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.
Our 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
Ketubah Circa 1860.
This is the ketubah (marriage contract) of Hannah and Hayyim from their marriage on Tuesday, April 6, 1886 (א׳ ניסן תרמ״ו) in the town of Brody. Image by Yoel Ben-Avraham on Flickr Creative Commons at https://www.flickr.com/photos/epublicist/1355967207/in/photolist-.
Looking for an online resource of Jewish family trees?
“The Knowles Collection, a quickly growing, free online Jewish genealogy database linking generations of Jewish families from all over the world, reached its one-millionth record milestone and is now easily searchable online,” says a recent FamilySearch press release.
“The collection started from scratch just over seven years ago, with historical records gathered from FamilySearch’s collections. Now the vast majority of new contributions are coming from families and private archives worldwide. The free collection can be accessed at FamilySearch.org/family-trees.
According to FamilySearch, “The databases from the Knowles Collection are unlike other collections in that people are linked as families and the collection can be searched by name, giving researchers access to records of entire families. All records are sourced and show the people who donated the records so cousins can contact one another. New records are added continually, and the collection is growing by about 10,000 names per month from over 80 countries. Corrections are made as the need is found, and new links are added continually.”
The database was started by Todd Knowles, a Jewish genealogy expert at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. Jewish communities from around the world have added to it: “The Knowles Collection has grown from Jews of the British Isles (now with 208,349 records), to Jews of North America (489,400), Jews of Europe (380,637), Jews of South America and the Caribbean (21,351), Jews of Africa, the Orient, and the Middle East (37,618), and the newest one, Jews of the Southern Pacific (21,518).” Keep up with the Knowles Jewish Collection at its blog.
I have thoroughly enjoyed having Amie Tennant as a blogger for the past year. In her final blog post for Genealogy Gems she takes us on a tour of her home state’s digital records. Then she will be turning all of her attentions to her own genealogical certification. Thank you Amie for all of your helpful and thoroughly enjoyable posts! – Lisa Louise Cooke
Ohio genealogy research goes digital. You can now virtually walk into any courthouse in Ohio with the click of the mouse. Check out the amazing browse-only databases at FamilySearch for Ohio and other states, and take your family history research to the next level.
I use FamilySearch.org to search courthouse record books all the time. In particular, the Ohio Probate Records, 1789-1996 now have nearly 7 million digital images of county record books such as wills, estate files, guardianship records, naturalization records, minutes, bonds, and settlements. In fact, many other states have their court record books online at FamilySearch, too. So, why haven’t you noticed before?
Browse-only Databases vs. Indexed Databases
You may have read our previous post on step-by-step instructions to using browse-only databases at FamilySearch. If you didn’t, you should know that when you are searching for records at FamilySearch using the traditional search fields, you are only searching for records that have been indexed. In other words, there may be thousands of records you need on the site, but you won’t find them. They have not been indexed by a searchable name, place, or date. Instead, you need to go in the virtual “back door.”
Step 1: First, go to FamilySearch and sign in. Next, click Search at the top right. Now you will see a map of the world. Click on the desired location. I have chosen the U.S., but you can choose any country you are interested in.
Step 2: Once you choose your desired country or continent, a pop-up list will be available and allow you to choose the state (or country) you wish to search in. In this case, a list of the U.S. states appears and I clicked on Ohio.
Step 3: The system will direct you to a new page. You will first see the Ohio Indexed Historical Records. These are the records and collections that have been indexed and are searchable by name, date, and place. Though these are great, they are not the record collections I want to share with you today.
Instead, scroll down until you see the heading Ohio Image Only Historical Records. You will notice several databases such as cemetery records, church records, naturalization records, etc. All of these are browseable. That means you will use them like you would microfilm.
Step 4: I want to bring your attention to a specific record collection, so scroll down even further until you see Ohio Probate Records, 1789-1996. Click it.
At the next screen, you will see you can browse the 6,997,828 Ohio probate records and you are probably thinking, “What!? I can’t possibly browse through nearly 7 million records!” But, you can, so go ahead and click it!
Step 5: At the new screen, you will see everything is broken up into counties. Click on the county you are interested in researching. You will next see a list of possible record books available for that county. Each county will vary, so where you may find guardianship records available in one county, you might not find them in another.
Ohio Genealogy Research at the Courthouse
As a refresher, courthouse research is often imperative to thorough genealogy research. Here is a helpful chart of the type of information you may find in these types of court records. Be sure to remember: records and the amount of information they contain change over time.
More on Courthouse Research Techniques
Are you looking to understand the value of courthouse research and how to use those records to overcome brick walls in your family tree? Read 4 Ways to Power Up Your Courthouse Research Skills from our own Sunny Morton.
If you’ve been doing family history research for awhile, you probably have heard of (and maybe used) PAF: Personal Ancestral File software. Well, it’s been hard at work for a long time–as a true pioneer in genealogy computing–and now it’s retiring.
It’s not that your PAF software suddenly doesn’t work. But as of today, July 15, 2013, you won’t be able to get downloads, supports or upgrades from FamilySearch, which has made the software available since 1984.
What does that mean for PAF users? The current version of PAF supports exports to GEDCOM files, still a universal file type for genealogy software. So while GEDCOMs still remain supported on other software and online family tree hosts, you’ll be able to transfer the data from your tree. Those who want to continue to use FamilySearch products (like Family Tree) are advised by FamilySearch to switch to software that partners with FamilySearch: Ancestral Quest, Legacy Family Tree or RootsMagic. Learn more about the PAF discontinuation, what it means to you and supported software options at FamilySearch.
And just to put in a plug for RootsMagic, a Genealogy Gems Podcast sponsor, RootsMagic 6 is the only software that is “share+ certified” by FamilySearch for use with Family Tree: the only software, as RootsMagic says, “certified to collaborate and share data and sources with FamilySearch Family Tree.” If you’re already using RootsMagic 4 or 5, you’ll need to upgrade. Purchase RootsMagic 6 or order your upgrade here.