There are a bewildering number of useful websites that assist in doing genealogical research. Although it may be difficult to choose the top ones, it is not so difficult to list a few really important websites that should not be ignored. This list is based on years of online research experience and is obviously not exhaustive in its coverage. No website is useful unless it contains the information you are searching for. But these websites have stood the test of time as some of the most important to a good online genealogical experience.
The value of doing a Google search for each name in your research cannot be understated. But you may not be aware of how Search works or the other valuable tools built into a Google search. The image above shows the important website Google Inside Search. This website gives the background tips and tricks needed to advance your Google search to a new level. Take the time to do the detailed Google search for the names of your ancestors inserted in quotation marks to force the program to look for the whole name and you might be surprised at what you find. Don’t forget to use Google Maps to locate all of the places in your database. Google Maps Street View will also give you valuable insights into the locations where your ancestors lived. Go to Google Products for a list of all of the free Google programs.
There are currently four very large online genealogical database programs. Together they have billions of records in tens of thousands of collections. Three of the four are subscription services with annual fees, but all of them are available free of charge at a nearby FamilySearch Center. You may want to see if these sites are of use to you before you subscribe. Here are the four large websites:
Ancestry.com currently has millions of records in 31,427 collections. The site is best known for its collection of U.S. Census records, but there is much more to the site than just the Census. It is most useful for finding records in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and Sweden. Ancestry.com has recently been in an acquisition mode and has purchased several other large websites including Genline.com, Fold3.com and Archives.com.
With a subscription to Ancestry.com, you can upload your family tree to the Public Member Family Trees. Ancestry.com will then immediately begin searching for records in its database for each of your ancestors marking those they find with the famous “shaking leaf.” This is a helpful service that can add hundreds of sources to your ancestors’ records.
MyHeritage.com has one of the largest family tree programs in the world. It has millions of members in almost every country. It is a valuable asset especially if your family comes from a non-English speaking background. Recently, MyHeritage.com purchased the huge online database, WorldVitalRecords.com. With this addition, MyHeritage.com added a Super Search capability that searches the online record collections for sources to add to your online family tree with its Smart Match technology. MyHeritage.com then added an unparalleled search technology called Record Matches that finds source records for your ancestors with 97% accuracy. Each source record is then supplemented with an additional search tool called Record Detective. With these tools, there is no other website that can provide the depth of searches automatically provided by MyHeritage.com.
FamilySearch.org is the world’s premier free genealogical website. In addition to offering a free search of millions of original source records in its Historical Record Collections, it has the extremely valuable FamilySearch Research Wiki, an online genealogical encyclopedia of over 76,000 pages. The FamilySearch Family Tree program is unique in offering a unified, user contributed family tree with sources, photos, documents and stories. FamilySearch.org is also the home to the valuable FamilySearch Catalog, the unified catalog of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah and the catalogs of other large FamilySearch Libraries around the world. Take time to explore all of the valuable assets of this fast growing program. New source records are added by the millions almost daily.
The largest and most valuable online genealogical resource for the United Kingdom and Ireland is the huge website findmypast.com. They offer more than 1.7 billion international family history records from the U.S., Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand and beyond with records going back to 1200. New collections are added every month. They also own the useful website ScotlandsPeople.com with 90 million Scottish records.
There are many more helpful and valuable websites that we will cover in the future parts of this series. Keep a look out for the next blog posts.