Tag Archives: websites

Beginning Concepts: Popular Genealogical Websites

When I first started genealogy, there were a decent number of online sources, but most everything was still in a library or archive somewhere. I wrote a lot of letters and filled out a lot of vital records applications when I first started. I began on the cusp of what the internet has become (and still becoming) in terms of online genealogy.

If you are a beginner today, I just wanted to share my top genealogical websites for starting your genealogical journey. Some are free, some are subscription. I hear a lot of complaining about the subscription prices, but when I think about how much I spent on mail and application fees, or gas or plane tickets and hotels to conduct this research “back in the day,” it doesn’t compare in my mind. Having access to millions of records at home, in the middle of the night (or early hours of the morning if you are more like me), is worth the fee to me.

My top genealogy sites for getting started (and in no particular order, only as they come to mind):

  • FamilySearch (free) – Hosts millions of digitized records and books that is constantly growing with new digitized microfilms every day, has an invaluable research wiki, and has a public-generated and edited family tree.
  • Ancestry (subscription, though you may access a library edition through a local library) – Also has millions of digitized records, databases, books, newspapers, and more. Also has a DNA database and public member trees.
  • Find A Grave (free) – Public-sourced cemetery and gravestone database full of millions of memorial pages for individuals from all over the world.
  • A newspaper site that holds the newspapers YOU need. Try Newspapers.com ($), NewspaperArchive ($), Genealogybank ($), or Chronicling America (free). Examine their catalog before buying a subscription!

Do you have a question of a more specialized nature? Perhaps you want to find some charts and forms to get you started, or find out more about railroad records, or are not even sure what you want to know more about? Another fantastic source I recommend to beginners and advanced researchers alike is Cyndi’s List.

Cyndi’s List has categories for you to browse. Don’t search the site, browse it. Find a category that fits your research question. This site is a list of links to other websites. But they are sites you may not have known to search for on Google or even know that those records and resources even existed.

Genealogy on the internet has exploded in the 20 years I’ve been involved. So much more is accessible at our fingertips than ever before! Get out there and find your ancestors.

Giving Back – Part 4 – Host and Edit a Website

htmlLet me just start by saying this one may not be for everyone. This option may take a little more technical skill than some are capable of or interested in. It requires you to be able to edit and maintain a website. This blog post is not going to go into the technical aspects of how to do this. If you already know how, great. If you are interested in doing it but don’t know how, there are plenty of online tutorials you can locate and maybe even some local classes to get you going. I will be highlighting a couple of projects that could use you. (Also, this is another one of those volunteering projects that can be done in your jammies!)

Actually … you can still help out if you don’t have the technical skills necessary; keep reading.

Many researchers know about the GenWeb project. There are two GenWeb options:

The US GenWeb covers all 50 states, at the state level and then with sites specific to most counties. The World GenWeb is similar in that it is broken down by region, country and then county, providence or other civil district type. Another website that is similar in structure is called Genealogy Trails and is dedicated to “keeping genealogy free.” It too is broken down by state and county. Both of these are run completely by volunteers and they are all constantly in need of people willing to maintain them.

These sites are only as good as those who contribute to and maintain them. You can elicit contributions from users as well as develop your own content. This doesn’t have to be a project where you provide all of the information posted on the site. The idea of these sites is that the information that is gathered is free for all to use. With that in mind, you have to be aware of copyright and don’t post things that aren’t in the public domain or of your own making (or that of another volunteer.)

Perhaps you don’t have the technical skills to be the website editor, YOU CAN STILL HELP! If you can type, you can contribute by transcribing records such as those found in a local courthouse, church, cemetery, library, etc. Things that are helpful are obituaries, death records, birth records, marriage announcements, baptisms, and so on. You can contact the manager of a county site and discuss project specifics such as what format to submit your transcriptions in and so forth.

Many of us started by searching some of these free sites, hosted by volunteers who have contributed countless hours for our benefit. If you have the skill, consider giving back by hosting, editing, maintaining or contributing to a genealogy website.