, how-to basics and — most valuable — searchable 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910 and 1920 federal census data.

New Jersey State Library

<www.njstatelib.org/nj_information/digital_collections>

Among the Garden State goodies you can harvest here are searchable digital versions of the adjutant general’s Official Register of the Officers and Men of New Jersey in the Revolutionary War and Record of Officers and Men of New Jersey in the Civil War, 1861-1865.

North Dakota Institute for Regional Studies

<www.lib.ndsu.nodak.edu/ndirs/bio&genealogy>

See how your ancestors settled the Great Plains with databases of North Dakota biographies and naturalization records, Fargo Forum obituaries and, most notably, the 1885 Dakota Territory census.

Ohio Historical Society

<www.ohiohistory.org/resource/archlib>

The Ohio Death Certificate Index <www.ohiohistory.org/dindex> (1913 to 1944) and the roster of Ohioans in the War of 1812 are the stars of this site. It also will lead you to Ohio Memory <www.ohiomemory.org>, an online scrapbook of the state’s history based on 26,000 primary sources, and OhioPix, digitized highlights of the society’s photo collection.

Online Archive of California

<www.oac.cdlib.org>

Bringing together historical materials from various California institutions — including museums, historical societies and archives — this site offers more than 120,000 images; 50,000 pages of documents, letters and oral histories; and 8,000 collection guides. Use the Finding Aids, Images and Texts tabs to start searching.

Oregon State Archives Genealogy Records

<arcweb.sos.state.or.us/banners/genealogy.htm>

Start your Beaver State ancestor search with the Oregon Historical Records Index, where you can search nearly 570,000 entries spanning almost every type of record imaginable — from probate files to insanity commitments. Then consult the Oregon Historical County Records Guide for maps, histories, images and a record inventory for each of Oregon’s 36 counties, and the Provisional and Territorial Records Guide for Oregon’s earliest days.

Pennsylvania State Archives

<www.digitalarchives.state.pa.us/archive.asp>

You might not think of state archives as the source for military records, but this is the place to find Pennsylvania soldiers. Some 1.5 million online records (digitized from microfilm) give you instant access to National Guard Veterans’ Card Files (1867 to 1921), Civil War Veterans’ Card Files, Revolutionary War Military Abstract Card Files, WWI Service Medal Application Cards, Spanish-American War Veterans’ Card Files, Mexican Border Campaign Veterans’ Card Files and Militia Officers Index Cards (1775 to 1800).

South Dakota Department of Health

<www.state.sd.us/doh/vitalrec>

Search nearly 140,000 pre-1906 birth records to find your South Dakota ancestors’ birth dates and places, as well as parents’ names.

Tennessee State Library and Archives

<www.tennessee.gov/tsla/history>

Dig into the left-frame links to find indexes of death records (1908 to 1912, 1914 to 1925), Confederate pension applications and penitentiary inmates, as well as a guide to Tennessee place names and post offices.

Texas State Library and Archives Commission

<www.tsl.state.tx.us/arc>

Explore a wealth of links, search the online catalog, and discover digital indexes to Confederate pension applications (1899 to 1975), adjutant general service records (1836 to 1935) and newly posted republic claims (1835 to 1846).

Utah Digital Newspapers

<www.digitalnewspapers.org>

This unusual site offers powerful options for searching the full text of more than 40 Beehive State newspapers spanning the 1870s to the 1940s.

Washington State Digital Archives

<www.digitalarchives.wa.gov>

Recent updates to an already outstanding site put more than 3.7 million Washington state records — from vital certificates to military files — just a few clicks away. The latest addition is the state’s 1910 federal census.

Wisconsin Historical Society

<www.wisconsinhistory.org/genealogy>

Genealogical tools here include the Wisconsin Name Index of more than 150,000 obituaries and biographical sketches; more than 500,000 pre-1907 birth records; historical images; alphabetical and regimental lists of Wisconsin Civil War soldiers; and 16,000 historical and biographical articles, searchable by name, location or subject.

Census and vital-records victors

Ancestry.com $

<Ancestry.com >

If you can shell out for only one subscription site, Ancestry.com is the obvious choice, given its variety of (among other things) vital records, plus the complete US census (indexes and images). A year’s access to its US collection is $179.40. The $359.40 World Deluxe membership will most benefit those with ancestors in the British Isles. Note that the Ancestry World Tree, a database of user-submitted pedigree files, is free.

Census Online

<census-online.com>

Despite its name, Census Online doesn’t contain many actual enumeration records. But this reader favorite does link to nearly 40,000 transcriptions, making it a handy jumping-off point for census seekers.

Cyndi’s List

<cyndislist.com>

This classic list of links, now numbering more than a quarter-million, includes more than 350 international census-related sites and 1,500-plus US census sites, along with 450 US vital-records links and countless state and international sites. If you’ve struck out elsewhere (or don’t want to pay for data), you may be pleasantly surprised at what’s online — for free.

FamilySearch

<www.familysearch.org>

The Internet home of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ vast family history resources offers free access to the 1880 US, 1881 British Isles and 1881 Canadian censuses. For vital statistics, mine Scandinavia and Mexico records indexes and the US Social Security Death Index; the International Genealogical Index can lead you to births and marriages worldwide. FamilySearch is also the place to find the Family History Library catalog and the Ancestral File and Pedigree Resource File databases of visitors’ family trees.

HeritageQuest Online

<heritagequestonline.com>

If your local public library offers access to this institutional-subscription site, you’re in luck: You can view the complete US census (1790 to 1930) plus search 20,000 family history books, the Periodical Source Index to 1.6 million genealogy periodical articles, Revolutionary War records and Freedman’s Bank files.

NewEnglandAncestors.org $

<www.newenglandancestors.org>

A $75 annual Research Membership gets you access to nearly two dozen census, voter and tax list databases and more than 100 vital-records resources for New England states, plus Bible records, newspapers and The Great Migration database of early immigrants to New England (1620 to 1633). New membership perks include large-scale Sanborn fire-insurance maps (1867 to 1970) of eight states; newspapers (1690 to 1876); and HeritageQuest Online.

The USGenWeb Project

<usgenweb.org>

Volunteers are laboring to index free census images at <rootsweb.com/~usgenweb/cen_img.htm>. You’ll find more transcriptions at two other sites bearing the USGenWeb name that are not, however, officially associated with The USGenWeb Project — but don’t let that confusing feud put you off: Visit <us-census.org> and <rootsweb.com/~census>. There’s no such confusion about the many volunteer-transcribed vital records, thank goodness, which you can search for by state at <rootsweb.com/~usgenweb/newsearch.htm>.

Vitalrec.com

<www.vitalrec.com>

When you can’t find the vital records you want online, turn to this state-by-state guide to getting answers the old-fashioned way.

High-flying history sites

American Memory

<memory.loc.gov>

This Library of Congress site excels both in the powerful searching of its more than 9 million items and in the range of content — manuscripts, prints, photographs, posters, maps, sound recordings, motion pictures, books, pamphlets, even sheet music.

CivilWar.com

<www.civilwar.com>

From primers on 341 battles (with an interactive battle map) to a detailed timeline to period songs, this site immerses you in America’s bloodiest conflict. Don’t miss the ability to search the entire Official Record, the genealogically valuable compilation of reports about the war written by its officers and principal commanders.

Colonial Occupations

<homepages.rootsweb.com/~sam/occupation.html>

Another handy history helper for genealogists, this site deciphers your ancestors’ jobs, from acater (“supplied food provisions, such as a ship’s chandler”) to yeoman (“farmer who owns his own land”).

eHistory

<ehistory.osu.edu>

This site originally made the cut for its wealth of old photographs, but it has so much more: 130,000 pages of historical content, 5,300 timeline events, 800 battle outlines, 350 biographies, plus those thousands of images and maps. You also can access the Official Record of the Civil War <ehistory.osu.edu/uscw/library/or>, with a cleaner, more flexible interface than CivilWar.com’s. Watch for a new look and content as the site undergoes a revamp.

Feeding America: The Historic American Cookbook Project

<digital.lib.msu.edu/projects/cookbooks>

Longing to whip up that dish Great-grandma used to make, but can’t find the recipe? Search Michigan State University’s online collection of 76 of the most important American cookbooks from the late 18th to early 20th century — with page images plus searchable full-text transcriptions. The glossary of cookery terms and multidimensional images of antique cooking implements can help you figure out how Great-grandma made it taste so good.

Ireland’s History in Maps

<rootsweb.com/~irlkik/ihm/iremaps.htm>

This site easily could go in our maps category, except there’s a lot more to it than cartography. Articles explore Irish history, castles, clans and kingdoms. Plus, you’ll find lists of surnames by county, castle and more.

Making of America

<www.hti.umich.edu/m/moagrp> <cdl.library.cornell.edu/moa>

We’re not cheating on our 101 count — this site really is split into two locations. Between them, you’ll find digitized versions of some 9,500 books and 50,000 journal articles with 19th-century imprints.

The Oregon Trail

<www.isu.edu/~trinmich/oregontrail.html>

If your ancestors were among the 300,000 Americans who headed west on the Oregon Trail, use this site to retrace their path and to read diaries and memoirs of their fellow travelers.

OurTimeLines.com

<ourtimelines.com>

Geared to genealogists wanting to add a little historical context to their research, this nifty site generates color-coded timelines for your ancestors’ lifetimes. Choose from historical events, natural disasters, technological advances and more.

Virtual Marching Tour of the American Revolution

<www.ushistory.org/march>

A step-by-step recounting of the American Revolution presented by the Independence Hall Foundation, this is part of the USHistory.org “congress of Web sites.” For a little history-minded fun, try out the site’s games.

Cartographic champions

Bartleby.com: Columbia Gazetteer of North America

<www.bartleby.com/69>

This 2001 reference contains searchable information on 50,000 places in the United States, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.

The Canadian County Atlas Digital Project

<digital.library.mcgill.ca/countyatlas>

As much genealogy as geography, this database draws on atlases published between 1874 and 1881. Search by property owner (whom you can then locate on the old map) or by place (from which you can generate an index of people).

Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names Online

<www.getty.edu/research/conducting_research/vocabularies/tgn>

Not only can this global guide to more than a million place names help you find today’s locales — it also will tell you what a place used to be called.

Global Gazetteer

<www.fallingrain.com/world>

Browse this exhaustive list of more than 2.8 million cities worldwide — both current and historical — organized by country (by state within the US) and then alphabetically. Clicking on a city gets you color topographic maps (both close-up and regional) plus population within a radius of 7 kilometers, altitude, names of nearby places and even local weather.

MSN Maps & Directions

<mappoint.msn.com>

Find and map almost any place you want — even street addresses in the United States, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Greece (Athens only), Finland (Helsinki only), France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

Ordnance Survey: Get-a-Map

<www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/oswebsite/getamap>

Recently upgraded, this site combines six separate data products to serve up detailed maps of places in the UK and Northern Ireland. You’ll have to turn off your pop-up blockers to make it work, however.

Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection

<www.lib.utexas.edu/maps>

Of particular interest here is the collection of historical maps from around the world. Need an 1842 map of Philadelphia? Corsica in 1894? Dublin in 1610? They’re all here, plus many more.

Streetmap.co.uk

<www.streetmap.co.uk>

For genealogists, the standout feature of this site — which uses the popular Landranger maps of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — isn’t its ability to find streets, but to search on farm names.

United States Digital Map Library

<rootsweb.com/~usgenweb/maps>

Another great source for historical cartography, this USGenWeb site is particularly strong on state- and county-level maps.

USGS Geographic Names Information System

<geonames.usgs.gov>

This government site can help you find almost 2 million places, including uninhabited physical features, in the United States and its territories. Then click on the link to USGS the National Map to pinpoint the place on a customizable, printable map with optional topographic detail.

Photo finishers

Canadian Heritage Gallery

<www.canadianheritage.org/index2.htm>

Find photos, paintings and drawings of all things Canadian, from forts to factories, railroads to ships. Be sure to check the long (and alphabetized) list of images of people.

Cities/Buildings Database

<www.washington.edu/ark2>

Hunt for pictures of buildings in your ancestral hometown among the 5,000 images in this project from Washington University in St. Louis.

Colorado Plateau Digital Archives

<www.nau.edu/~cline/speccoll>

Search this Northern Arizona University site, covering the whole Southwest, for thousands of vintage and contemporary photographs, along with diaries and letters, oral history interviews, films and maps.

Images Canada

<imagescanada.ca/index-e.html>

The National Library of Canada’s picture portal provides one-click searching of participating institutions’ collections. You also can browse Photo Essays or follow preselected Image Trails on topics such as Canada at War, fishing, hunting or the Arctic.

New York Public Library Digital Library

<www.nypl.org/digital>

We originally singled out this site’s Hudson River Portfolio <www2.nypl.org/home/hudson>, but the library has since dramatically expanded its visual offerings to encompass 415,000 images, including illuminated manuscripts, historical maps, vintage posters, rare prints, photographs, illustrated books and ephemera.

TheShipsList

<www.theshipslist.com>

We love this site’s plentiful pictures of ships, immigrants, ports, immigration stations and steamship-line ads, but you also can tap it for passenger records.

University of Washington Libraries Digital Collections

<content.lib.washington.edu>

Picture the Pacific Northwest with images of the Alaska gold rush, Indian tribes, the Grand Coulee Dam, fishing, Puget Sound sailing vessels and the building of Seattle.

Western History Photography Collection

<www.photoswest.org>

Envision the old American West in 100,000 photographs from the collections of the Colorado Historical Society and Denver Public Library Western History/Genealogy Department (whose records databases you can search online at <denverlibrary.org/research/genealogy>).

Reader favorites

AfriGeneas

<afrigeneas.com>

A prime starting point for researching your African-American ancestors, AfriGeneas also includes a 46,000-name surname index and a collection of more than 10,000 death records.

AncientFaces

<ancientfaces.com>

Home to more than 35,000 family photos — including, perhaps, one of your hitherto faceless ancestors — the recently revamped Ancient Faces also has added Family Spaces, where you can build your own site ($29.95 a year and up). Searching and sharing photos remains free.

Bureau of Land Management General Land Office Records

<www.glorecords.blm.gov>

Bedeviled by Interior Department legal wrangles, this BLM site is back online — to the cheers of genealogists eager to explore more than 2 million federal land patents issued between 1820 and 1908 for Eastern public-land states. Webmasters are adding images of serial patents (those issued between 1908 and the mid-1960s).

Civil War Rosters

<www.geocities.com/area51/lair/3680/cw/cw.html>

Still the most complete list of links to pages about Civil War regiments, this site also will point you to records databases.

DeadFred

<deadfred.com>

Another favorite site for reuniting old photos with their families, DeadFred contains more than 57,000 entries and has successfully connected 693 photos with families.

Ellis Island

<ellisisland.org>

If your ancestors arrived through the port of New York between 1892 and 1924 — as 17 million new Americans did — you can find their passenger records at this breakthrough site.

Find a Grave

<www.findagrave.com>

Readers picked this as their favorite site for cemetery searching — and no wonder, with 9.7 million tombstone records. You also can search for a cemetery, find the graves of the famous, search by date, and browse by location or “claim to fame.”

GenCircles

<gencircles.com>

It’s no surprise GenCircles is the only standalone pedigree database to make our list — or our readers’ favorites: Once you’ve added your family tree to the Global Tree containing more than 90 million individuals, GenCircles’ SmartMatching compares your ancestors against everyone in its files to identify where your kin match others’ ancestors. Though you now need a $30 premium membership to view SmartMatches, searches (and results) are still free.

Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild

<immigrantships.net>

Since 1998, the guild’s tireless volunteers have been transcribing passenger records for ships of all sorts. If you’re not lucky enough to have New York ancestors, make this your first stop in finding immigrant relatives.

National Archives and Records Administration

<archives.gov>

An obvious resource for learning how to access federal records, this site also has become a research tool. Its Access to Archival Databases let you search 85 million records — now including 9.2 million WWII Army enlistment files — and its Archival Research Catalog brings 58,000 digitized images and 15,000 documents right to your computer screen.

RootsWeb

<rootsweb.com>

RootsWeb hosts several of the other sites in this list, and is also home to nearly 30,000 genealogy mailing lists, a searchable surname list, the Social Security Death Index and the WorldConnect database of user-submitted pedigree files.

The Rest of the Best

Want a refresher on our full field of winning family history Web sites? You can find the original roundups in these back issues, available on our Web site:

51 foreign databases: April 2006

95 state Web sites: December 2005

vital records online: June 2005

census online: April 2005

25 reader favorites: February 2005

37 history sites: June 2004

56 mapping sites: April 2004

10 pedigree sites: December 2003

37 photo databases: October 2003
 
From the August 2006 issue of Family Tree Magazine.

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