When following your family history and acting as an amateur genealogist, you will need the help of the interwebs. I have been lucky to have access to a few sites that have really helped in my journey to find out all the answers behind my family tree. So, I wanted to share with you the top ten sites that I have used in order to get all the information that I have gathered. Listed below will be all the websites that I have used and as much information that I could gather on them. I have listed them in the order of the most helpful for me. Now, this is a list based on how much I have used the website and how helpful the information has been on my search. Anyone who uses any of these sites may have different results, but I wanted to share what has worked on my search for my ancestors.
Ancestry has been the most valuable tool that my sister and I have used to gather information and collect it in one spot. Ancestry is the original website that we signed up for in order to start researching. The website is very user-friendly and is easy to navigate. Ancestry offers a 14 day free trial for you to explore and see all the website has to offer. They also offer the Ancestry DNA program for $99.00. With this program you can uncover your ethnic mix and maybe discover relatives and get new details on your family history with an easy use DNA test. It is a secure and private process backed by the website. If you choose you start a new account and not do the 14 day free trial there are many options available for payment. You can choose from U.S. Discovery and assess all U.S. records only for around $20.00 a month. If you chose the World Explorer option (which is what we have) it runs around $35.00 per month and you are able to access not only U.S. Records, but international ones as well. Then, for the hardcore researchers, there is the All Access membership. This runs around $45.00 per month and also gets you into Newspapers.com, fold3.com, access to ancestry and ancestryacademy. You can also choose to pay in 6 month intervals which can save you a little bit of dough. This website has been a godsend for our research. Our entire family tree of 358 (and growing) is stored here and it is perfect for easy access. I even have an app on my phone! It allows us to follow a life story, save documents in a gallery and even add in our own personal information such as facts and stories. A lot of sources are attached to the site. And new hints arrive daily in my inbox to lead me down the rabbit hole of documents and census records. I could spend a long time on this site and never get bored adding new branches to my tree.
This is another very valuable website. I tend to use this site a lot. Searching keywords is a cinch and you can spend hours reading through old newspaper articles. This site is where my sister and I discovered the lengthy article written by our second great-grandfather, John Bryant. It really is a different feel to read through an article and get a sense of the way of life was in the past. The language they used, what made headlines and the subject of the articles is fascinating at times. Newspapers.com holds four plus thousand of archived clippings from all over the nation from as early as the 1700s. Obituaries, marriage announcements, birth announcements and advertisements are just among a few of the things that you can use to discover the path of your ancestors. You can access this site with a 7 day free trial. You will have to enter your credit card information to access the free trial. After the seven days are up, your monthly fee comes to about $13.00 a month. Not too bad considering the plethora of articles awaiting your viewing on the other side!
Find a Grave Index
This site usually pops up under my ancestry account for “records” and is free to use and it comes with good information. To my knowledge, I believe there are people who volunteer to obtain the information available on this site or it is entered by relatives and fellow genealogy enthusiasts. Usually, there will be a picture of the headstone and cemetery locations. Sometimes, you even get a lot of information to the immediate family associated with the person you are searching. This can be good and bad. Just make sure that you check your sources before adding them to your tree. Regardless, it can be a good starting point. I like to take down the names and match things up with records I can find on Ancestry.com. It helps me solidify that the person I am adding to my tree as a sibling or child of a person is correct. If you have to, follow my sister’s rule. She always likes to find two or three sources that verify family members before we add them to our tree as a permanent “branch” or “twig” if you will. One thing I can say for sure is it is very helpful when you are in a cemetery actually trying to visit a relative of your past. It will give you the location of the plot if the grave has already been previously found.
This website is AWESOME for military records. Now, if you purchase the most expensive membership on ancestry.com, this should come with the subscription. But, if not you can access fold3.com with a 7 day free trial. Again, you will have to enter your credit card information and after your free trial you will be billed around $80.00. That’s about $7.00 per month if you decide to keep the site as a way to gather information for military records. This site has records such as pension files, war service records, war rolls and more. Famous battles like the American Revolution, the War of 1812, Civil War and up to World War I and II and Vietnam are just a few of the records they have on file. My sister and I were able to access pension records, which are great for finding family members and address of where the veterans lived when they received their pension. This isn’t just a great site for genealogy but also a great site for history buffs! This is the kind of website that will make you think about getting that history degree. Also, if you are interested in applying to something like the Daughters of the American Revolution or the Daughters of the Confederacy to name a few, this is a great site to obtain the records you need to prove your ancestry. What a great way to find the patriot in your tree.
Familysearch.org is a nonprofit organization available to connect families across many generations. And the best news about this site is it is FREE. That’s right, free to use and store all of your information. Simply create an account and you can get started. By joining you have access to create and save a family tree, search free records online, upload and share photos and collaborate with fellow members. They even offer free, personal help with your history with Family History Centers. The site is easy to navigate with a site map that shows core products and they offer indexing as well. Familysearch.org accepts donations too. You can help preserve family records for others to see and search! There are many great things to research and it is a great resource, especially if you are on a budget while exploring your own history. I can’t wait to use this site to make a family booklet to share with my loved ones.
Now, remember me saying that my family has roots in Scotland. Well, before we opted for the international account on ancestry.com, this website came in handy. You see, we were stuck on a direct relative on the Ferguson side of our family tree. We just couldn’t seem to make it past Murdock, our third time great-grandfather. We even went to the National Archives in hopes of accessing some sort of information on him. We wanted to know how far back we could trace our lineage in Scotland. So, I came across this site and decided every pound would be worth it. On Scotlands People, you purchase “tokens”. I purchased 30 of these tokens and it came out to around $10.00 in USD. You search for a record, to access the record it costs one token, to open the actual document…it cost 3. So, you can see how quickly this can become an addictive problem. Alas, it was money well spent because not only did I find Murdock’s parents…I found his parent’s parents too! I had to quit before I put my account in the negative with the rush of finding a new ancestor. But, I was able to print the documents I purchased and also was able to attach them to the family tree we currently have saved. I would definitely use this site again in the future and recommend it to people looking for Scottish relatives. It was user-friendly and they had records that went back farther than my mind could imagine. It is good if you just need to search for a few records and aren’t currently paying for a membership with international access.
Archives.com is another great site to store your family tree and search over 4.3 billion genealogy records. You can access the site with a 14 day free trial. Here, you will have to give up that credit info again and the membership is only $9.99 a month. So, it is definitely an alternative to something like ancestry if you budget is limited. They have been around since 2009 and are part of the ancestry.com family and work with the National Archives and Family Search to help bring exclusive content to you under one roof. They are always adding to their collection of records, photos, newspapers and other family trees. This site is simple and affordable and has 322 collections for you to explore.
This website offers a great source for history fanatics to find research originally posted in GenForum and genealogy articles. Here, you will be able to access the forums for free to communicate with like-minded people also searching for information. This could be a great way to find relatives and work together to build a family tree. Someone out there may have information you don’t know yet including records you normally would have to pay for from Vital records in your state to family photos not available on ancestry websites. So stop, collaborate and listen with others in the same giant genealogy pool as yourself!
Here is another great source for like-minded folks. Wikitree is a community of genealogists who work together to grow an accurate tree using DNA and traditional sources. All of the modern details on the site are private of course. But, everything on this site is free. You can search via Surnames and find tons of information that has already been gathered!
Last, but not least for sure is Google. There have been so many times that I have been stuck using a resource that I pay for, that I forget about some more of the free resources available to me that I use every day. I personally have found great information using Google. For example, I found a military record for my ancestor Alva Hart, who was in the Union Army during the Civil War. I had a picture of an original muster sheet from the Civil War that shows when he went missing in action. My mind was kind of blown by finding that document. I have also found a list of people who perished in the Yellow Fever Epidemic in Portsmouth during the early 1800s. On that list was a relative of mine and his family. I had no idea there was a yellow fever epidemic in Portsmouth, let alone my family members had suffered in that time. It was great to use a tool that has become such a part of everyday life for so many to find those details of my family tree. So, don’t sell something so ordinary short when it comes to finding out your past. You might be amazed at what you can find with a little digging.
I hope that this helps some who are just starting out in their own research. There are so many wonderful online tools and resources available to help even the most amateur person find out more about their past life. These are just the tip of the genealogy iceberg. Feel free to share more in the comments below! I am always interested in finding new ways to expand my search.
Thanks for reading!