Genealogical Resources

When the PDF opens in the viewer, there is a plus/minus button at the top so that you can make the image shown to appear larger or smaller - helpful for the Maps, as some files are too large to show on the screen at 100%. 

Basic Genealogical Resources and "How To Begin":

1) Have a system or program to CHART your family tree and enter as much information as you know using full names, dates, places:

  • FREE - The National Geographic Society offers FREE charts you can download, modify, save and revisit to edit. However, these three chart versions  aren't linked to an online source, and they are not the standard file format used for family trees (gedcom file), so you’ll have to manually do every insertion and update. You can’t transfer another person’s information to it except manually. However, it's a great way to email a form to a family member, and have them supply information to you (which you then have to input into your chart). 

  • $$  Programs like Family Tree Maker (~$80) allow you to chart what you know on your computer and then, if you subscribe to Ancestry.com or similar programs, you can synch with a public tree or download (by the “merge” operation on Ancestry) to add a lot of information from other people's existing trees. You can export your gedcom file to another user, and import files received from other family members, etc. in the same format. This sounds very complicated, but the program is pretty user friendly.  It has a lot of bells and whistles, like mapping and creating pedigree charts, etc.

  • You can start a family tree for free online at a site like WikiTree or Family Search (info/links) below. These will be public trees, viewable by anyone, so be careful of putting in information about living relatives who may not appreciate that at all. The files created will be gedcom files.

2) Access online programs to help you flesh out the tree:

  • FREE - FindAGrave is FREE! It's created by folks like me who photograph cemeteries and put up memorials and any other tidbits of information (obits, photos etc.) we find about people who have died. You would be AMAZED how helpful it is with over 210 million memorials, most linked to other family members. 

  • FREE  - Family Search. Trees, searches from the Church of Latter Day Saints website. (Most of your genealogy records are due to the vast collection of documents kept in their vault in Utah).  They currently are indexing the 1950 census and you can help transcribe those records if you want to be part of the movement to get those records (just released for public consumption) online. The membership is absolutely free, and nothing is required of you to do, and it's definately worth it to check out the site and poke around to see what you can find through the ages about your relatives.

 

  • FREE - WikiTree Family Tree Search. It's only as good as the person who put in the entry, as nothing is checked for accuracy, but it's free and can actually be incredibly helpful. Has over 30 million profiles listed, some complete with bios, attached documents and photos, some just names with little else. You can upload your family tree (gedcom file). Sign up for free. Watch for boxes to search that have little "sponsored" notation -- it takes you to My Heritage or Ancestry.com to try to get you to sign in for a free trial. Those are ads, not WikiTree. Easy to slip into an ad, but worth the effort to use the actual WikiTree search option.

  • $$$ Ancestry.com is not cheap ($300 annually is what I pay) to get the tools it offers: immigration records, census records, draft registration records, etc., etc. HOWEVER,  family trees created there are put up by anyone with a computer and a guess. ALWAYS take their family trees with the idea that you'll try to check out every detail another way if possible. It does provide a roadmap if others have already researched your tree (and yes, most trees have been researched before you).  This is the gold standard in user-friendly genealogical services and a membership offers a lot of bonuses, like synching with Family Tree Maker to check out hints that Ancestry automatically generates (even if some of those are duds). It also interfaces with other free services like FindAGrave, and subscription programs like Newspapers.com, etc. and brings you those linkeages, too (though you have to subscribe if that's required by these other programs to access their data.)

  • $$ Newspapers.com is about $75 per 6 months  ($60/6 months if you belong to Ancestry.com). It's owned by Ancestry.com and has the largest online newspaper archive with easy search options. Lets you clip articles from newspapers and download those clippings as images (Jpeg) or PDFs.  Also allows you to embed the clipping in your ancestry.com profile for a person. I use this all the time, and the stories REALLY help flesh out a biography (didn't know my great-grandma was a teenage horse thief until I used this!). You might be able to do a free trial membership to check it out.

 

  • Census Records: The National Archives says you can search the nation's records online free and immediately, but it really just refers you to its "partner" Ancestry.com, the company that indexes those records for the nation, and then you have to start a "free" trial membership which converts to a full membership after a couple weeks.  OR you have to be on a NARI computer at one of their locations.  If you do this, pay attention if you want to cancel that membership before the end of the trial period. Ancestry.com, of course, does offer it immediately to its membership without additional cost.

 

  • FREE Military Records: Hats off to the National Park Service for offering a free, searchable online database to help identify sailors and soldiers. I just used it to locate prisoners of war during the Civil War: I put in a surname, and all the prisoners at Andersonville with that name popped up. Couldn't be easier. It isn't Fold 3 (above) with near as many details of battles, etc., but it's a great starting place. And if you haven't read Escape From Andersonville, the book by Gene Hackman, I highly recommend it. 

 

  • $$ Military Records: Fold3 ($80/year) is Ancestry.com's archive of military records.  You can get a "basic free" membership, but it will show you a poor quality image and then say you can actually see the document if you start a "premium" trial for a paid subscription. It's just a search engine to figure out what to sell you, with the inducement of a free 1-week trial.  If you want excellent military records of past wars, however, this is your site. Usually you get what you pay for.

3) Take a DNA Test

  • $$ (Ballpark of $100 per kit). You have a lot of online options, but the kits are only as good as the number of people who use them. I used Ancestry.com's test because it has so many other users. Found three sisters I didn't know I had! It sends you reports if it finds a match, with most being 2-4th cousins. It will tell you where your online trees match, if you have one posted on Ancestry.com, so you can find common ancestors. Gives information about your genetic background (didn't know I was 41% SCOTTISH!). Found out my husband was 33% Jewish -- he had no idea. Worth the investment for us.