Introduction to Red Book: Internet Resources
This entry was originally written by Alice Eichholz, Ph.D., CG for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.
Resources for tracing family history on the Internet are abundant, and some are integrated into this section of each state chapter. A full discussion of all online sources is the subject of other publications (see below), but some general websites have tremendous use to researchers. They may either have free access or require a subscription membership. Each requires some explanation.
Cyndi’s List is a comprehensive listing of, and links to, genealogical websites. It is organized alphabetically by such wide-ranging topics as ethnic groups, publishers, educational opportunities, and research subject topics as well as individual states and countries. Each alphabetical entry is then subdivided into other topics, all with links to the website related to that information. A published guide is also available, Cyndi Howells, Cyndi’s List: A Comprehensive List of 40,000 Genealogy Sites on the Internet, 2d ed. (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2001).
Family Search is the family history website for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The site has three major categories of information: Search, which offers several online searchable databases with millions of names; Share, which is a way to add information to the Pedigree Resource File; and Library, which gives information on the Family History Library, its branch centers, and a complete catalog of its extensive research materials (see also Family History Library for more complete descriptions).
USGenWeb Project consists of a group of volunteers who take responsibility for managing either individual state sites or the gateways to county sites, all providing Internet access to resources in each area. State sites include information on general topics (such as histories, maps, queries, reunions), although some have ongoing projects to index and make available actual records. County sites are generally more specific (vital records, land records, probates, church records, and cemetery records, as examples). Because of the volunteer nature of the projects, information for each location varies.
RootsWeb describes itself as the “oldest and largest free genealogy site.” Currently supported by Ancestry.com (see below), RootsWeb was originally organized to support research and share queries on message boards related to surnames. Today its reach extends far beyond their surname “bulletin boards” to provide links, information, and a wide array of research tools (such as free search engines, databases, and mailing lists). RootsWeb also provides shared data, such as WorldConnect Family Trees, message boards, and hosted volunteer projects to digitize a wide variety of records from all locations in cooperation with USGenWeb (described above). Subscription to a free genealogical newsletter, RootsWeb Review, is available from the website.
Ancestry.com is the largest collection of family history material on the Internet. In addition to all extant U.S. Census Records, 1790 to 1930 for all states with growing indexes linked to actual census images, subscribers can have access to the U.S. Immigration Collection (millions of ships passenger arrivals from the 1500s to the 1900s, including New York Passenger arrivals [1851-1991], and numerous other databases); birth, death and marriage records from many (but not all) U.S. locations; Historical Newspaper Collection (1786–2001); military, court, land, and probate records; biographical references books, directories of various kinds; Social Security Death Index; and links to RootsWeb message boards, or Ancestry World Trees (submitted by subscribers). Many of these are referred to in individual sections of this book. New database entries are added daily. All are searchable by name with some ability to develop advanced searches. Ancestry.com is located at, 360 W. 4800 N., Provo, UT 84604, and also owns Genealogy.com, RootsWeb.com, MyFamily.com, and Ancestry.co.uk.
Through its acquisition of Genealogy.com, Ancestry.com has added to its collection the extensive resources of World Family Tree and local and family history books and also the Family Tree Maker™ software program. Fourteen-day free trials are usually available to try out the power of the subscription. Ancestry.com also publishes a number of important, comprehensive research guides and references, as well as the extensive collection of CD-ROMs originally produced by Genealogy.com and Family Tree Maker™. An Ancestry Library Edition version of the subscription is available to libraries with Internet access to make the rich source of databases available to patrons in that library.
HeritageQuest™ provides online access in subscribing libraries to U.S. census records, with slightly different search capabilities from those offered by Ancestry.com. Included are complete indexes to the 1790, 1800, 1810, 1820, 1860, 1870, 1900, and 1910 censuses, although subscription is through participating libraries and not individual membership. The online database also contains a large number of local and family histories, searchable by both basic and advanced query, by people, places or publications. In addition, it publishes a large number of microfilm and microfiche collections, as well as producing CD-ROMs. HeritageQuest is owned by ProQuest Information and Learning, 300 North Zeeb Rd., P.O. Box 1346, Ann Arbor, MI 48106-1346, which also hosts the ProQuest Historical Newspapers™ Project, described under Newspapers, above. Some libraries hosted by societies, such as New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, offer access to HeritageQuest’s online services off-site to library members, as well as in the library.
Books on the topic of online genealogical research abound and, by their very nature, require frequent updating. Some useful, recent editions are:
Clifford, Karen. The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Genealogy, the Internet, and Your Genealogy Computer Program. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2001.
Hendrickson, Nancy. Finding Your Roots Online. Cincinnati, Ohio: Betterway Publishing 2003.
Porter, Pamela Boyer et al. Online Roots: How to Discover Your Family’s History and Heritage with the Power of the Internet. Nashville: Rutledge Hill Press, 2003.
In the always-changing world of the Internet, a search engine may provide the most up-to-date access to any website, record source, or book. The easiest one to use for genealogical research is Google. Throughout this reference book, a number of URLs are listed for access to specific records, information or organizations. While we are certain that these Internet addresses were accurate at the time of publication, webmasters are often changing the navigation and location of web information, particularly as new material is added or reorganized. For that reason, the twenty-first century family history researcher is advised to get used to using a search engine, such as Google. Once at the Google site, enter in the search window any phrase from a title, type of record, or name, and click Search. Google will search the web to provide you with the most updated links.