Family History Episode 8 – Best Genealogy Websites, Part 2

Family History: Genealogy Made Easy Podcast
Originally published Fall 2008

Republished November 26, 2013

by Lisa Louise Cooke

Download the Show Notes for this Episode

Family History: Genealogy Made Easy
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 8: Best Genealogy Websites, Part 2
In a follow up to last week’s episode about subscription genealogy records website, in my first segment our guest is Yvette Arts, Director of Content Partnerships at World Vital Records. She tells us about exciting developments at the website that have helped make it a success.

In our second segment we look at five organizations that provide free online access to genealogy records for those with North American roots: FamilySearch, the National Archives of the United States, Ellis Island Foundation, the National Archives of the United Kingdom, and Library and Archives Canada.

Now for some updates on these sites and MORE since the show first aired:

  • is still free and growing exponentially. It captures records from all over the world, not just North America and the U.K. It is now home to over 3.5 billion names in searchable databases, with over 35 million new records added every month. In addition, they’ve added over 60,000 digital books to the site. The layout of the website has changed dramatically since I described it in the original show. Click on Search to get to their databases, then enter an ancestor’s name and, if you can, a life event (birth, marriage, residence or death). A significant portion of new online records are browsable but not yet indexed. So now, after you search for individuals in their databases, scroll down to the Browse section below the search fields. There you’ll be able to see what records you can browse for a locale (choose the international region, then you can choose more specific locations). You can still order microfilmed records at the Family History Library to a satellite FamilySearch library near you. From the Search screen, choose Catalog, and you can search for and order available records by location.
  • The National Archives (U.S.), also known as the National Archives and Record Administration (NARA) also offers more on its website now. The portal for genealogists looks a little different now but still helps you see how to search and use the site for genealogy. There’s a direct link to the 1940 census, with images, maps and descriptions. Remember that Footnote, the subscription site I mentioned that’s digitizing military records, is now Fold3, which we talked about in Episode 7.
  • still offers free access to the passenger records of those who landed at Ellis Island. In addition, you can still look at ship information (click on Ships from the home page). The Immigrant Experience and timeline I mention can be found by clicking on the Ellis Island tab.
  • The National Archives (U.K.) links from the home page to resources for ordering birth, marriage and death certificates for England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Read about updating order information, including costs, at these sites. There is still a portal for genealogists from which you can learn all about the various record groups I mention in the podcast and more.
  • Library and Archives Canada continues to add more valuable genealogical data to its site, including census data! Start from its Genealogy and Family History page. In addition to the features I mention in the show, they’ve improved their online indexes: scroll down on the above page and you’ll find the Ancestors Search (Databases) link to a main search engine and individual databases for vital records, censuses, immigration, land, military and several directories.
  • Cyndi’s List and U.S. GenWeb are still fantastic online resources, but add to your list these ones as well:
    • DeadFred, a photo identifying and sharing site;
    • Google, for searching across the Internet for everything from individual ancestor’s names to maps and local histories (especially through Google Books at;
    • The Library of Congress family of websites, including the mega-newspaper site, Chronicling America;
    • WorldCat, an enormous card catalog for more than 10,000 libraries worldwide.
    • Find a Grave and Billion Graves, home to cemetery inscriptions for millions of tombstones.
    • Of course, there are many, many more websites for genealogists, but these will certainly keep you busy to start!



Self Publish Your Book!

Show Notes: Have you ever dreamed of publishing a book about your family history? Although it’s never been easier to do, there are some things to keep in mind and pitfalls to avoid.  

In this video, Lisa Louise Cooke interviews Dale Spaulding, author of the book Fortitude, Preserving 400 years of an American Family’s Faith, Patriotism, Grit, and Determination(This affiliate link helps support this free content.)  Dale shares the most important items to keep in mind when self publishing, as well as the greatest lessons he learned along the way. 

Watch the Video

Show Notes

Downloadable ad-free Show Notes handout for Premium Members

Getting Published

  • Embrace Self-Published Author
  • Edit like a Professional
  • Choose Self-Publishing Company
  • Editor / Formatter / Graphics Arts Designer
  • Legal: ISBN / LCN / Copyright
  • Book Landing Page
  • Print-on-Demand
  • Visibility at Indie Book Retailers

Lessons Learned

  • #1: Multiple Reviews of Manuscript
  • Document Source Notes as You Research
  • “Writers Block” (creative slowdown) is Real
  • Respect and Invest in the “Process”
  • You’re the “Customer” – Don’t Settle
  • Pre-Release Book Reviews
  • Become a Student of Marketing
  • Connect with Local Authors
  • Priority: Capture Stories of Aging Relatives


Downloadable ad-free Show Notes handout for Premium Members

Learn More about Writing Your Book

In the Genealogy Gems video Researching to write a family history narrative Dale shares how he went about getting started researching his family tree to prepare to write his narrative. He also shares what motivates him to keep on researching. 

Contact Dale Spaulding

Dale’s Website: 

How to watch the monthly live Premium show and get the show notes

The first Thursday of every month at 11:00 am CT we broadcast a live Elevenses with Lisa episode just for Premium Members here on our Genealogy Gems website. In this short video Lisa explains:

  • how to find the live show
  • what you can expect before the show begins
  • what you will experience during the live show and chat
  • watching the video replay
  • downloading the show notes
  • Participating in the Comments conversation

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