Everyone has favorite genealogy resources that help with current research questions. While many websites are specific to a single family or locale, today I’d like to share ten of my favorite genealogy resources that are general enough they can be used by everyone for all kinds of research.
1. City Directories – City directories have an abundance of genealogically related information. I’ve used directories to answer a number of family history questions. Both Ancestry and MyHeritage have collections of city directories and require subscriptions. However, Internet Archive also has a collection, as does HathiTrust and both are free to use. Local libraries often have a number of directories in the reference section, too.
2. Tax Lists – As Benjamin Franklin said, the only two sure things are death and taxes. I love, love, love tax lists. They tell me when a man settled in a location, possibly when he died, if he was a land owner or not and how much acreage he owned. Many tax lists also identify the location in the county of his real estate, which can help sort out men of the same name and related/unrelated families. Taxes are usually collected at the county level. FamilySearch has many digital collections of tax records, although some are locked and need to be viewed at a family history center.
3. FamilySearch Research Wiki – Many visitors to FamilySearch love the records to be found there. However, they either don’t use or don’t know about the wiki, which can be accessed in the drop down SEARCH menu on the home page. I don’t believe you even need a free account on FamilySearch to view the wiki. The wiki not only has information about the records on FamilySearch related to a given location, it has details about records on paid and other free websites that also relate to your place of interest. Check it out! You’ll be surprised as the amount of information to be found there. It’s like a one-stop shop for location links and many categories of information, which mirror the record categories under subject headings on FamilySearch.
4. Staff at local libraries, historical societies and county/town clerk offices – Given the number of offices that have been closed or had limited hours during the last two years, you might have felt stymied by a lack of access to records needed for your research. I have to admit I made multiple phone calls to county archives and town clerks, politely asking if they had the particular record or document that I was not able to access online. Not a single person among these wonderful workers and/or volunteers told me that they wouldn’t look. And, in every case, I was rewarded with the needed document in a time frame ranging from that afternoon to one week later. Their willingness to help is very much appreciated. Don’t be afraid to telephone or email to ask if local help is available. Even if a small fee is charged, it is still much more convenient and way less costly than traveling there in person.
5. Chancery Court Records – Chancery court is where families went to have their complaints settled fairly. This isn’t the courthouse where criminal trials were held. It’s where, for example, heirs were either unhappy with an estate distribution or were unable to equitably divide an estate on their own so they asked the court to appoint someone to help. Often, a suit in chancery provided much more information about a family or issue than a will or even an intestate administration. I have also had the good fortune to find wills from testators who lived in burned counties. That is, the county courthouse burned, but chancery court was held elsewhere and those records didn’t burn.
6. Internet Archive – I mentioned Internet Archive above, in City Directories. However, this website has so much more. I have found dozens of books and periodicals which are out of copyright that have provided a LOT of information about families in my tree. Often, a PDF of the publication is available and I download it to my computer and save for future use. You never know when some document or book might disappear online!
7. HathiTrust – I use HathiTrust in much the same way as Internet Archive.
8. WorldCat – This website mainly tells me where the closest hard copy of a publication I am seeking is located. However, it also tells me in what format it is – book, microfilm and – sometimes – even digital. I use it mainly for books and occasional articles, but search categories also include DVDs and CDs.
9. MyHeritage DNA Tools – There are many DNA tools available online today. I like MyHeritage because, being a European-based company, I find many more distant cousins around the world than on other websites. No subscription is needed to read about the various tools. Just click on my link.
10. Conference Keeper – This is a genealogy events calendar. Why do I include it under resources? Because genealogy education must remain ongoing – forever. How are you going to research in unfamiliar locations, languages, and databases? What kinds of records are available? Where is help available? Genealogy education will answer most of these questions because of the hundreds and thousands of live and recorded webinars that have blossomed during the last few years. Conference Keeper will let you know about upcoming webinars (many free if viewed live), conferences – both in-person and virtual and even the new hybrids, and all of the organizations that are hosting them. It’s free to use and you’ll be shocked at how many learning opportunities there are out there.
That’s it! I hope I’ve given you some new research strategies to try out.