The best of the big, free genealogy websites.
BYU Family History Archives
This Brigham Young University (BYU) site has really taken off, with more than 60,000 items at last count. You can search or browse family histories, county and local histories, how-to books on genealogy, genealogy periodicals, medieval books and gazetteers. It’s all courtesy of the collections of the Family History Library, Allen County Public Library, Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research, the Midwest Genealogy Center, BYU libraries and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Church History Library.
If you’re looking for links to the ever-growing universe of genealogy websites, Cyndi has been the source to turn to since 1996. She’s got more than 275,000 to date, helpfully broken down into more than 180 categories.
All your longtime favorites are still here—the Family History Library catalog, censuses, the International Genealogical Index, pedigree files, Vital Records Index and research guides. But the real action is at the ever-growing Record Search Pilot Site <pilot.familysearch.org
> and beta search site <fsbeta.familysearch.org
>, where millions of new records from across the globe are coming online monthly. US records include state censuses and vital records, along with federal enumerations for 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900 and 1920 (all but 1880 and 1920 now with images).
Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness
Not only is the site free, but so are the services of its more than 4,000 volunteers. With genealogical fairy godmothers (and -fathers) in every US state and many international locations, this is the place to get that elusive courthouse record looked up or tombstone photo taken.
The hundreds of gigabytes of data on this pioneering site are byproducts of millions of online genealogists sharing research and records. In addition to the 575 million individuals in the WorldConnect family tree database, RootsWeb hosts record transcriptions large and small, 1.2 million surname entries and 161,000 message boards. It’s also the best place to sign up for any of nearly 30,000 genealogy e-mail lists.
Among the granddaddies of all-volunteer sites, this 50-state umbrella site remains essential for its state and county pages full of historical information, research how-tos, and records indexes and transcriptions. But don’t overlook such endeavors as the Archives Project, African American Griots Project, Genealogical Events Project, Web Kidz Project, Lineage Project and Tombstone Transcription Project.
Still in beta, this wiki for genealogy (sponsored by the Foundation for On-Line Genealogy in partnership with the Allen County Public Library) is home to pages for more than 2 million people and families. Its powerful search can drill down in whatever “namespace” you select, such as nearly 104,000 surnames or more than 989,000 places. As a wiki, it lets you add to and edit its pages.
Dating to 1996, this volunteer effort spans the globe—much as USGenWeb goes coast to coast across America—with more than 400 national, regional and other specialty sites offering research tips, links and more.
For more help sorting through the vast world of online genealogy resources, try Family Tree Magazine
’s Trace Your Roots Online CD
. This product offers reviews of the best websites, as well as helpful tools and tips for tracing your roots on the web. Available at ShopFamilyTree.com
From the September 2010 Family Tree Magazine