Which are the Best Genealogy Websites for YOU??

Bill Johnson in Manassas, Virginia, USA, wrote to me with this question–and I know he’s not the only one asking it!

“It’s difficult to know what genealogical resources to spend your money on. I have been a subscriber to Ancestry.com (world package) for years. But, there is FindMyPast, MyHeritage, etc. Your books identify dozens of other resources that all sound good — and cost money. Then there are some of the free resources like the National Archives and the LDS resources [FamilySearch].  Where should you spend your time and money?  While money is always a factor, I find that my time is a more precious resource.  If I have Ancestry.com, would I gain anything by subscribing to FindMyPast? MyHeritage? FamilySearch? The National Archives or the BLM sites?  I am concerned about wasting money on redundancy.  Why visit a site that only offers a select subset of the data that I access through Ancestry?

Which paid sites do you regularly use?  Which free sites do you use?  Your books have a plethora of suggestions but the pool of resources is increasing by the day.  It is really getting rather confusing.”

What a great question!!! Here’s my answer:

“I agree, it’s gotten more complicated selecting the best genealogy websites for your own needs. I will take a look at covering this more in depth in a future podcast episode. I do have a few ideas for you right now.

It’s really about accessing the right website (or tool) for the task.

  • For general depth of records I turn first to Ancestry.com (you only need the world edition if you need records outside of the U.S.), and then FamilySearch.org. With Ancestry.com, I make sure I use the card catalog and search by location tool (scroll down to the map) so I’m not missing all the record sets that don’t automatically jump to the top of the general search results. FamilySearch is free, so I check its online resources EVERY TIME I have a question. I check both browsable and indexed content (from the main screen, click Search, then Records, then scroll down and click Browse all Published Collections (or click to that screen here). You’ll be able to choose a location and see all content they have and whether it’s been indexed or you just have to browse through it (like reading microfilm, only online).
  • For me personally, I was slow to warm up to MyHeritage because I just wasn’t sure how it would best help me. Once I embraced it and posted my tree, its strength in my research became clear: for the first time ever I connected with a distant cousin in the “old country” (Germany)! The international user base of MyHeritage stands above other sites. And the fact that you can create your own family site on MyHeritage makes it a great ongoing resource for staying connected. (Disclosure: MyHeritage is a sponsor of the Genealogy Gems podcast. However, that is because of the value I came to experience in my own research as I just mentioned.)
  • When I am focused on my husband’s British roots I head to FindMyPast and pay as I go as needed.

download backblazeOur mission here at Genealogy Gems is to reveal innovative ways of using the myriad of tech tools so you’ll know you can turn to them only when you need them. Think of it as a toolbelt. The right tool for the right job! But I also only bring tech tools and websites to the podcast and my website that I believe are worthwhile. Believe it or not, I weed a lot of them out!

I hope that helps, and I wish you great genealogical success!”  Lisa

Historical Norwegian Maps Online: Great Genealogy Resource!

Recently we heard from Gordon in Billings, Montana, U.S.A, who passed on news about historical Norwegian maps online now at their National Map Works. He says:

“I have been enjoying your podcasts for a couple of years now, so I though I would pass on a piece of information that some of your listeners might want to hear about.

I don’t know how many of them do research in Norway like I do but I suspect that most of the ones that do, do not make a habit of reading the Norwegian newspapers. Since my wife was born in Norway, we do read her hometown paper on a regular basis. Just yesterday, that paper, Bergens Tidende, had an article reporting that the “Statens Kartverk” (the National Map Works) has recently digitized and posted on-line 8000 historical maps of Norway. (Click here for the article.)

Unfortunately, the website for the maps has not put a link in their English section yet, but there isn’t much to read beyond place names on the maps anyway. You can view the maps here.

Just choose a county, click the green button, and see a wonderful collection of maps for anyone with ancestors from Norway.”

Thanks for the tip, Gordon! I’ll add this tip of my own: Open the website in Chrome and Chrome will automatically offer to translate the website. Simply click the Translate button, like you’ll see below:

norwegian maps

Calling Volunteers: Help Index Italian Civil Registration Records

Volunteers neededIt’s National Volunteer Week in the United States. What better time to put out a call for help? Volunteers are desperately needed to help index the biggest Italian records project yet: Italian civil registration records. At current rates, it won’t be fully indexed for another 100 years.

“FamilySearch’s Italian Ancestors Project is arguably the most genealogically significant initiative ever for Italy and all Italian descendants,” explains Paul Nauta from FamilySearch. “Over 115 million historic birth, marriage, and death records from every state of Italy are being digitally preserved and published online.

“Online volunteers are needed to index these records to make every name easily searchable online for free—over 500 million names from the birth, marriage, and death records, 1802 to 1944.  With the current base of volunteers, it will take over 100 years to complete. With more online volunteers helping, the initiative could be completed in as little as 10 years.”

Watch a short video about indexing these records below, or keep reading below for other opportunities to pitch in during National Volunteer Week:

Click to read Genealogy Gems posts on volunteering by:

Find Your WWII Ancestors with these Military Research Gems

find your WWII ancestorsReady to research your WWII ancestors? We recommend these resources–and give you more from WWII author Rick Beyer, who recently appeared on the Genealogy Gems podcast. 

Recently author Rick Beyer joined me on the free Genealogy Gems podcast (episode 182) to talk about his fascinating book and PBS companion documentary, The Ghost Army of World War II: How One Top-Secret Unit Deceived the Enemy with Inflatable Tanks, Sound Effects, and Other Audacious Fakery. His stories have stayed in my mind ever since. I find myself wanting to learn more about my own family’s involvement in World War II–and wanting to hear more from Rick Beyer.

I did a little digging and found these titles:

finding your fathers war

Finding Your Father’s War Revised Edition: A Practical Guide to Researching and Understanding Service in the World War II US Army by Jonathan Gawne. Now on its third printing, this popular guide helps readers navigate the records and repositories that can shed light on your Greatest Generation ancestors.

 

i thought my father was god

 

I Thought My Father Was God: And Other True Tales from NPR’s National Story Project, edited by Paul Auster. This collection of 180 personal stories ranks close to 5 stars by Amazon readers. It includes Rick Beyer’s story, “A Plate of Peas,” which he reads for us on the Genealogy Gems YouTube channel (watch it below).

 

More Resources

Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 165 (listen for free!), about WWII records at the U.S. National Archives and tips for finding soldiers’ overseas travels.

We Dig These Gems: New Genealogy Records Online, which spotlights several European databases that have recently come online, including records that may mention your WWII ancestors.

Genealogy Gems Premium podcast episode 46 (Premium membership required to access), which includes several online resources for color photographs from WWII.

genealogy book club genealogy gemsKnow anyone else who would love to know about these resources? Please share this post with them! And if you enjoy reading about history and family themes, check out the Genealogy Gems Book Club. We regularly interview best-selling and critically-acclaimed authors on our show: see why these are some of our most popular episodes!

Early Emigration Records for Britain in New and Updated Genealogical Records

Emigration records, not immigration records, are the key topic of this week’s new and updated genealogical collections. Findmypast offers several new collections regarding early British emigration. Also this week, record collections for Australian census substitutes and United States newspapers.

dig these new record collections

Britain – Emigration Records – Leaving from Britain

Early emigration from Britain 1636-1815 is a collection from Findmypast containing over 21,000 records that allow you to learn if your ancestors left Britain for North America or the West Indies. The collection includes 10 pieces from The National Archives including colonial papers, general entry books, passenger registers, and weekly immigration returns.

Each record includes both an image and a transcript of the original source material. Transcripts may include occupation, year of birth, the year they departed, their destination, and the ship they sailed on. Depending on the type of document, images of the original records may include additional details such as marital status, former residence, and nationality of settler.

Britain – Emigration Records to Barbados

Britain, early emigration to Barbados is another collection from Findmypast, centering on your British ancestors who left for a settlement in Barbados between 1678 and 1715. With over 20,000 assorted documents, this collection includs baptisms, burials, censuses, landowner lists, and more.

Each result provides you with a transcript and image of the original record. Transcripts may contain name, birth year, age, and parish as well as the nature of the event that was being recorded and the date. Depending on the type of document, images of the original records may also include additional details such as fathers’ names or information pertaining to other North American colonies such as the colonies of Rhode Island and Connecticut.

Britain – The Royal African Company Records

Britain, Royal African Company, 1694-1743 is a collection of over 55,000 records to uncover the details of those on board the Royal African Company’s ships to and from Africa as well as the names of those who lived and died at company forts. These Findmypast records came from The National Archives T 70 series, Company of Royal Adventurers of England Trading with Africa and Successors.

The Royal African Company was a mercantile company from 1660 until it was dissolved in 1750. It was first incorporated as the Company of Royal Adventurers Trading to Africa before being reconstituted in 1672 as the Royal African Company of England. You may find the name of one of your British soldiers who traveled with the company among these records.

Australia – Census Substitutes

Over 1 million new records have been added to the Findmypast collection of Australia Electoral Rolls. The new additions cover Queensland and Tasmania. Electoral rolls are lists of names of those eligible to vote and can be used as a census substitute.

Previously, the Rolls existed as simple PDF searches that could only be accessed separately, state by state. Now, they are fully transcribed and placed into one central collection. This makes searching for your Australian ancestors easier and now you can search across all 12.6 million of these census substitutes at once. The entire collection covers New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, the Northern Territory, and Western Australia and spans the years 1860 to 1959.

United States – Wisconsin – Newspapers

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee has digitized their entire collection of the student newspaper, The Post, to mark the 60th anniversary of the paper’s founding. These newspapers cover 55 years and are exclusively online at UWM website.

The newspapers can be searched by decade, name or keyword, and date. Some of the stories are fun and lighthearted like the Sept. 26, 1956, story on the “coed” who was crowned “Alice in Dairyland” after earlier being voted a “datable doll” at a campus carnival. Other stories include a 1975 article dealing with campus safety and parking. Lastly, you will also find more politically charged articles dealing with marijuana use and legalized abortion.

More on Emigration Records

emigration recordsOur own Sunny McClellan Morton has just what you need to learn more on researching your ancestors’ emigration travels. The English Genealogy Guide: Researching Emigrants to Australia, India and South Africa is available from Family Tree Magazine as a downloadable PDF. And, read our blog post titled Emigration Records With an E: When Your Ancestors Left the Country, by Lisa Louise Cooke. You will be amazed at how much there is to learn about emigration…with an “E”!

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