Genealogy Research Sites: An Overview

by JL Beeken on 11-11-2007

I would like to thank everyone who’s taken my survey so far.¬† Please keep it coming, those of you who haven’t answered yet.

Someone asked about the best genealogy research sites for the money.

Most of all, it would depend on the locations you’re searching. The last time I looked, searching “genealogy” on Google brought up 34,900,000 results. Searching “genealogy research” narrowed it down to a mere 825,000. That’s easy. Just start at the top and work your way down.

A lot of these sites will be free.

All the paid sites I know of will allow you a trial, or at least a search, to see ahead of time if there’s anything you’re interested in paying for. There’s nothing to lose because you’ve got your trial time to decide what it’s worth to you. Obviously, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer here.

I had a lot of luck with GenealogyBank on a one-month subscription. One of my lines was ‘high society’ back in the day people still used that term. Finding them in old newspapers was like shooting fish in a barrel. Everything from million dollar deals to Mrs. Whatshername had a touch of the flu last week.

I found a little snippet on another line that was a large piece of a puzzle. That alone would have justified the $20 I spent overall. They have reams of obituaries as well. If they’ve scanned the newspapers you’re interested in, it’s easy pickin’s. They also have historical documents and historical books. I like this site and we don’t hear much about it these days. You can have a whole year for not much.

WorldVitalRecords has reams of databases, and newspapers that you can peruse without cost. If you find one in an area of your interest it’s worth the humble price. They now also offer a monthly subscription for $5.95. Hard to beat if you find your family there.

I’ve also had good fortune with Footnote (now Fold3). Two of my x-great-grandfathers lived during the Revolution and were found in the Supreme Executive Council papers. If it looks interesting you can sign up for a 7-day free trial. After that you can subscribe by the month or the year.

I’ve never purchased a single subscription or software program online without a trial first. Take advantage of them. If you’re being asked to lay out your money blind there’s something wrong.

It’s hard to beat a site like Cyndi’s List if you’re just trying to find links narrowed down into categories. If there’s a cost involved she usually mentions it. Still, she only lists about 260,000 links so it’s far from being all of it.

I’ve found lots of interesting things at USGenWeb, run by volunteers and free.

And of course, there’s Ancestry.com for either the US membership or the World Deluxe, by the month, quarter or year. Ancestry.co.uk is included in the World Deluxe membership or comes separately. They all have 14-day free trials. A lot of us in the US and Canada have ancestors from over there so it would be worth taking the UK version for a run. On these bigger sites, chances are you won’t find everything they can offer you in only one year. There’s just too much of it. Every week there are new databases being added. People are constantly contributing to the family trees there so what you don’t see one day you might the next.

The same goes for all of the sites. They’re always adding new content, and we’re on the merry-go-round chasing it down.

And then there’s all the family tree sites. In the UK, there’s a site called GenesReunited with 7 million members. On the U.S. side of the pond, there are many options. Check my Links section for some of them.

FamilySearch is going to be the site-of-all-sites when they get their mountain-tunnel full of microfilm scanned and indexed. It’s already a formidable site. And free. If you’d like to volunteer to help with the FamilySearch indexing project, they’d love to have you.

I couldn’t do this subject justice if I stayed up for a whole month. Whatever you can find at a price you’re willing to pay is going to be your best value.

I get a lot of family history handed to me. My #1 genealogy-sidekick is a cousin to me 4 times. Not 4th cousins, not 4 times removed … just 4 times. Needless to say, we have interests in common.

She has been working on the family history for 40 years. She enjoys traveling so every chance she gets she’s off around the country collecting stories and documents and photographs that are not online. If you can, get yourself one of those.

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