06 September 2007

Family History Recommendations

The past couple of months I've been discovering a lot of great family history resources on the internet. I want to post them so others can see what's out there. It feels like the internet and family history/genealogy are really just beginning and there is so much out there that still isn't on the internet. For example, my aunt and I still have to go look at microfilms and do original research for most of my Italian ancestors. But the great thing is that once I do that research, I can supplement it a lot by going on the internet.

Here are my favorite websites right now:

www.familysearch.org - This is one I have been using for years now. There are several parts of it to note:
  1. Search - You can put in a name and it will do a search of all the millions of records. They have tons of vital records indexed on here and is a great place to start. I would get all the information from here before I looked anywhere else, if I were you. I have had really good luck with my ancestors from Gaeta, Italy.
  2. PAF - This is a basic, simple and free family history program great for anyone just starting out. It's what I still use.
  3. Family History Centers - You can do a search by location (Family History Centers) and find one of hundreds of centers all over the world with people ready to help you do your family history research for free, no matter your religion, etc.
  4. Microfilms - What you do is go to the catalog and put in the location you are researching (here are the ones we have spent all our time with in Gaeta, Italy) and it will bring up a list of microfilms they have. Each microfilm has thousands of records on it that volunteers photocopied out of books years ago. Then you figure out what film(s) you want and then look up the location of the nearest Family History Center to you (see above). Then you go there and take the film number with you. They will order the film for you, you pay like $3.50 for a three weeks rental or something like that. Then you can go back when it's in and look at all the records on the microfilm reader.
  5. Indexing - You can help index all the tons of records out there. It's a huge project with thousands of volunteers all over the world. Check it out here: Indexing

www.worldvitalrecords.com - This is a great new website. They are constantly adding new things. There is a lot of stuff you can access for free and you can also access all the new databases for 10 days for free. They have a great search engine. I love it because you can search just by last name or things like that.

www.findagrave.com - I just found out about this through World Vital Records. This is actually a free site where people post information about their ancestors buried in cemeteries all across America. There are a ton of names on it. It's also linked to World Vital Records.

www.footnote.com - This is another free website. The main thing I use it for is naturalization records for my ancestors that immigrated to Italy.

My website - Family Tree Guide has this awesome free service where you upload your current gedcom file and then it creates a website for you that you can customize and do all sorts of things to. I'm getting a lot of great hits from people like on Google and other search engines. I'm hoping to eventually find someone I'm related to or at least help a bunch of people with relatives in Gaeta, Italy. It's also free to sign up and then costs like $40 a year if you don't want to see ads, but I don't mind a few ads.

www.familylink.com - This is a free new site that was really upgraded last week and is related to World Vital Records. It seems a bit like Facebook for family history. You upload your Gedcom file and then try to link to other people that are working in the same location or the same last name as you are. It has a lot of potential, I believe.

PAF Insight - I can't believe how much time this software has saved me. I started using it a few years ago after major frustrations with PAF. This has a few great features. IGI Search - It will search the IGI files at familysearch.org but does a much better and faster job then you can manually do. I've found a ton of information this way. Merge - The merge feature is so much better than PAF. It tells you what percentage of the two people are matched so you can sort by percentage. It shows you where the differences and similarities are. Also, another great feature is that you can mark it as "Not a Match" and it won't tell you about it again. Sync - I use this a lot since I have two main files - related and non-related people. It compares them and tells me where I have matches so then I can easily move the non-related people to my related file. I would highly recommend it. It costs like $20 for a lifetime with free software downloads.

Massachusetts Archives - This one is not applicable to everyone but it's great for Massachusetts Births and Deaths between 1841-1910. All you do is put in the name and then it lists all the birth and death records they have and then you write to them and get copies of them. It's so nice because you know exactly what to ask for and you can see people you wouldn't even know that they existed to know to ask for. I wrote a letter requesting copies and haven't gotten it yet but I'm very excited because I easily found at least 20 people I want to eventually get copies of birth records for and this could help a lot with my family history. There are also a few other databases on the website too. http://www.sec.state.ma.us/arc/arcsrch/SearchWelcome.html

Well, these are kind of in a random order but I wanted to put some of my family history thoughts out there somewhere. It's fun to help other people and see how many blanks I can fill in my family history puzzle.