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Welcome to this step-by-step series for beginning genealogists—and more experienced ones who want to brush up or learn something new. I first ran this series in 2008. So many people have asked about it, I’m bringing it back in weekly segments.
Episode 7: Best Subscription Websites for Genealogy Research, Part 1
In our first segment, my guest is Lisa Alzo, popular genealogy lecturer and writer (now the author of nine books and online genealogy instructor at Family Tree University and the National Institute for Genealogical Studies). We talk about her reasons for researching her family history and what she’s learned in her genealogical journeys (which include international travel in Eastern Europe).
In the second half of the show, we tackle an essential topic: the best subscription sites for family history records. This is a two-part topic: in this episode I talk about the best genealogy websites that require payment to access their core content. In Episode 8, we’ll talk about the fantastic free websites that are out there.
Keep in mind that this episode was recorded a few years ago. As I mention in the show, the online records landscape is constantly changing. Here are a few updates:
The biggest powerhouse paid subscription website is still Ancestry: it’s just bigger and better than what I originally described. As of fall 2013, they host 11 billion historical records. Member-contributed items include over 50 million family trees and 160 million uploads of photographs, stories and scanned documents. They still have a free 14-day trial membership and multiple subscription options: check out current ones here.
WorldVitalRecords is still a great website, though it’s grown more slowly. At our republishing date, it boasts over 158 million digitized images, (including US and UK censuses); 300 million names from vital records; 75 million names from military records, over 100 million pages of newspapers dating from 1739; 1.5 million historical maps; 8000 yearbooks and over 30 million tombstone photos. WorldVitalRecords is now part of the MyHeritage.com family of websites. Click here for a free 3-day trial membership.
Findmypast now has two web storefronts: findmypast.com (recommended for folks in the U.S.) and FindMyPast.co.uk (which specializes in British and Irish roots and records). At last glance in fall 2013, findmypast hosts over 1.5 million family history records. It offers great search options and a budget-friendly pay-per-view model or a more traditional subscription.
RootsIreland is now home now to over 20 million Irish records.
Genline.com for Swedish research is still online, though it’s part of Ancestry.com now. It’s home to over 20 million church record images and more.
Scotland’s People is still your official home for online Scottish records, including an enormous collection of parish records with births and baptisms, banns and marriages and deaths and burials.
Many other sites support specific topics in genealogy research. An example on my side of the pond is Fold3 (formerly Footnote) for American military records. This site is home to over 400 million total records from the Revolutionary War era forward. Check with others who research families from the same location or ethnic background as your family to see what sites would be perfect for you.
My website mentioned in the podcast, GenealogyGems.tv, is now better known as www.genealogygems.com. The Genealogy Gems newsletter mentioned in the episode is now my blog, which you can find on my website.
The UK ‘genealogy giant’ Findmypast has made exciting new updates to their records this week! They’ve announced over 100 million new European records are now available online, and this week highlights their extensive collection for Norway. Also new this week are genealogy records for Staffordshire, England; Queensland, Australia; and Ontario, Canada.
New European Records Online: Norway Featured
Findmypast recently announced their addition of over 100 million new European records now online. “Over 114 million new European births, baptisms, marriages, banns, deaths and burials are now available to search and explore on Findmypast. The new additions consist of transcripts sourced from the International Genealogical Index, a database compiled from a variety of sources from around the world.
Featured from this huge addition are three new indexes containing over 9.1 million Norwegian baptisms, marriages and burials are now available to search as part of our new collection of European records. These new collections span nearly 300 years of Norwegian history (1634 to 1927) and will generate new hints against your Findmypast family tree.
Anyone with ancestors from Norway has probably tapped into the National Archives of Norway’s Digital Archive. It’s one of the shining stars on the Internet that offer rays of research hope for those with Norwegian heritage. That’s why I was thrilled to be able to interview Yngve Nedreb, the Chief archivist at Riksarkivet (National Archives of Norway) for the Family Tree Magazine Podcast. In fact, I published an extended version of that interview in episode #161 of The Genealogy Gems Podcast. This is a “must hear” for those with Norwegian heritage! Click below to listen right now:
Lisa’s special guest: Yngve Nedrebø, Chief Archivist at Riksarkivet. http://www.arkivverket.no/eng/Digitalarkivet
The indexes for the three events are divided into volumes by year and names are listed alphabetically. Once an entry in one of the indexes is found, you are then able to use that information to order of copy of a death, marriage, or birth certificate from the GRO. Information that can be obtained from the birth marriage and death index includes, where available:
Maiden name of mother
Date of event
Place of Marriage
Registration district (each county in England and Wales was divided up into registration districts; jurisdictions are organized and appear as they existed at the time the record was created)
Also new at Ancestry is the Queensland, Australia, Licensed Victuallers Index, 1900-1903. The names of holders of victuallers’ licenses (publicans) were printed in the Queensland Government Gazette from 1900 to 1914 on an annual basis. This index covers the period from 1900 to 1903 and includes names, districts, and hotel names.
More about licensed victuallers from Wikipedia: “In the United Kingdom the owner and/or manager of a pub (public house) is usually called the “landlord/landlady”, and often, strictly incorrectly, “publican”, the latter properly the appellation of a Roman public contractor or tax farmer. In more formal situations, the term used is licensed victualler or simply “licensee”. A female landlord can be called either a landlady or simply landlord.”
Ontario, Canada Insurance Policy Applications
Findmypast has another new collection now available online. “Did your Canadian ancestor apply for life insurance with The Independent Order of Oddfellows (IOOF) between 1875 and 1929? The IOOF is one of the world’s oldest fraternal orders. These insurance records are a unique source for tracing your family history. You will find images of the original applications which include your ancestor’s medical history, family’s medical history, and a physical description. The applications are two pages long. Be sure to use the next arrow to move to the next image.
Here at Genealogy Gems, we’ve adopted the name ‘Genealogy Giants’ to refer to the 4 major genealogy records websites: Ancestry.com, Findmypast.com, MyHeritage.com, and FamilySearch.org. Each website has its own unique and distinct offerings, but there can also be a lot of overlap. So with hefty subscription price tags, the question we’re often asked is, “Which website subscription do I need?” To tackle this, Sunny Morton’s RootsTech class uncovers the secrets on how to compare these 4 giants so that you spend your time and money wisely. Watch the entire presentation for free below, and then grab a copy of the companion quick reference guide Genealogy Giants: Comparing the 4 Major websites.
About the Author: Lisa Louise Cooke is the producer and host of the Genealogy Gems Podcast, an online genealogy audio show and app. She is the author of the books The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, Mobile Genealogy, How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers, and the Google Earth for Genealogy video series. She is an international keynote speaker and the Vice President of the Genealogical Speakers Guild.
Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!
Click the video player below to watch 10 Top Tips for Beginning German Genealogy now.
Episode 52 Show Notes
Researching ancestors in another country can be a little daunting. Challenges include foreign languages, moving boundaries, and spelling variations. This is certainly true for German genealogy.
If you’re new to German genealogy or your research has stalled, this episode of Elevenses with Lisa is for you. In fact, even if you don’t have German ancestors I think you will still find the principles and ideas covered very helpful.
Translator, author and German handwriting expert Katherine Schober shares her 10 Top Tips for Beginning Germany Genealogy.These tips are packed with tools and resources that you can start using right away.
Katherine Schober is a German / English translator, specializing in the old German handwriting. She is the author of “The Magic of German Church Records” and “Tips and Tricks of Deciphering German Handwriting”, as well as the creator of the online course “Reading the Old German Handwriting.” And this year she will be one of the featured speakers at this year’s virtual International German Genealogy Conference.
Click the video below to watch the show. Then scroll down below to get all of the show notes. Premium Members will find the downloadable ad-free show notes cheat sheet PDF in the Resources section at the bottom of the page.
Mentioned in this video:
International German Genealogy Conference July 17-24, 2021. Use special code EARLY until April 30 to get $50 off the package of your choice. Registration here
Reading the Old German Handwriting Course online with Katherine Schober Register for the course here
Use Coupon Code GEMS for 10% off the course.
1. Start with What You Know about Your German Ancestor
Resist the temptation to start searching online immediately. Take the time to talk to your relatives, starting with the oldest. Review family documents, photo albums and other materials around your home. You may be surprised how much you already have, and the light that other relatives can shed on the family tree. Every step of the way its critically important to document everything!
2. Look for Resources in America Before Jumping Over to Germany
Family Bibles (Watch Elevenses with Lisaepisode 29)
Local church records
Passenger Lists (Watch Elevenses with Lisaepisode 34)
Records in Germany are kept at the local level. Make sure you have the right town in the right state.
Meyers Gazetteer About the Meyers Gazetteer from the website: Meyers Orts- und Verkehrs-lexikon des deutschen Reichs “is the most important of all German gazetteers. The goal of the Meyer’s compilers was to list every place name in the German Empire (1871-1918). It gives the location, i.e. the state and other jurisdictions, where the civil registry office was and parishes if that town had them. It also gives lots of other information about each place. The only drawback to Meyer’s is that if a town did not have a parish, it does not tell where the parish was, making reference to other works necessary.”
The Historic Gazetteerat The Genealogical Gazetteer provides “The precise identification of places is essential in genealogy. Unfortunately, too few researchers care in identifying places. The project “GOV” was initiated to help historians and genealogists with the management of place references and to provide high quality data for anyone.”
4. Identify Available Records for the Town in Germany
Some pairs of letters can find themselves interchanged in German words. Understanding which ones were commonly swapped can save you a lot of frustration as you attempt to interpret documents. Examples of commonly switch letters include B and P, and K and G.
Geogen v4 offers genealogists a way to discover the areas of Germany where a surname appears most frequently. Type in your ancestor’s German surname and press Enter on your keyboard. Try variations that you have come across in records to compare the results.
Geogen v4 offers genealogists a way to discover the areas of Germany where a surname appears most frequently.
10. Use the Genealogy FAN CLUB
If you get stuck, use the FAN CLUB principle by looking at Friends, Associates, and Neighbors. These are the people who interacted with your ancestors in important ways. They will come in particularly handy when you run out of records for your German ancestor. By reviewing the records of those closest to your ancestor you may find new clues that can move your search forward and lead back to your family tree.
Katherine Schober is a German-English genealogy speaker, author, and translator, specializing in the old German handwriting. She is the author of “The Magic of German Church Records” and “Tips and Tricks of Deciphering German Handwriting”, as well as the creator of the online course “Reading the Old German Handwriting.” Katherine lives in St. Louis with her Austrian husband, and can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or via her website, www.sktranslations.com.