Ten years ago, researching your family history meant scrolling endless rolls of census microfilm, traveling to genealogy libraries far and wide, and corresponding extensively with courthouse clerks. You still do those things at times, of coursebut todays genealogist has evolved into a lean, mean, multitasking machine. Without our powerful Internet search tools and indexes, we might as well be browsing through stone tablets and scribbling Ahnentafeln on parchment.
10. Online photo sharing
- Flickr, owned by Yahoo!, has editing features including red-eye removal, cropping and special fonts and effects. You can organize your photos and videos in collections, and add tags and captions. With a free account, you can upload 100MB of photos a month, but a premium account ($24.95 a year) allows unlimited photo and video uploads and storage.
- Googles Picasa Web Albums work well with the free Picasa photo-editing and -organizing software. There are no ads, and you get 1GB of online photo storage for freeenough room for thousands of photos.
- Photobucket offers 1GB of space for free. (A Pro account gives you 25GB of storage for $24.95 a year.) You can make an album public or private and control who gets access, as well as use titles and tags to organize your photos. Photobucket integrates well with social networking sites, so its easy to display your photos on Facebook and MySpace.
- Shutterfly offers free online storage for unlimited photos and up to 10 video clips. You can edit your pictures, choose from more than 400 borders and add personalized captions. Prints you order can include a short message on the reverse side for free.
- Smugmug boasts more features than other photo-sharing services, for a price. A Standard account ($39.95 a year) includes unlimited storage, and attractive online albums and slideshows. A Power account ($59.95 a year) lets you share videos, too.
- Snapfish, you get unlimited photo storage, and free photo-editing tools and slide shows. You can mail in rolls of film to add to your site, and you can let friends add comments to your albums.
9. Push technology
Then: You search the web every morning for new results about your favorite surnames.
Now: Websites e-mail you whenever a new article matches your specifications.
8. Online translation tools
Then: You track down native speakers who are willing to translate for you and hope they have some understanding of genealogy.
Now: Cut and paste and click Translate.
Then: You donate a blood sample in hopes youll be able to make ancestral connections in the future, once more people get tested.
Now: You swab your cheek or swish some mouthwash, and the DNA testing company adds you to its database, alerting you to potential genetic connections. You search for people with matching DNA profiles in a half-dozen online databases, and join surname studies online.
People sometimes ask me if Im related to Emily Anne Croom, another writer for Family Tree Magazine. I used to answer no, but since taking a Y-DNA test, my answer is yes. I got close matches with two Crooms, both related to Emily. Those results suggest that my ancestors Daniel and Elizabeth Crume were the same couple as her ancestors Daniel and Elizabeth Croom in 18th-century Virginia. At the very least, they were probably close relatives.
Then: When traveling for research, you take your family tree with youon a floppy disk.
Now: Log in and edit your family tree anywhere with Internet access.
- Arcalife is a tree-building site based in Britain. Fill out Life Experiences for your ancestors and use them to generate a scrolling timeline set to music. You can search FamilySearch and other sites within Arcalife.
- Ancestry.com Member Trees are free for registered users whether or not they subscribe to Ancestry.com. A Public Member Tree is searchable and available to subscribers who can contact you for more information. A Personal Member Tree is private, but names, birthplaces and birth dates still appear in search results. Ancestry.com automatically searches its databases for information on the people in your family treea waving leaf indicates a match.
- British subscription site FindMyPasts free Family Tree Explorer lets you create two family trees, each with up to 25,000 names. Eventually youll be able to collaborate with others on your online family tree and automatically search the databases for names in your tree.
- SharedTree works much like desktop genealogy software and comes close to matching its functionality. This program creates excellent printed reports, and it has one big advantage over desktop programsit lets you collaborate with relatives on your online family tree.
5. Social networking sites
Then: You seek out local genealogy clubs and societies to meet with in real life.
Now: You connect with genealogists all over the world from the comfort of your own home.
- Footnote lets you create Story pages focusing on documents or people. A Story page focusing on a grandparents biography could include newspaper clippings, snapshots and old letters. Other researchers can view your documents and pictures and add comments.
- In addition to letting you work with relatives on a family tree, Geni offers a calendar, birthday reminders and messaging.
- MyHeritage has an excellent online genealogy program and works in 34 languages. The free Basic plan supports up to 250 names in family trees, 15 members and 250MB of storage.
4. Union catalogs
Then: You trek to multiple libraries before finally finding a specific book.
Now: You do a simple search online.
Though family history and local history books, newspapers and records are increasingly being posted online, a wealth of important genealogical resources is still available only in bound volumes or on microfilm at libraries, archives and courthouses. Online library catalogs are useful for finding these items, but you never know where a rare genealogy or family history manuscript might turn up. Rather than search dozens of library catalogs one after another, try a more efficient way: Union catalogs contain the combined holdings of many libraries, so you can search them all at once.
3. Online books and newspapers
Now: You type in a name and click search.
Ancestry.com has more than 20,000 family and local history books, and a large collection of historical newspapers.
- The BYU Family History Archive is free and serves up more than 48,000 family and local history books and related items.
- The free California Digital Newspaper Collection <cbsr.tabbec.com> has newspapers from the 19th and early 20th centuries.
- Chronicling America offers both online newspapers and a newspaper directory.
- GenealogyBanks books and newspapers are accessible by subscription ($69.95 a year).
- Google Books is free and gives full access to books out of copyright, but shows just snippets from copyrighted works.
- HeritageQuest Online, free through subscribing libraries, has more than 25,000 family and local history books.
- NewEnglandAncestors gives members ($75 a year) access to books and three collections of historical newspapers.
- New York Times subscribers can browse pages from 1851 to 1922 in the Times Machine. Everyone can search on and read full articles in the public domain at <www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/nytarchive.html>.
- World Vital Records lets you search about 5,000 family and local history books for $39.96 a year, or $99.96 a year for World Collection membership.
2. FamilySearch Indexing and Scanning
Then: Find your local Family History Center and send away for reels of microfilm to scour.
Now: Search the Family History Library catalogand some of the librarys recordson the FamilySearch
1. Digitized and indexed US census records
Then: You scroll through census microfilm at the library until your eyes glaze over.
Now: Type. Click. Done.
The US census, taken every 10 years since 1790 and open to the public after a 72-year privacy period, is the most
Earlier last decade, three rival companiesAncestry.com, Genealogy.com and HeritageQuest Onlinehad announced plans to digitize and index all US federal census records available to the public. On June 21, 2006, Ancestry.com
Ten more technologies we didnt have a decade ago but couldnt live without today:
- Wi-Fi and high-speed Internet for faster ancestor searching online
- mobile devices, such as PDAs and smart phones, to stay organized on the go
- flash drives for taking your files anywhere
- YouTube and other free online video sites for sharing tips and information
- Google Maps for looking up ancestral hometowns and research locations
- desktop search tools, such as Google Desktop, for finding that census image buried on your hard drive
- MP3 players, such as the iPod, for listening to genealogy podcasts and sharing family photos
- cheap (under $100) all-in-ones for printing digital photos, scanning old documents and images, and copying research materials tabbed Web browsing so you can surf from genealogy site to genealogy site without cluttering your screen with browser windows public records databases, such as Intelius and USSearch, for locating living relatives
From the January 2010 Family Tree Magazine