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
Here’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.”
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 – 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 – 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.”
New 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.”
If you have New England roots, you need to know about New England’s Hidden Histories, an ongoing project of the Congregational Library in Boston, Massachusetts. This project is collecting, digitizing, indexing and posting online New England church records, a vital source for finding your family’s vital records in New England.
“Congregational church records are an unparalleled source of information about the religious activities of the early colonists, and about many other aspects of early American life as well,” says the Congregational Library website. ” They provide a richly detailed view of town governments and social customs, data on births and marriages and deaths, and demonstrate the ways that ordinary people participated in community-wide decision-making — information that is simply not available in any other records from that time.”
Until recently, many Congregational church records were “mostly scattered across New England, in church closets, bank vaults, or the offices of town clerks,” explains the site. “Many have been left exposed to the elements and are in danger of deterioration, or are all but impossible for the average researcher to locate.”
The Congregational Library is spearheading the effort to collect, digitize, index and make available to researchers as many of these records as possible. To date, says Digital Archivist Sari Mauro, “We currently have 17 collections online, and several more at various places in our workflow. Of these collections, two are fully transcribed. We eventually hope to be able to display all of our collections with full-text transcriptions.”
They are looking for more volunteers to transcribe these records. Would you like to help?Click hereto learn more.
By the way, this collection goes beyond just baptism, marriage and death records, in an attempt to fully document church life of the times. “Our current collections vary in size from 20 pages to 2,000+ pages and address a number of topics including church founding, church membership, births and deaths, church discipline, pastoral salary, church and community controversy, and issues of doctrine and practice.”
Map of New York City, 1857. Click for full citation information.
Thousands of historical maps of New York City, the mid-Atlantic states and even the Austro-Hungarian empire (yes, really!) are now online–and they’re free.
The New York Public Library has published more than 20,000 historical maps dating from 1660-1922. They are free for public use, downloading, manipulating and publishing! A lot of the maps are from New York City neighborhoods, like the one shown here.
The author of a news item about the collection said this: “We can’t imagine too many people wanting to remix Gangs of New York-era property charts, but it’s hard to object to getting more geographic knowledge at no charge.” Well, we genealogists may not “remix” these old property maps, but we can certainly see the value in them!
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 2008-09. So many people have asked about it, I’m bringing it back in weekly segments.
We’re going to start off today by continuing our use of U.S. Federal Census Records. Last episode we located relatives in the 1930 census, and today we’re going to push further back in time to follow the census bread crumb trail.
Then in our second segment we’re going to explore some census enumerations that often go overlooked by family historians with Curt Witcher, the Manager of the nationally-recognized Genealogy Center at the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Curt is a very well-known genealogy lecturer and he has some great tips for tapping in to more obscure census resources. We’ll talk about nonpopulation schedules for the federal census, census substitutes for missing census data (like the 1890 census) and state censuses that may be available, too.
Updates and Links
As I mentioned in the show notes of the last episode, the 1940 census is now available to researchers. Check out those notes for more information. Here are some more updates and links:
The U.S. Census Bureau has online info on state censuses. Learn even more in Ann S. Lainhart’s book State Census Records (Genealogical Publishing Company, 1992). A lot of state censuses are now searchable on Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org.
The Ancestry database substitute for the 1890 census I mentioned in the show is now supplemented by census substitute databases on Ancestry for just about every state for 1890 and other years. Search for them in the Card Catalog with the search term “1890 census.”