Have It Your Way

Have It Your Way

Just starting out? Prefer to search online? Doing the DNA thing? This year's menu of 101 best family history Web sites will supply what your inner genealogist craves.
 

Our annual list of the 101 Best Web Sites for genealogy has been a Family Tree Magazine staple since the beginning, but this year it occurred to us to wonder: best for whom? After all, among the 101 sites we highlight for excellence, not all are equally useful for every genealogist. Family researchers come to the Web with a dizzying array of needs, and few sites can satisfy all their individual appetites.

Maybe you’re just getting started. Or perhaps you’ve followed at least one branch of your family back to the point when your ancestors arrived in America, and you’re ready to jump the pond. You may have special interests, such as tracing African-American or Jewish family trees.

And let’s face it: Genealogists have tastes and druthers as varied as their research needs. Some of us truly enjoy scrolling good old-fashioned microfilm. For others, the whole point of a 101 Best Web Sites list is to facilitate as much actual research online as possible, minimizing time and money spent on trips to the library.

While space won’t permit customizing a complete 101 list for every type of Web-using genealogist, we can break up this year’s collection into a new “Best for …” kind of category. We’ve grouped our 2008 honorees by the users each site is most suited for, from beginners to hard-core researchers. Most of the superb sites on this year’s menu, of course, will appeal to multiple types of genealogists — and in some cases we’ve suggested such cross-references — so start sampling the sites that are best for you, but don’t ignore the other categories.

As always, these sites are free unless marked with a $, which signifies that a substantial amount of the content requires a fee. And if you don’t want the trouble of typing all the Web addresses, you’ll find them just a click away on our own site <www.familytreemagazine.com/101sites/2008> — which we like to think of as Best for Everybody. Bon appetit!

Best for Beginning Besearchers

Just starting your family research? These beginner-friendly destinations are made to order for you.

Cyndi’s List

<cyndislist.com>

It’s no coincidence that this ever-growing gateway to genealogy Web sites was one of the first sites ever spotlighted in Family Tree Magazine. It’s an ideal online starting place for family historians. Whatever pool of the genealogy world you’re looking to dip your toe into, Cyndi’s List will have links — at last count, more than 264,400 in 180 categories from Acadian, Cajun and Creole to Writing Your Family’s History.

DeadFred

<deadfred.com>

If you’re starting from a pile of old photos or looking for lost family pics, this photo-reunion site is the place to click. DeadFred’s collection encompasses some 14,762 surnames and 78,590 records, and it’s reunited 1,278 old photos with families.

Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter

<eogn.com>

Let expert Dick Eastman guide you into the world of genealogy, especially its technological side, with this blog-format daily newsletter. The free basic edition is generous with information, but if you like what you see, you can upgrade to the “plus” edition for $19.95 a year.

FamilySearch

<www.familysearch.org>

The online home of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ vast genealogy holdings is so packed with data that we also could have listed it among the best sites for Web-centric researchers. To date, offerings — all free — include the 1880 US, 1881 British Isles and 1881 Canadian censuses; Scandinavia and Mexico vital records indexes; the US Social Security Death Index; the International Genealogical Index; and user-submitted pedigrees. Millions more digitized documents are still to come under recent partnerships with a variety repositories. You can see a sampling using FamilySearch Labs Record Search (see the opposite page).

FamilySearch is a must-stop on our for-beginners list because of its extensive research guides and help files, a how-to wiki <wiki.familysearch.org/en/Main_Page> drawing on the experience of researchers all over the world, and online Family History Library catalog of microfilmed records you can rent through Family History Centers worldwide.

Geni

<www.geni.com>

An alternative to investing in shrink-wrapped software, Geni was picked by PC Magazine as one of the best free online applications of any kind. Its simple interface lets you create an online family tree, add photos and family news, then e-mail relatives and invite them to join the fun. You now can export and import GEDCOM files, making it easy to transport data from your desktop program.

Library of Congress: American Memory

<memory.loc.gov>

Anchor your ancestral quest with this friendly front end to the library’s wealth of digitized historical documents and photos — more than 9 million items in all, organized into more than 100 thematic collections. The library’s regular catalog <catalog.loc.gov> also is an easy place to look up pretty much any book in existence, and its National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections (NUCMC) <lcweb.loc.gov/coll/nucmc/nucmc.html> catalogs rare materials in repositories nationwide.

MyHeritage

<myheritage.com>

Free genealogy software and family Web pages, a genealogy search engine and the fun extra of a facial-recognition tool (what celebrities do you look like?) make this an appealing launchpad for beginners. You’ll incur a cost here only if you build a beyond-basic family Web site.

MyTrees $

<www.mytrees.com>

An easy place to start delving into online databases, MyTrees lets you search a billion names with a single click. Its own Ancestry Archive totals 331 million names. Though subscriptions start at $7 for 10 days, you can earn free access by submitting your own family tree file.

Roots Television

<www.rootstelevision.com>

What better and easier way to learn about genealogy than watching TV? This online Internet television station with 24 “channels” brings family history experts to your computer screen to teach the ins and outs of researching your roots. And unlike broadcast TV, you can choose what you want to watch and when to watch it. Roots Television is free except one Pay TV channel.

RootsWeb

<rootsweb.ancestry.com>

This venerable volunteer site, now residing in Ancestry.com’s Web domain (but still free), has kept its friendly feel and remains an ideal jumping-off point for genealogy newbies. Besides helpful advice such as the RootsWeb Guide to Tracing Family Trees <rwguide.rootsweb.com>, you’ll find more than 31,000 mailing lists and 132,000 message boards, the World-Connect Project of uploaded family tree files containing 372 million names, and the RootsWeb Surname List of 1.2 million surname entries.

Tribal Pages

<www.tribalpages.com>

This innovative collaboration site hosts more than 175,000 pedigree files, a database of more than 80 million names and 2 million photos. Plus, you can store your own family tree data here and generate charts and reports right from the site.

WorldCat

<worldcat.org>

Tap the treasures of more than 10,000 libraries worldwide with this one-click search of more than 1 billion holdings.

WorldGenWeb

<www.worldgenweb.org>

When you’re ready to start foreign research, this global counterpart of US GenWeb will guide you to getting going in your ancestral homeland. Most countries have their own sites — a new batch under the AfricaGenWeb banner is the latest addition — and many, especially for European ancestries, are packed with advice for beginners.

Best for Web Researchers

If you dream of doing all your research in your pajamas, get comfy and feast on these data-rich sites. (You’ll find even more database sites in the locale-specific “Best for” sections.) 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

<www.accessgenealogy.com>

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

Ancestry.com $

<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 $299.40 World Deluxe member-ship — a good value if you have British Isles ancestors, where Ancestry.com’s overseas offerings are richest.

Ancestry Insider

<ancestryinsider.blogspot.com>

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

<www.biblerecords.com>

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

<www.diigo.com>

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

<www.distantcousin.com>

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

FamilySearch Labs

<labs.familysearch.org>

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

<www.findagrave.com>

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 find not only ancestors’ final resting places but also their birth and death dates, transcribed from tombstones, among the 23 million records here.

Footnote $

<footnote.com>

This site makes available digitized National Archives and Records Administration records that Uncle Sam can’t afford to — 33.1 million images and counting. Already online or underway are Confederate service records, naturalizations by state, a mix of newspapers, photos, Revolutionary War records, the 1860 census and the Pennsylvania Archives series. Searching is free — and you can learn a lot from your hits — but viewing records requires a pay-per-view fee or a subscription ($79.95 a year).

GenealogyBank $

<www.genealogybank.com>

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 (115.8 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

<heritagequestonline.com>

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 Lexis-Nexis US Serial Set of memorials, petitions and private relief actions of Congress.

Interment.net

<www.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

<www.mortalityschedules.com>

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

Newspaper Abstracts

<www.newspaperabstracts.com>

Find your ancestors in the news — without getting ink on your fingers. At last count, this volunteer project included more than 53,000 pages of abstracts and extracts from historical newspapers, with an emphasis on obituaries and other items of interest to genealogists.

One-Step Web Pages by Stephen P. Morse

<stevemorse.org>

Serious Web researchers will appreciate Stephen P. Morse’s site, which drills down into databases on other Web sites, including passenger lists, censuses and vital records, enabling users to perform complex searches with a single click.

Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection

<www.lib.utexas.edu/maps>

Paper? We don’t need no stinkin’ paper! This site brings digitized historical maps from around the world straight to your computer screen.

Shared Tree

<www.sharedtree.com>

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

<www.werelate.org>

Somewhere between MySpace and Wikipedia, but just for genealogists, WeRelate is a community Web site that works on the “wiki” principle, in which users generate and update the content. Run by the Foundation for On-Line Genealogy in partnership with the Allen County Public Library <www.acpl.lib.in.us>, the free site has pages for 1.5 million people or 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 $

<www.worldvitalrecords.com>

Started by Ancestry.com co-founder Paul Allen and several members of that site’s original team, World Vital Records has accumulated more than 1 billion names in 7,642 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 <www.familylink.com>, a research-oriented genealogy social networking site.

Best for Military Researchers

As orderly as the soldiers therein, military records seem ideally suited for online research. Though military documents can be found in many databases in this year’s 101 list, sites in this section are especially useful for finding your ancestors’ service records and exploring the wars they fought.

American Battle Monuments Commission

<www.abmc.gov>

Search for almost 125,000 US war dead buried in 24 overseas cemeteries, as well as more than 94,000 military commemorated on Tablets of the Missing.

Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System

<www.itd.nps.gov/cwss>

Search for Union or Confederate Civil War ancestors in this database of 6.3 million soldier names from 44 states and territories. Soldiers’ names link to histories of their regiments and the battles they fought.

CivilWar.com

<www.civilwar.com>

Zoom in on an interactive map linked to primers on 341 battles, study timelines and 5,470 photos, and even sing along with Civil War ditties. This is also one of few sites — another being eHistory, next — where you can search the full text of the Official Record (“OR”), which has detailed reports by those who led the charge.

eHistory

<ehistory.osu.edu>

Though not limited to military history, the 130,000 pages here are especially rich in records of wars — including the OR, 800 battle overviews, Miller’s Photographic History of the Civil War, maps and timelines.

Library of Virginia

<www.lva.lib.va.us/whatwehave/mil>

Besides being a must for researchers with Virginia kin, this site’s digitized resources include an index to soldiers mentioned in nearly 30 years of Confederate Veteran magazine. Military buffs also can tap the Virginia Military Dead Database of 34,402 names, the fully searchable Index to War of 1812 Pay Rolls and Muster Rolls, a database of the commonwealth’s Mexican War soldiers, Index to Virginia Confederate Rosters, an index to Virginians in the Confederate navy, and 250,000 Virginia WWII separation notices.

Louisiana State Archives

<www400.sos.louisiana.gov/archives/gen/cpa-alpha.htm>

The Confederate Pension Applications Index covers more than 49,000 names included in Louisiana state pension applications — a tad easier than scrolling the original 152 rolls of microfilm.

National Park Service Civil War Homepage

<cwar.nps.gov/civilwar>

Get a jump on your Civil War research with this new site. The war’s sesquicentennial commemoration (2011 to 2015) has already gotten started, and here you can learn about the war’s beginnings in “Bloody Kansas.”

Nationwide Gravesite Locator

<gravelocator.cem.va.gov>

This domestic counterpart to the American Battle Monuments Commission searches the burial locations of veterans and their dependents in Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemeteries, state veterans cemeteries, and other Department of Interior and military cemeteries.

New York State Civil War Soldier Database

<iarchives.nysed.gov/CivilWarWeb/search.jsp>

More than 360,000 New Yorkers, including three regiments of Colored Troops, fought in the Civil War. If you suspect your ancestor was among them, check this database. (You’ll find guides to records of other wars, too.)

Pennsylvania State Archives

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

Pennsylvania’s online archives are unusually rich in military history, with 1.5 million records of conflicts from the American Revolution to World War I.

Texas State Library & Archives Commission

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

Find soldiers from the Lone Star State in the online index of 54,634 Confederate pension applications and Texas Adjutant General Service Records (1836 to 1935).

Best for US Researchers

Use these outstanding nationwide and state-based sites to find your ancestors from sea to shining sea. (And see the previous section to find a few more state-specific standouts.)

Archives of Maryland Online

<www.aomol.net/html>

Access more than 471,000 historical documents, including Maryland land, military and probate records.

Arizona Genealogy Birth and Death Certificates

<genealogy.az.gov>

Don’t you wish you could find all your family’s birth and death certificates online? Those with Arizona ancestors can do so with this recently expanded index to births (1855 to 1932) and deaths (1844 to 1957); entries are linked to PDFs of the original certificates.

Bureau of Land Management General Land Office Records

<www.glorecords.blm.gov>

This is the place to start exploring land records, including more than 3 million federal land title records for Eastern public-land states (1820 to 1908) and images of serial patents issued from 1908 to the mid-1960s. Images of field notes and survey plats, dating to 1810, are being added on a state-by-state basis. Searching is fast and powerful, and you’ll find plenty of help for understanding the records you locate.

Colorado Historic Newspaper Collection

<www.coloradohistoricnewspapers.org>

Click on the county map to see what’s available and where to find it in this collection of nearly 450,000 digitized pages from 136 Colorado newspapers, published from 1859 to 1933. Coverage spans 71 cities and 41 counties. You’ll need Internet Explorer to get the most out of this site.

Denver Public Library Western History Photography Collection

<history.denverlibrary.org/images>

Picture the past of Colorado and the American West in this searchable, digitized selection of more than 120,000 images from the Denver Public Library and the Colorado Historical Society.

Florida Memory Project

<www.floridamemory.com/collections>

Here, indexes link to digitized originals including Spanish land grants, Confederate pension applications and WWI service cards. The Florida Photographic Collection <www.floridamemory.com/PhotographicCollection> shows off the state’s past in 143,000 online images.

Illinois State Archives Online Databases

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

Search statewide indexes of marriages (1763 to 1900) and deaths (pre-1916 and 1916 to 1950), plus veterans’ records ranging from the War of 1812 to the 1929 Roll of Honor. An index to the Illinois Regional Archives Depositories will tell you where to go next in search of records on your Prairie State ancestors.

Maine State Archives

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

A new interactive feature lets you search online databases such as the marriage index (1892 to 1967 and 1976 to 1996), then order copies of the records you find. Don’t miss the primer on Maine genealogy or the link to the Maine Memory Network <www.mainememory.net>, which holds more than 12,000 pieces of history from 180-plus museums and other archives.

Making of America

<www.hti.umich.edu/m/moagrp>

<library5.library.comell.edu/moa>

These tandem sites serve up more than 4.7 million pages from historic books and journals chronicling America’s story. Recent additions include 99 volumes about New York City and a shelf-ful of titles about the Civil War. You’ll find the searchable OR on the Cornell University site.

Massachusetts Archives

<www.sec.state.ma.us/arc/arcidx.htm> The star attractions here are the index to vital records (1841 to 1910) and the in-progress database that will index more than 1 million immigrants through the port of Boston from 1848 to 1891. You’ll also find a searchable index to the Massachusetts Archives collection of early records.

Minnesota Historical Society

<www.mnhs.org/genealogy>

Besides databases of Minnesota deaths (1904 to 1907 and 1908 to 2001) and births (1900 to 1934), this rich site rewards visitors with a guide to place names and more than 127,000 digitized images ranging from Sanborn fire insurance maps to, of course, photos of many of the state’s 10,000 lakes.

Missouri Digital Heritage Initiative

<www.sos.mo.gov/mdh>

This new site is a one-stop shop for digitized historical records, abstracts and indexes from the state archives and other repositories throughout Missouri. Use the links under Collections to access the Missouri Soldiers Database, historical photos, maps, birth and death records, naturalizations, coroner’s inquest abstracts, a state supreme court case index, newspapers and more. The record you need isn’t digitized? Click the link to the Local Records Inventory Database, which can help you find out where to write for copies of your ancestors’ county-level records.

National Archives and Records Administration

<archives.gov>

This site will not only help you prepare to research in person at the National Archives’ Washington, DC, headquarters and its regional facilities around the country, but it increasingly lets you tap its treasures from home (in combination with organizations such as the records site Footnote). Access to Archival Databases <aad.archives.gov.aad> encompasses more than 85 million historical records, including extracts from WWII Army enlistment papers and 19th-century arrivals of German, Italian, Irish and Russian immigrants. For photos, maps and American Indian records, try the Archival Research Catalog <archives.gov/research/arc>.

Nevada Census Online

<dmla.clan.lib.nv.us/docs/shpo/nvcensus>

Got Nevada ancestors? Skip those subscription sites and search the free Nevada census records from 1860 through 1920 (except the mostly destroyed 1890 census) — a total of 310,000 entries.

NewEnglandAncestors.org $

<www.newenglandancestors.org>

If you have New Englanders in your family tree, it’s worth the $75 annual Research Membership to gain full access to this site’s more than 110 million names. You also get Early American Newspapers 1690-1876, The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England 1620-1633, Sanborn maps (1867 to 1970) and The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, 1847-2000. Got New York roots? Use the group’s portal to its Empire State holdings

<www.newyorkancestors.org>.

Oregon State Archives

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

The Oregon Historical Records Index covers some 573,000 entries from vital records, naturalizations, censuses, probate and pensions. If that somehow fails to turn up what you need, the Oregon Historical County Records Guide and Provisional and Territorial Records Guide will tell you where else to look.

USGenWeb Project

<usgenweb.org>

This sprawling all-volunteer site is packed with how-to tips, queries and records for every state and most counties within those states. Special projects <usgenweb.org/projects> cover subjects such as censuses, tombstones and family group sheets. Don’t miss the easy-to-overlook search of the entire site <searches.rootsweb.ancestry.com/htdig/search.html>.

USGS Geographic Names Information System (GNIS)

<geonames.usgs.gov/pls/gnispublic>

Find your ancestral stomping grounds, even if it’s obscure or no longer around, among the 2 million American places in this database — then instantly map it using one of several online tools.

Washington State Digital Archives

<www.digitalarchives.wa.gov/default.aspx>

Washington state’s ambitious effort to digitize its past has now topped 33 million online records. Offerings vary by county — 25 are represented with marriage records, some linked to images — but most include some births and deaths. Other records range from naturalizations to a database of the state’s physicians.

Western States Historical Marriage Records Index

<abish.byui.edu/specialcollections/westernstates/search.cfm>

Search more than 616,000 marriage records dating from 18th-century New Mexico to 1930s Arizona, Idaho and Nevada. Other records come from Montana, Oregon, Utah, Wyoming, eastern Washington, western Colorado and some California counties.

Wisconsin Historical Society

<www.wisconsinhistory.org/genealogy>

The Wisconsin Genealogy Index searches more than 150,000 Wisconsin obituaries and biographical sketches published before 1999, as well as 1 million births, 400,000 deaths and 1 million marriages registered before September 1907. The society’s site also shares a wealth of Civil War records, including Wisconsin rosters and 1885, 1895 and 1905 veterans censuses.

Best for African-American Researchers

Besides these standout sites, keep an eye on the new AfriQuest <www.afriquest.com>, a joint venture led by the University of South Florida Africana Heritage Project, which was getting off the ground at press time.

AfriGeneas

<afrigeneas.com>

In addition to its wealth of how-to advice and message boards, AfriGeneas offers census records, slave data, an index of 50,168 surnames and a collection of 16,338 death records.

Afro-Louisiana History and Genealogy 1719-1820

<www.ibiblio.org/laslave>

The fruits of 15 years of work by Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, this gorgeous site employs powerful search tools to comb through data on 100,000 Louisiana slaves.

Documenting the American South

<docsouth.unc.edu>

This rich site from the University of North Carolina is especially strong on the African-American experience, including such collections as The Church in the Southern Black Community, Colonial and State Records of North Carolina, and North American Slave Narratives.

Lowcountry Africana

<lowcountryafricana.net>

This new site focuses on records that document the heritage of African-Americans in the historically rice-growing areas of South Carolina, Georgia and northeastern Florida, home to the distinctive Gullah-Geechee culture. Records include those of the wealthy Drayton family, which owned several plantations, plus Freedmen’s Bureau and Freedman’s Bank papers.

Best for Canadian Researchers

Researching ancestors in the United States’ neighbor to the north? Start here.

Automated Genealogy

<automatedgenealogy.com>

This free, volunteer site serves up transcriptions and indexes of Canadian censuses. Transcribed and in various stages of proofreading are the 1901, 1906 (Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba) and 1911 enumerations. The 1851-1852 census is underway, with an ambitious effort to link to other records about each individual.

Canadian Genealogy Centre

<www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/genealogy/index-e.html>

The genealogy arm of Library and Archives Canada (LAC) offers research tools and detailed advice, plus a broad range of digitized vital records, passenger lists, censuses, land and military records and historical images.

Nova Scotia Historical Vital Statistics $

<www.novascotiagenealogy.com>

On this new site, search a million birth, marriage and death records, some dating back to 1763. Once you find a Nova Scotia ancestor in the index, the site also makes it a snap to order an actual certificate ($9.95 for an e-copy, or $19.95 for a paper copy).

Our Roots/Nos Racines

<www.ourroots.ca>

Digitized local histories from across Canada have landed here. Topics include the Klondike Gold Rush, the Irish at Grosse Ille, indigenous communities, historic forts and trading posts, and more. Once you’ve found a likely volume, you can search for ancestors’ names or other terms.

Programme de Recherche en Démographie Historique$

<www.genealogy.umontreal.ca/en>

A good thing for Quebec researchers keeps getting better: Another 80,000 children’s records recently were added to Programme de Recherche en Démographie Historique’s (PRDH) Genealogical Dictionary database, which now covers 1621 to 1779. Overall, the PRDH database encompasses 759,400 records ranging from 1621 to 1850, primarily 690,000 pre-1800 baptismal, marriage and burial certificates. Searching is free, but accessing more-detailed information starts at about $21.50 Canadian for 150 views.

Best for Immigration Researchers

Ready to trace your ancestors’ arrival in America? These data-rich sites might hold the answers you need.

Castle Garden

<castlegarden.org>

If your family arrived in New York before Ellis Island opened in 1892, turn to this database of 10 million immigrants who entered at Castle Garden beginning in 1830 (plans call for adding records back to 1820).

Ellis Island

<ellisisland.org>

Search for later arrivals through the Port of New York, from 1892 to 1924, in this database of 22.5 million passenger records.

Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild

<www.immigrantships.net>

Strike out at the big databases of New York arrivals? This guild of volunteers has tirelessly transcribed more than 8,000 passenger manifests, many from less famous ports, which you can search by surname, captain’s name, port of arrival or departure, and ship name.

TheShipsList

<www.theshipslist.com>

Another passenger-list site, boasting more than 2,000 pages of information, TheShipsList also stands out for its images of ships, ports, immigration stations and steamship-line advertisements.

Best for British Isles Researchers

Whether it’s the luck of the Irish you’re after, or you want to put a little English on your ancestry, set sail to these destinations.

Access to Archives

<www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/a2a>

The latest update to this catalog of English records in 416 repositories brings its reach to 10.2 million records, dating from the eighth century to today.

Burke’s Peerage Online $

<www.burkes-peerage.net>

Feeling noble? This redesigned site covers more than 1 million names in 15,000-plus records of UK gentry and peerage, historical families of Ireland, European royalty and even US presidential families. Four hours costs 15.95 pounds (about $31), or get a year for 64.95 pounds (about $128).

Family History Online $

<www.familyhistoryonline.net>

This British Federation of Family History Societies site lets you search more than 67 million records including parish registers, memorial inscriptions, censuses, poor law documents and newly added gravestone photos. Searching is free, but you’ll have to pay to view actual entries, starting at 5 pounds (about $10).

FindMyPast $

<www.findmypast.com>

Now topping 500 million records, this British database site recently added 10 million records from the National Burial Index to its collection of departing passenger lists, vital records, censuses (1841, 1861, 1871, 1881 and 1891) and other England and Wales data. Subscription packages range from 14.95 pounds (about $29.50) for 30 days to 89.95 pounds ($177) annually, or you can choose a pay-per-view option.

FreeBMD

<freebmd.rootsweb.com>

As the name implies, this free volunteer site offers birth, marriage and death records — more than 186 million in all — from 1837 to 1933. Sibling sites are similarly generous with 19th-century censuses <www.freecen.org.uk> and 4.2 million parish records <www.freereg.org.uk>.

GENUKI

<www.genuki.org.uk>

Think of this classic site as the Roots Web of England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. You get how-to help, a nifty mapping gazetteer, databases and more. It’s a must-bookmark for genealogy in the UK and Ireland.

Ireland’s History in Maps

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

A history lesson through cartography, this collection of nearly 300,000 words in 80 documents spans BC to the 1840s.

National Archives of Ireland

<www.census.nationalarchives.ie>

The archives is digitizing the Irish national censuses of 1901 and 1911, beginning with the 1911 Dublin city and county enumerations. The whole project, totaling about 9 million entries, aims to be complete by mid-2009.

Ordnance Survey: Get-a-Map

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

Pinpoint your UK ancestors on the map with this slick site that combines six separate data products to generate printable color maps.

Origins Network $

<www.originsnetwork.com>

The Irish Origins section of this network (get 72 hours of access for about $9, or a month for about $18) offers the richest rewards, including Griffith’s Valuation, the 1851 Dublin city census and a wills index (1484 to 1858). It’s closely followed by British Origins’ databases ($13 for three days or $18 per month) of nearly 50 million names. The free Scottish Origins does a Scot-centric search of the International Genealogical Index on FamilySearch.

ScotlandsPeople $

<www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk>

This government-affiliated online collection of some 50 million church, vital, census and probate records includes some as far back as 1553. Access requires investing in page credits, starting at about $12 for 30 credits valid for 30 days. You can use the Wills and Testaments index (1513 to 1901) free, but viewing digital images costs about $10 per document.

Best for “Continental” Researchers

Sample these Web sites for ancestors from mainland Europe. If their homeland isn’t covered here, check WorldGenWeb <worldgenweb.org>, described under Best for Beginning Researchers.

Danish Demographic Database

<ddd.dda.dk/ddd_en.htm>

Use the nearly 400,000 records in the emigration database, covering 1868 to 1908, to locate Denmark relatives. Then follow them in census records, containing nearly 13 million names as far back as 1769.

Digitalarkivet

<digitalarkivet.uib.no>

Originally home to 1801, 1865, 1875 and 1900 Norwegian censuses, this national archives site is expanding to eventually encompass 1.85 million pages from nearly 11,000 parish records — the most important family research tool in Norway.

Federation of East European Family History Societies

<feefhs.org>

This home to resource guides, maps and databases was about to undergo a makeover at press time. That should make it an even better starting point for researching 14 Eastern and Central European nations and ethnicities.

Genlias

<www.genlias.nl/en>

Going Dutch takes on a new meaning thanks to this enviable database of nearly 45 million names extracted from some 10.8 million civil register records. New here are statement of succession records (inheritance declarations used to calculate death duties) dating from 1808.

Genline $

<www.genline.com>

If you’re willing to pay for the privilege — starting at about $23 for 20 days — say goodbye to scrolling microfilm in search of your Swedish ancestors. Genline delivers images of 16 million-plus pages of church records (virtually everything available) to your digital doorstep.

Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names Online

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

Stumped by European place names? This guide to more than 900,000 places in Europe and around the world covers current and historic geography.

Institute of Migration $

<www.migrationinstitute.fi/index_e.php>

Find your Finnish ancestors in this collection of emigrant databases including 318,000 passenger-list entries and 197,000 passport records. New additions cover Finnish emigrants through the port of Gothenburg, Sweden, and Finns to the Soviet Union in the 1920s and 1930s. Searching is free; full access costs about $23.50 a year.

Best for Jewish Researchers

Whether you’re researching Jewish ancestry in the United States or abroad, these tools can help.

Avotaynu

<www.avotaynu.com>

Use the Consolidated Jewish Surname Index to do a Soundex search of information about 699,084 surnames, mostly Jewish, in 42 databases totaling 7.3 million records. Also sign up for a free newsletter to keep up with Jewish research news.

JewishGen

<www.jewishgen.org>

Among the resources here, search the Family Finder database of 400,000 surnames and towns, ShtetLinks for more than 200 communities, and the 4 million entries in the Family Tree of the Jewish People.

Tracing the Tribe

<tracingthetribe.blogspot.com>

Stay up to date on Jewish roots resources and research tips with this newsy blog.

Best for Genetic Researchers

When you’re ready for the cutting edge in genealogy research, these sites can help you jump into the gene pool.

GeneTree

<www.genetree.com>

This innovative site, still in beta, combines DNA and social networking. Although limited to mitochondrial (mtDNA) test results so far, its mapping of DNA results is the best we’ve seen. You can order test kits here, but you can search for your DNA matches no matter which lab you used.

Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation

<www.smgf.org>

This nonprofit organization is dedicated to building the world’s foremost collection of DNA and corresponding genealogical information. To date, its database tops 70,000 DNA samples with family trees from around the world.

YSearch and MitoSearch

<www.ysearch.com>

<www.mitosearch.org>

These sibling databases from Family Tree DNA let you search for Y-DNA or mtDNA matches no matter whom you tested with. At <www.familytreedna.com>, you can see if your surname is among the 74,355 in Family Tree DNA’s client database.
 

From the September 2008 Family Tree Magazine  

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