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.
Nearly 2.5 million French genealogy records are among the free collections now available online at FamilySearch.org. Also: German church records, Dutch civil registrations and 3 free digital archives for researching U.S. ancestors in CT, GA and NJ. Free French...
Rylee says she’s grateful to have found the podcast and she shares a story of genealogical discovery that she hopes will inspire others. Rylee asks “How do I find sources for these people? I have searched all over ancestry and Family Search and have had no luck again. I really want to believe that the people I have as Adam’s parents and siblings all the way through his 2nd great-grandparents (paternal) are truly his family but I need to get more information. Where can I go for help with German records and where can I continue my search?”
Lisa’s comments: You’re absolutely right, what you found are just hints. It sounds like it’s time for you to move on from the “Genealogy Giants” (Ancestry, FamilySearch, etc.) and into German records websites, libraries, and archives to find real sources that nail down the family tree.
In a way, today marks the 175th birthday of the World Wide Web. Only it was electro-mechanical, not digital. On this date in 1844, Samuel F.B. Morse activated the first telegraph line, sending a dots-and-dashes code message from the U.S. Capitol building to a receiver in Baltimore.
By the late 1850s, the first telegraph cable had been laid across the Atlantic Ocean, and in 1861, the telegraph spanned the continental United States. Over the ensuing decades, the wires wrapped around the world.
From the 1844 demonstration, telecommunications today has grown into a half-trillion dollar a year industry, and employs more than 1 million workers in over 59,000 industry establishments.
You can find more facts about America from the U.S. Census Bureau online at www.census.gov.
Joseph Nathan Kane, Kane’s Famous First Facts, Fifth Edition, H.W. Wilson Co., New York, NY, 1997, #7692.
You will find the complete show notes for the topic discussed in this episode at the Elevenses with Lisa show notes page here.
Google Books is a free online catalog of over 25 million books, 10 million of which are digitized and searchable. While you would expect to find books at Google Books, you may be surprised to discover there it also includes many other types of published materials. In this episode I’ll explain how to find 10 of my favorite surprising items at Google Books.
Click below to listen:
Learn More About Google Books for Genealogy
My book includes everything you need to know about improving your Google searches in Google Books:
It was a daunting thought! I had over 1650 miles to drive last weekend to make the move from California to Texas. And I’m notorious for getting sleepy on car rides.
My husband was driving the moving van, so I needed to drive the suburban on my own. How was I going to keep myself alert and occupied?
And then it hit me (the podcaster): Listen to podcasts! <SMACK> I coulda had a V8!
I loaded my iPad and smart phone with dozens of various podcast episodes. I ended up learning a ton, and having a grand time, with no zzzzzs!
I often hear from folks “I just can’t seem to find time to listen, or do half the other things I need to do.” But you don’t have to drive 1650 miles to make time to listen to podcasts.
(By the way, I’ve heard from many of you asking if my cat Ginger survived the trip since in our last Genealogy Gems e-newsletter you saw how she had packed herself. Not only did she survive it, she became queen of the car. Here she is perched on the front passenger seat taking in the New Mexico landscape!)
Think You Don’t Have Time to Listen to the Genealogy Podcasts? Here are 5 Occasions When You Can, and Should, Listen:
1. When you are exercising
Many of my listeners are shedding pounds and getting fit while listening to the show. One listener told me she lost over 100 pounds listening to genealogy podcasts thanks to a waterproof mp3 player and her local swimming pool! And like many listeners, Roger in Utah takes the show on his daily walks, enjoying two of his favorite activities simultaneously: walking and genealogy.
2. When you are driving
Here’s an example of how one Genealogy Gems listener, gets into gear: “I recently stumbled upon your podcasts and I must say wow! They were awesome. I listened to episode 1-56 in 10 days. I drive a truck for a living so I have plenty of time to listen.
I was on a genealogy message board and someone mentioned genealogy podcast. I knew my wife had a ipod shuffle lying around so I said hey, let me see if I can find some genealogy podcasts on iTunes. I typed in ‘genealogy’ and up popped a few different choices. I downloaded most of them but yours just caught my attention. Your enthusiasm for genealogy clearly shows through in your podcasts. Your “bubbley” attitude, if I may, is pleasant to listen to and your podcasts are full of history.
I found myself enthralled with the story of the Lennon sisters and their tragic loss of their father and the lady talking about the quilts. Please don’t tell anyone I said that as my truck driving colleagues would razz me to no end if they heard me say that. I can’t count how many times I had to pull my truck over to write down a web site you mentions or a tip you gave. Then I get home and check out the show notes for photos and other goodies. So, just a note to say thanks for helping my day go by and for the great gems that I can’t wait to use when I get home.”
3. When you are cleaning and organizing your home office / genealogy space If you sit down just once a week and sort and clean while you listen to one episode (usually about 45 mintes) you not only be well-informed but your genealogy space will be ready for greater success! (Come on, you know you need to!)
4. When you are scanning old family photos We all have piles of old photos and documents that need scanning. Do double duty by scanning while you listen. Check out Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 57 for more on photo scanning and preservation with Sally Jacobs, the Practical Archivist.
When you are doing housework, yard work, or working at the office
Genealogy Gems listener Bryan writes: “Whenever I am doing housework, yard work or driving in the car I am listening to you. I have been listening to you for weeks and I am still 3 years behind…I am enjoying these podcast as they are entertaining and informative. I am eagerly trying to listen at every opportunity so that I can get current.”
And Line in Denmark writes: “I recently stumbled over one of your Podcasts, and after listening to just a few episodes I was hooked.I listen to them every day at work. Some times even twice. Extra benefit: I´m shaping up my English!
And where there’s a will, there’s a way! Here are 5 Ways to Listen:
On your computer (through this website)
On your iPad or Tablet (via the Genealogy Gems App)
On your smartphone (via the Genealogy Gems App)
MP3 Player (Load it up with downloaded episodes from the website, or through iTunes)
Burned CD (Use iTunes to burn the downloaded MP3 files to CD and play it on your stereo)