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

We Dig These Gems! New Genealogy Records Online

We dig these gems new genealogy records onlineHere’s this week’s roundup of new genealogy records online: Australia, France, New Zealand and, in the U.S., records for AK, CO, IL, IN, MA, MD, ME, NH, NY, PA and WI.

AUSTRALIA – NORTHERN TERRITORY – PROBATE. Ancestry.com has a new probate index (1911-1994) for Northern Territory, Australia. The collection includes images of an index “organized first by year range, then alphabetically by surname and given name.”

FRANCE – MILITARY. FamilySearch.org has published a new online index to military conscription records for Saône-et-Loire (1867-1940). Privacy restrictions apply to those born less than 120 years ago.

NEW ZEALAND – PROBATE. More than 350,000 browsable records (and over 10,000 indexed records) have been added to a free FamilySearch.org collection of New Zealand probate records (1843-1998). Original records are sourced from Archives New Zealand offices in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin.

US – VARIOUS – MARINE. Over 315,000 records are part of a new Ancestry.com collection of applications for seaman’s protection certificates, (1916-1940).

US – VARIOUS – MARRIAGE. Findmypast.com announced the addition of around 10 million additional U.S. marriage records to its growing online collection. According to a press release, “This second installment includes significant additions from Indiana, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Maine.” Nearly a million of these are new to online publication and, at least for now, exclusive to Findmypast. (The collection is part of a FamilySearch partnership.)

US – VARIOUS – PROBATE. Ancestry.com has updated its collections of wills and probate records for Wisconsin, Maryland and Colorado. Coverage by time period and county varies.

US – ARKANSAS – CIVIL WAR. About 172,000 indexed records have been added to a free FamilySearch collection of Arkansas Ex-Confederate Pension Records (1891-1939).

US – MASSACHUSETTS – TOWN CLERK RECORDS. FamilySearch has added nearly half a million indexed names to its free online collection, Massachusetts Town Clerk Vital and Town Records 1626-2001. A new related collection of Massachusetts town records is also available on FamilySearch.

US – NEW HAMPSHIRE. Over 100,000 indexed records have been added to a free FamilySearch.org collection of New Hampshire Birth Certificates (1901-1909). According to the collection description, “Records consist of index cards that give the town and date of the event and often much more information.”

sign up newsletterNew genealogy records appear online by the millions every week. Keep current by subscribing to the free weekly Genealogy Gems email newsletter. The newsletter comes with a free e-book by Lisa Louise Cooke on Google search strategies you can use to find MORE genealogy records online that you need. Simply enter your email address in the box at the top of this webpage where it says “Sign up.”

 

New York State Death Index Online for the First Time!

The New York State Death Index (1880-1956) is online for the first time! Also: letters of complaints to the city of Sydney, Australia; marriage records for Indiana, Iowa, Nebraska, and Washington; and the newspaper of a historically black North Carolina university. Coming soon: a major new online archive for Ontario, Canada.

Featured: New York State Death Index

For the first time, the New York State Death Index (1880-1956) has been made available online–and it’s free! The nonprofit advocacy group Reclaim the Records won its case that this index should be made available as free public records. According to the organization’s announcement, the index isn’t completely statewide: New York City death records were maintained separately, and Yonkers, Buffalo and Albany are not included until 1914 or 1915. The index for 1880 and 1881 is sparse, as record-keeping wasn’t good yet, and the index for 1943 is difficult to read. And it’s unclear whether those who died at some state institutions were included. The link above takes you to each year’s index on Internet Archive.

Australia: Complaints to the City of Sydney

Over 56,000 letters written by residents to the City of Sydney in the latter part of the 1800s have been digitized and added to the City of Sydney Archive online. A city historian quoted at the Daily Telegraph.com said people’s complaints “range from the mundane to the bizarre,” such as “foul smells, night time noise, stray farm animals and smoke billowing from homes and blacksmiths’ forges.” This same online city archive also hosts a collection of historical photographs, a full run of Sands directories, postal directories, and other resources for researching your house history. Find this collection by clicking Archives Investigator and then “Letters Received by Council, 1843-1899.”

Canada: New Ontario collections planned

Findmypast and the Ontario Genealogical Society have announced a new partnership that will bring millions of Ontario records online. According to a Findmypast announcement, “The first phase will be launched later this year with the online publication of over six million fascinating Ontario records, including:

  • The Ontario Name Index (TONI) – over 3.7 million records – a mega-index of names with the goal of including every name found in any publication relating to Ontario, ranging from registers of birth, marriage & death to obituaries, memorial inscriptions, newspaper articles and more.
  • The Ontario Genealogical Society Provincial Index (OGSPI) – over 2.6 million records – containing data from censuses, birth, marriage and death registers, references in books, land records, passenger lists, military records and a host of other references.
  • Oddfellows Life Insurance Applications (1875-1929) – over 240,000 names released online for the very first time, containing a collection of just over 59,000 life insurance applications to the Odd-Fellows’ Relief Association of Canada. The applications contain answers to up to thirty-one questions about sex, age, occupation, height, weight, ethnic origins, marital status, family structure, and past and present health conditions.
  • Ontario Genealogical Society Bulletin/Families and NewsLeaf – new images from official society publications and journals will become available to search through Findmypast’s Periodical Source Index (PERSI) – the largest subject index to genealogy and local history periodical articles in the world.”

Stay tuned to the Genealogy Gems blog for an announcement when the collections are available.

US: North Carolina university newspaper

Several issues of the student newspaper for Johnson C. Smith University are now online at DigitalNC. “Johnson C Smith University, a historically black university in Charlotte, NC was founded in 1867 as the Biddle Memorial Institute,” explains a Digital North Carolina blog post. “The name was changed to Johnson C Smith University in 1923 after a benefactress’ husband, shortly before the available run of papers were published.” Online editions span 1926 – 1930.

Marriage record example from “Nebraska Marriage Records, 1855-1906” on Ancestry.com. Click to view.

US: Marriage records: NE, WA, IN, IA

Ancestry.com has published a new index of Nebraska, Marriage Records, 1855-1908 with over 1.4 million records. It includes indexed images of records that generally include the couple’s names, birthdates, birthplaces, parents’ names and date and place of the wedding. Also new on Ancestry.com is Washington, State Marriage Indexes, 1969-2014, described as “a statewide index to over 3.9 million marriages that were performed in Washington between 1969 and 2014.” It includes only the names of the couple, date of the wedding, and county.

The site has also recently updated marriage records collections for the states of IndianaIowa and an update to Washington, Marriage Records, 1854-2013, described as “images of and indexes extracted from various records of marriages in Washington” from the state archive (and, with over 10.5 million records, likely overlaps with the above new collection).

Thanks for helping us spread the word about new genealogy records online! Just share this post with your genealogy buddies and fellow society members. You’re a gem!

Full disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links. Thank you for supporting our free blog and podcast.

We Dig These Gems: New Genealogy Records Online

We dig these gemsWe learn about so many fantastic new genealogy records online every week. So each Friday we round up several of them for you to glance through. Watch for databases and documents that your ancestors might appear in–but also watch for the kinds of records that may be out there already, that you haven’t yet looked for. This week: British women in World War I, Polish-American marriages, Irish vital records, Canadian travel photography, Scottish artifacts and documents and a Louisiana (US) press archive.

WWI WOMEN. FindMyPast has posted over 9,500 UK records that illustrate the various roles played by woman during the Frist World War. These include:

POLISH-AMERICAN MARRIAGES. A new database of Polish-American marriages has been posted by the Polish Genealogical Society of Connecticut and the Northeast.

According to a press release, “This database contains the names of couples of Polish origin who were married in select locations in the Northeast United States. The information was taken from marriage records, newspaper marriage announcements, town reports, parish histories or information submitted by Society members. The time period generally covered by these lists is 1892-1940. It includes the States of Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Vermont. Connecticut and Jersey City, NJ will be added at a later date.”

IRISH BMD. Over a million records appear in a new database of Irish records of the city and county of Derry~Londonderry and Inishowen, County Donegal. Entries span 1642-1922 and include:

  • Pre-1922 civil birth and marriage registers,
  • Early baptismal and marriage registers of 97 churches,
  • Headstone inscriptions from 118 graveyards, and
  • Census returns and census substitutes from 1663 to 1901.

Click here to access these records (and other County Derry resources) at RootsIreland,ie (subscription required).

CANADIAN TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY. A small but visually rich collection of pictures promoting Canadian tourism is now at Flickr Creative Commons. Use these to explore places your ancestors may have visited (and the images that may have lured them there) if they vacationed by rail in the 1800s or early 1900s. (Click here to learn more about finding great historical photos at Flickr Creative Commons.)

SCOTTISH ARTIFACTS AND DOCUMENTS. A new digital archive at Historic Scotland has launched an online database of 400 artefacts now includes over 400 artifacts important to Scottish history. Everyday household objects, ship models, coins, weaponry, bits ‘n bobs of old homes and buildings, industrial machinery and miscellaneous photos, books and ephemera are all browsable on this site. It’s a great place to look for images that help illustrate your Scottish ancestors’ history.

LOUISIANA PRESS COVERAGE. The Louisiana Digital Media Archive has launched as “the first project in the nation to combine the media collections of a public broadcaster and a state archives,” according to its site description. “This ever-expanding site contains a combined catalog of thousands of hours of media recorded over the past half-century.  You can see interviews with Louisiana civil rights pioneers, notable political figures, war heroes, artists and literary icons. You’ll have a front row seat to Louisiana history through video of historic events. You can also visit remote and endangered Louisiana places and cultures.”

check_mark_circle_400_wht_14064Not sure how to find record sets like these for YOUR family history? Here’s a tip! Set up a Google Alert. Say you want to know whenever new material on Polish-Americans in Detroit is found by Google’s ever-searching search engines. Click here to learn how to set up this search (or any other) Google Alert for genealogy.

This tip comes to you courtesy of the book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, Second Edition by Lisa Louise Cooke–the fully-revised 2015 edition that’s packed with strategies that will dramatically improve your ability to find your family history online.

Browse-Only Databases at FamilySearch are Easy to Use

Browse-only databases at FamilySearch are easy to use and may hold the key to the genealogy brick wall you have been working on.

Don’t be scared off because the records haven’t been indexed. Guest blogger Amie Tennant Bowser show you how to take advantage of these great records!

browse only databases

New Genealogy Records Come Online Every Week

Each week, we report on the latest genealogy records to have come online.

Sometimes in our weekly record update articles we include databases from the free FamilySearch website that are not yet indexed. These collections are referred to as browse-only. Have you ever been disappointed when you realized the database you are most interested in is only able to be browsed?

Browse Only Databases at FamilySearch are Easy to Use

The highlighted genealogy records in these collections are browse-only

You may be thinking, “Good grief! I can’t possibly browse thousands of records!” and we don’t expect you to. In this article we are going to share strategies that you can use to zero in on the genealogy records you want to browse. 

Browse Only Records Versus Indexed Records

Most folks search for genealogy records at FamilySearch by typing in some key information at the home page. It might be just the first and last name, and the place where that ancestor lived. Here’s an example:

How to Browse Database

When you use this method, you are only searching for records that have been indexed. 

Indexed records are great because they have already been reviewed by one of the thousands of FamilySearch volunteers. They use online software on the FamilySearch website to download images of historical documents. Then, they read the information on the image and transcribe the information.

A second, more experienced volunteer then reviews the transcribed information to ensure accuracy before it is submitted to the website where they can be searched. It’s a huge effort to help genealogists more easily search the online records. 

So, it’s important to understand that not all digitized record images that are on the FamilySearch website have been indexed. This means there may be countless records that will not be retrieved by a name search. 

Unindexed records can only be browsed until they are indexed. So as you can see, there is a very good chance that there are records on the site that apply to your family, but you won’t find them through the search engine.

Instead, you need to go in the virtual “back door” to locate these records. Follow along with me and I’ll show you how. 

How to Find Browse-Only Records at FamilySearch

Let’s imagine you want to search probate records in Auglaize County, Ohio.

You would click the little map in the vicinity of the United States and choose “Ohio” from the pop-up box.

How to Browse Database

At the Ohio research page, you could do a general search of the Ohio collections. Again, this is only searching records that have been indexed.

Instead of using this method, scroll down until you see “Ohio Image Only Historical Records.” Look at all these databases you might have missed!

For our example, continue to scroll down until you see the database titled “Ohio Probate Records, 1789-1996” near the bottom. Click on it.

Browse_Only_Database_4

You will notice right away that there is no way to “search” this database.

Many people give up at this point, after all, who has time to search nearly 7,000,000 records. Click on it anyway!

Browse_Only_Database_5

The next screen has been broken down by county name. Choose the desired county name. In this case, I’m selecting “Auglaize.”

You are then directed to a page listing the volumes of records for Auglaize county that have been digitized.

In this example, we are seeing bonds, settlements, wills, estates, and so much more:

Browse_Only_Database_6

It is as if you are standing in the courthouse probate office surrounded by volumes and volumes of the records you need.

Select the volume you want to search by clicking the title.

“Open” the pages of the book and search like you would as if you were flipping the pages of a book or scrolling through a roll of microfilm.

Browse_Only_Database_7

Click the arrow at the top of the screen to scroll through the pages.

Friends, we want you to get excited about all the new records that are coming online, even if they are browse only databases. If you like this tutorial, share this tip with your genie friends so they can do it too. 

More Genealogy Gems on Records and Databases at FamilySearch

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If you’re looking for more genealogy records to mine, here are some of our articles. These will help you not only find new records, but also use other valuable genealogy indexes:

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