When I moved to Tucson four years ago, one of the first things I did was look for a local genealogy society. Finding none, but having joined a ladies’ welcome club, I decided to organize one through the club. Four years later, I am proud to say that I have created new genealogy addicts. We meet regularly once a month and, while all except me were newbies when we organized, we now have a nice mix of somewhat seasoned researchers who have learned how to search for the next person in their family trees.
Aside from having lots of time to research together when we meet, I also teach a mini-lesson on a general genealogy topic each month. I am often asked about both websites and research books that I would recommend. Today’s post covers my top ten recommendations, in no particular order, for free research:
1. Familysearch.org – It goes without saying that this should be a starting and continuing resource for any serious researcher.
2. Cyndi’s List – Cyndi’s List is a reference guide for finding websites of for any particular genealogical topic or area of interest.
3. US Gen Web – US Gen Web, organized by state and counties, has varying amounts of fabulous information contributed by volunteers. Some information is readily found elsewhere, while other tidbits are unique to the site. The categories of information vary widely from locale to locale because the site is volunteer-driven. However, a visit to places of interest is well worth the time.
4. Chronicling America – The Library of Congress project, Chronicling America, digitizing historical American newspapers, is worth frequent visits as more newspapers are added to the project. Newspapers have traditionally been underused as a genealogical resource because it if often difficult to access them. Chronicling America has removed that problem.
5. Olive Tree Genealogy – This website has tons of links, many of which go to free websites, covering many less easily found sources of information. The highlight, in my opinion, are all the sources for ships’ passenger lists for both the U.S. and Canada.
6. DAR Library – The DAR Library is one of the premier genealogy libraries in the United States. Even if you has no ancestor who gave service during the American Revolution, the library likely has records for places where your family lived. The GRS (Genealogical Research System) database is available on line. If you think you might have a patriot, the ancestor database can also be searched on line. If you are able to visit the library in person, DAR recently dropped the admission fee for non-DAR members, so entrance is now free.
7. Google Books – Google Books is a terrific way to read genealogical books whose copyright has ended or whose author/compiler has given permission to share the work digitally. Obscure volumes often found only in libraries might well be found on Google.
8. FindAGrave – FindAGrave is a terrific resource, particularly for finding family members who lived in the 20th century. Care should be taken to note whether a gravestone has been transcribed and a photo posted or whether someone has simply created a memorial to a person who may or may not be buried in a particular cemetery.
Two slots on this list should be reserved for topic- or place-specific information often used by the family historian. In my case, I would include:
9. PANB (Provincial Archives of New Brunswick)- I have so many New Brunswick connections that I would be light years further behind in my Canadian research without this site.
10. Statens Arkiver (Danish National Archives) – The Danish National Archives is another site on which I have found so much information and which is free. It contains digital images of Danish parish registers covering time spans well into the 20th century, along with Danish census images. Probate files are currently being added. I would not have found my great grandmother’s family in Denmark without this website.
I have posted a number of articles covering free resources, including some spectacular state libraries and archives and local government level sites. Check them out and please comment on your own Top Ten Favorite Free Websites.
Come back tomorrow for my recommendations of Top Ten Genealogy Books for a basic reference collection.