My Top Ten Genealogy Research Tools

A few days ago, James Tanner posted My Top Ten Genealogy Programs for Now. Randy Seaver followed with My Top Ten Genealogy Research “Programs.”

There apparently were some comments that not all items on the list were actually programs, but websites or other apps used when researching.

I love Top Ten lists, especially when they related to genealogy so I’ve devised my own current list – yes, the list evolves over time as my research needs shoot off in different directions – but I’ve called it my list of research tools, which is a bit more encompassing and reflective of how I work.

  1. FamilySearch – FamilySearch is often my first stop when looking for new genealogical info for three reasons – I think its search engine handles spelling variations in names better than Ancestry does and it often gives me hits that aren’t on Ancestry AND its ever-growing digital collection is fabulous. An added plus is that it’s free, although I am not one who thinks everything in genealogy should be free.
  2. Ancestry – It has hundreds of databases and the public member trees are great for picking up clues along the research trail. I think everyone knows this is a subscription site!
  3. AmericanAncestors – The New England Historic Genealogical Society in Boston has added databases creeping out of the New England area, with a special focus on New York, and has rebranded itself online as AmericanAncestors. I have tons of early New England lines so this subscription site is a must.
  4. Provincial Archives of New Brunswick (PANB) – MIxed in my New England heritage are quite a few Loyalists who fled to Canada in 1783. Like FamilySearch, PANB is busily adding new (digitized) free records to its site, with everything from Daniel Johnson’s early newspaper abstracts to 19th and 20th century vital records. There is one search engine that will search all 36 databases.
  5. Find-A-Grave – This free site has expanded so much from the days when it was a gravestone photo and transcription collection to one that often has links to graves of other relatives, biographical information and sometimes even photos. Like public member trees, it needs to be used cautiously as there are incorrect people linked as family and a lack of a gravestone photo may mean that the person in question didn’t die/wasn’t buried there, but I have found many missing family branches on this website.
  6. FamilySearch Books and Google Books – I actually prefer FamilySearch’s digitized book collection over Google because of the format in which they are saved. Some of Google’s books open in a format that looks like OCR was used and the text is oddly spaced and words garbled. Both are free.
  7. Chronicling America – The Library of Congress’s digital historical newspaper collection is great for my husband’s lines, but not so much for my family (which has an emphasis in New Jersey and Maine, neither of which is in their collection).
  8. Arkivalieronline – The Danish National Archives free website contains digital images of both census records dating back to 1787 and church register records in some cases from the 1600s and many from the 1700s into the 1900s. Reading Danish isn’t really necessary as many of the records are in table form with columns for each detail found on a record. It is necessary to know where your family was living, as the church records are kept at the parish level. However, the censuses are searchable by name and place so it is possible to find your family and then go to the church registers for further information. The records are not indexed, but FamilySearch has been working on that.

My last two in the Top Ten cover software programs and genealogy education online.

  1. RootsMagic 7, Legacy 8 and Family Historian 6 – I am still torn between these three genealogical software programs. RootsMagic 7 is my main program, mostly because with a local users’ group I have learned a lot about navigating it. Legacy 8 is still an option, too, but I’ve had to teach myself as I don’t know anyone nearby who is also using it. Quite honestly, Family Historian 6 would probably be my “go to” program, except for one drawback – it has no templates that align with Evidence Explained.  I was a long-time Family Tree Maker user, but I’ve given up on it.
  2. Legacy Family Tree Webinars, Illinois State Genealogical Society webinars, Southern California Genealogical Society webinars and others offer tons of live, free webinars every week. The topics are quite varied and they are an excellent way to keep up with new methods, build my research skills and learn about new resources. I also subscribe to Legacy Family Tree Webinars for access to past presentations and handouts.

I have to add one comment here. Many people use online note taking apps like Evernote, One Note, and others. I have just never been able to get into online note taking. The one exception is when I’m at a conference running from session to session. I’m either a paper-and-pencil note taker or Word user. I’ve been in libraries more than once when the internet went down and, while everyone else moaned about the lack of access, I had my research list on paper. As for portability, if I have lengthy notes that I need with me, a flash drive does the trick and no internet is needed. I’ve tried more than once to migrate to Evernote, but when they recently announced that the free version could only be on two devices and I had it on three – my laptop, my desktop and my iPad – that really irritated me and I deleted it from all three. Problem solved.

There you have it – my top ten genealogical research tools.

Do you have a favorite that isn’t on my list? Please leave a comment.


One thought on “My Top Ten Genealogy Research Tools”

  1. I also like to have some things in paper. Every time I hear people talk about going paperless, I look at my two four-drawer filing cabinets and shelves of notebooks and know I could never purge it all. I like to hold things in my hands and spread them out next to each other for comparison.

    I use Legacy. I think a lot of it depends on what program you were introduced to first. I really love Legacy, but don’t necessarily use it to full capacity. I told myself I own it, not the other way around, so I use it the way that it makes sense and serves my purposes.

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