Genealogy with Lisa Marker: #3 Find your family on the internet

Friday, December 17, 2010

Genealogy on the internet - where to go first? This is such a large topic that at least one genealogy magazine has a “top 100 websites” list each year.

The first rule of using the internet as a research tool is to understand that it is only that: a tool. Just because you find information on the web does not necessarily make that information true. You must still verify it using primary and secondary sources. This is particularly important regarding user-submitted family trees that are abundantly available on many websites. Unless the site has citations galore regarding where the user got their information, it is wise to use the information for leads only. Even then, you will probably want to verify for yourself any part of the information you are interested in.

That being said, it is now possible to find information on the web that qualifies as a primary or secondary source. You may find scans of birth or death certificates, or of government land grants. It is very feasible to find obituaries from old newspapers online, and know exactly what newspaper they came from. You may also find marriage records or military pension paperwork. These have been, and continue to be, scanned in to be available to use as sources. Record exactly where you saw them (the URL name next to the http), and even the date you found them (websites do have a way of disappearing or changing names).

Some of my faves:
  • Cyndislist.com (free)
  • Ancestry.com (pay, but most libraries have a free version)
  • RootsWeb.com (free)
  • FamilySearch.com (free) - this is the LDS church website. They are in the process of digitizing their records, and many are currently available online in the Beta portion of their website)
  • The Washington State Digital Archives (free)
  • SteveMorse.org - (free) Web pages by Stephen Morse. You will be able to do searches of EllisIsland.org, as well as other comprehensive searches, using his templates.
  • GenForum - (Free) This has message board sites for surnames as well as locations. You may find others researching the same names, locations or topics.
  • USGenWeb (free) - information posted by location. Each county within a state has its own site.
  • Newspaper websites available using your library card (and you can access them from home, most likely - America’s GenealogyBank, and NewspaperArchive).
Have fun looking at some of these, and remember to Cite Your Sources


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