My Top Ten Free Genealogy Websites – Part 1

Source Sites

Tuesday’s Tips
By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.I consider free genealogy websites in three different categories. First are sites that have data that are sources for facts. The second are sites that provide links to sites that have the data. In other words, referrers to sites. Third are training and general information websites, which include Blogs. All three are important but are used differently.

Several sites have free components, but they are primarily fee-based sites. Ancestry and MyHeritage come to mind; I am not including those websites in this group. Their “free” component seems like a system designed to get you to purchase their paid service. Today, I’m looking at the sites that contain actual documents, indexes, and other citable information and don’t nag you to upgrade to a paid component.

  1. FamilySearch – I use FamilySearch more than any other website. There is so much available there. Often other sites point back to FamilySearch to access images of items the other sites have indexed. You need a no-charge account to login and see the records, but it is well worth it. My first step in researching an ancestor uses Family Search. I find the ancestor on Family Search then I look at the sources associated with that ancestor. I then examine each of those sources and see if they fit my understanding of the ancestor. If I adjudge it is my ancestor, I cite the source then create the relevant facts for my ancestor’s life.
  2. Google – Google has so many resources on like it is crazy to not use them for much of your work. Google Books, Google News Archive, Google Scholar, and Google Search are fantastic. One of Google’s problems is that it can be like drinking water from a fire hose because the items you are interested in sometimes have hundreds or thousands of responses.  Way too much data. A great solution to that problem is the Randy Majors AncestorSearch on Google. You can enter your search criteria, and it will ignore people search sites and social media sites if you don’t want those results. (I seldom ever want living people in my results.)
  3. Find-a-Grave – I think all genealogists love cemeteries and funerary information. Find-a-Grave does the best job of providing free access to markers and other material regarding gravesites. I respond to photo requests for markers at the two closest cemeteries near me and consider it one of my favorite free websites. Besides marker photos, I’ve begun adding pictures of individuals to Find-a-Grave memorials when I’ve complete analysis in my Photo Friday Identification Project.
  4. Elephind – I find newspapers are the key to finding the texture of an ancestor’s life. Elephind searches many of my favorite free newspaper websites such as Chronicling America (Library of Congress). It also searches the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection, Hudson River Valley Heritage Historical Newspapers, Illinois Digital Newspaper Collections, Indiana Digital Historic Newspaper Collection. Digital Michigan Newspapers, The Portal to Texas History and the California Digital Newspaper Collection, the Library of Virginia, and Washington Digital Newspapers. Over 3 million newspapers and publications.
  5. Advantage Archives – Advantage Archives is somewhat new. It too is a newspaper archive, but you can focus by state then city. I find it really useful.
  6. – Known as the Internet Archive, Archive.Org includes millions of books, movies, websites, and more. On behalf of the Scarborough Historical Society, I’ve uploaded over 100 books to Archive.Org, mostly Scarborough Town Reports and Scarborough High School Yearbooks (see: I find a search for “History Location” works amazingly well to learn about books regarding the history of a place.
  7. Allen County Public Library – The Allen County Public Library is the second-largest genealogical library (after the Family History Center in Salt Lake City). They have an astounding number of items available through their Genealogy interface. If you find a book available only at the ACPL, look at WorldCat for the book. You can then use the information at WorldCat to order the book through your local public library’s interlibrary loan. I’ve ordered dozens of books via Inter-Library Loan and find the process easy to use.
  8. Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) – The DPLA has more than 40 million images, texts, and other items. They are partners with the National Archives and Records Administration, Hathi Trust, David Rumsey, and many state archives. I’ll mention that although DPLA has many state library collections among their records, Not all of the data at a state library is thee. For example, the Maine State Library website, “Digital Maine” is a partner, but there is a lot of material at the state site that hasn’t been replicated to DPLA. So, I always check both places.
  9. Old Fulton New York Post Cards – You might think that “Old Fulton New York Post Cards” is about Fulton New York, and you’d be partially right. There is also an amazing amount of other material there. For example, a search for “Libby & Scarborough” yield 22 items returned, some articles for issues of the “Portland, ME, Daily Press” from issues from 1868 to 1898. The website’s search process is a bit unusual; however, there is also another site, Fulton Search, which provides a more standard search experience.
  10. Don’s List – No, it is not my list. Don’s List, operated by Don Krieger, touts itself to be “Pittsburgh/Allegheny County and Much More.” It is another site where you would think wouldn’t fit your research; however, it really does have “much more.” For example, Don’s list contains directories from all but 14 states. For Maine, there are two Gazetteers (1881 & 1893), an Appleton Register from 1903, and Portland City directories for 1850 and 1912. There is even an alumni directory from the University of Main from 1914. Invariably, Don’s List has something that fits into my research.

My thanks to Ken McKinlay for the reminder to share my favorite free sites. I found it very interesting that his Top 10 Free Genealogy Sites only contains three of the same websites as my top 10 sites (Although, his list is somewhat Canadian focused).  Likewise, Randy Seaver and his “Top Ten Genealogical Websites” only has three of the same as mine; however, he has several sites which will be on my “Top 10 Links Websites” and some others that will be on my Top 10 Genealogical Education websites.

Next time, for Part 2, I’ll look at my favorite Genealogy Referrer (Links) Websites.




Lister – Surname Saturday

Name Origin

The surname “Lister” is an occupational name coming from the term “to dye” or a “dyer.”  It was used principally in East Anglia and northern and eastern England.

There is an alternate source of the name as meaning “son of the arrow maker” taken from the Gaelic, “Mac an Fhleisdeir” and being Anglicized. I haven’t determined an immigrant ancestor yet, so the source of our Lister surname is still not definitive.

Variations of “Lister” include Laster, Lidster, Litster, Leister, and Lester.


Lister is most common in England, where nearly 12,000 individuals have the Lister surname, while it is most frequent in Bermuda, where one in 1,280 people have the surname.

In the US, Lister is most common in Utah (one in 8,812) and has the greatest number of Listers live in Texas (over 1,500).

Direct Lister Ancestors

  • 1st Great-Grandmother: Marada Mae Lister(1867-1932) Born in Indiana.
  • 2nd Great-Grandfather: 22. Nimrod Lister(c. 1826-c. 1890) Born in Ohio.
  • 3rd Great-Grandfather: William Lister (1802-?) Born in Maryland.



In 1920, Marada Alice Lister had been married for 27 years and lived on her farm in Turman, Sullivan County, Indiana, with her husband Joel Clinton Barnes and three of her six children. Her father, Nimrod, died in 1888.


In 1880. Marada Alice Lister was 13 years old and was living in Gill Township, Sullivan County, Indiana. In the household are her parents, Nimrod and Melinda, plus three of her eight siblings. I haven’t had a chance to research her grandfather’s life yet. (He’s number five on my Roberts Research list.)

39 individuals lived in Indiana during the 1880 Census with the surname Lister; 9 of them lived in Gill Township. All nine were related to Marada and Nimrod.


Nimrod Lister was born in 1824 in Ohio and lived in Ohio until he located to Indiana in 1859, so I presume he was living in Ohio with his parents in 1840. The 1840 Census included 12 households headed by Listers and two Williams, both in Ross County. I anticipate that I’ll know more about Nimrod’s youth and his father when I research William Lister.

Lister Descendants

My 3rd great-grandfather, William Lister (1802-?) married (??) about 1826 in Pickaway County, Ohio.

They had four known children

  •                         Nimrod – Researched somewhat.
  •                         Sarah – Not researched.
  •                         William M- Not researched.
  •                         James – Not researched yet.

Nimrod Lister has 162 known descendants that I know of, including individuals with the surnames  Lister, Roberts, Childers, Adkins, Barnes, Gerow, Perry, Burton, Smith, Taylor, and others.



William Lister is currently number 5 on my Roberts Research plan.

  1. Joel Barnes (1790-___) – Beginning to feel a bit like a brick wall.
  2. Lucy Wilson Taft (___-1939)
  3. Joel Cruff Taft (1800-1849)
  4. Fanny Southerland (1796-1864)
  5. William Lister (c. 1802-___)


Ethel Wight Studio – Part 1

Photo Friday
By Don Taylor

I was recently given access to some negatives from the Ethel Wight Studio of Portland, Maine from the 1930s. The photos were identified by the person who paid for the photo, not the person in the photo. So, there is “no guarantee the person in the photo is the same person who paid for the photo.” I’ll add, besides the Studio in Portland, Ethel also had a studio in Old Orchard Beach (Ocean Park) during many of the same years. These two photos probably came from the Portland studio.

I was asked to see what I could do with these photos if I added them to my Photo Identification Project. So, I digitized the negatives and inverted them to positives. I then used the information from the envelopes to determine who the image is most likely to be. As a test, or proof of concept I took a look at two envelopes with three images.

Howard Abildgaard – #667

The envelope says 476 Washington Ave | Portland

The 1930 Census shows Howard P. Abildgaard, son of Emil L and Serine Abildgaard living at 476 Washington Ave.[i] Howard was 18 years old. By the 1940 Census, Paul Howard had married, had a son, and was living at 3 Lennox Street, Portland, ME.[ii] I believe that this photo is of Paul Howard Abildgaard from between 1930 and 1939.

Paul Howard Abildgaard has a Family Search ID of G91G-G6F. I have uploaded the photo to his profile.​​

Margaret Ackerson – #742

The envelope says State St. Hospital | Portland

I was unable to find Margaret Ackerson in Portland, Maine during the 1930 or 1940 Censuses. However, I did find Margaret in the 1936 Portland City directory. She was a student nurse at 62 State and had a residence of 52 State, about two blocks from Mercy Hospital.

Further research found Margaret Ackerson, age 30 living in Bronx, New York during the 1940 Census. She was a Nurse living at a “Nurse’s Home” on Lafayette Avenue. She had lived in Cumberland, Maine in 1935 and had been born in Maine.[iii]

However, further research was not successful in determining Margaret’s parents with certainty. As such, I was not able to positively her. Items I believe I know:

  • Name: Margaret Ackerson
  • 1910 – Born in Maine ?
  • 1935 – Attended Nurse’s school in Portland, Cumberland County, Maine.
  • 1940 – Worked as a nurse 60 hours a week at Hunt’s Point Hospital, and boarded at 1325 Lafayette Ave.

I have added her photos to Dead Fred.

Dig Up Your Relatives at - The Original Genealogy Photo Archive

Final Note

Many thanks to Ethel Wight’s family for access to and permission to use the collection of their great aunt.


[i]  “United States Census, 1930,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 8 October 2020), Howard P Abildgaard in household of Emil L Abildgaard, Portland, Cumberland, Maine, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 85, sheet 8B, line 62, family 187, NARA microfilm publication T626 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2002), roll 831; FHL microfilm 2,340,566.

[ii] United States Census, 1940,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 28 February 2020), Paul H Abildgaard, Ward 9, Portland, Portland City, Cumberland, Maine, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 3-117, sheet 8A, line 30, family 161, Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940, NARA digital publication T627. Records of the Bureau of the Census, 1790 – 2007, RG 29. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2012, roll 1476.

[iii] 1940 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2012. Census Place: New York, Bronx, New York; Roll: m-t0627-02477; Page: 4A; Enumeration District: 3-643


My Top 10 Fee-Based Genealogy Websites

Tuesday’s Tips
By Don Taylor

  1. Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.Ancestry – Without a doubt, I use Ancestry more than any other fee-based website. I have a World Subscription and use Ancestry almost daily.
  2. Newspapers – I find Newspapers.Com has more pages that fit my needs. Ancestry will bundle a Basic Newspapers.Com subscription with their subscription, but I find the basic doesn’t provide the information I need. Consequently, I have the Publisher Extra plan and love it.
  3. American Ancestors – The New England Historic Genealogical Society is an excellent resource, particularly for New England ancestors.
  4. Genealogy Bank – I wish I could afford all the sites I want. To save money, I switch between a Genealogy Bank and a Newspaper Archive subscription each year. Both of them are very good.
  5. Newspaper Archive – Again, I subscribe to Newspaper Archive every other year.
  6. Fold 3 – Fold 3 is the top/best site for military records. I subscribe occasionally. When I do, they give a Newspapers.Com discount. Also, it can be bundled with an Ancestry.Com subscription. I’ve subscribed that way also.
  7. General Register Office – This is the Online service to order BMD records from England and is a pay-as-you-need system. They are the place to search for English records. When you find a record you can order it (B&D) for electronic delivery in a few days. For marriage records, they send a physical copy and delivery takes a couple of weeks. I use them several times a year.
  8. State Societies – I find subscribing to various genealogical societies helpful. They typically have some kind of magazine or newsletter plus provide access to member resources. I typically join one when I’m researching ancestors in that state and see what they have. Currently, I am a member of the Maine Genealogical Society, but I’ve had memberships with the Minnesota and Southern California societies in the past couple years depending upon who I’ve been researching.
  9. Local Societies – I also maintain several local society memberships for places where my ancestors lingered. For example, many of my Brown ancestors lived in Morrison County, Minnesota, so I keep a membership with them. Likewise, my Wolcott ancestors were among the Founders of Ancient Windsor, Connecticut, so I’ve been a member there on and off. I highly recommend being a member of the local historical or genealogical society where your ancestors lived.
  10. DNA Testing Sites – Strictly speaking, DNA testing sites are “fee-based” that is to say, you gain access to resources on their site after you have paid for testing. I’ve tested with AncestryDNA, 23&Me, and Family Tree DNA. However, once you’ve tested with them, further fees aren’t charged to access your results.

My thanks to Randy Seaver and his “Saturday Night Genealogy Fun” for encouraging me to consider what I think of as my top 10 paid sites.

Donna Darling Collection – Part 75

Russell Erwin Amsterdam

Treasure Chest Thursday
By Don Taylor

I was conflicted about if this should be a typical Treasure Chest Thursday where I’m looking at items from the Donna Darling Collection, or if it should be a Photo Friday. I decided on looking at seven photos of my uncle Russ from the perspective of items from the Donna Darling Collection.


Russell was born in August 1927. In the first photo I have of him, he is in a baby carriage. His dress suggests it was summer, so I figure this photo is from the summer of 1928.

With the Twins – ca. 1929

Russell in some sort of sailor suit with two young men, who appear to be twins to me. Russell seems to have a little less stable, so I suspect it is from when he was around two.

At the Beach – ca. 1930

Next are two photos of Russell at the Beach. I vacillate between thinking he is 2 or 3 in the pictures. He seems sturdy on his feet in the photo with him and two boys, so I think three is more likely. Another shot of him with his dad, Sammy, was clearly taken on the same day and Russell looks larger than a two-year-old.

Russell and his father, Sammy

Russell & two (unknown) boys.

Indian Headdress – ca. 1930

Next is an adorable photo of Russell in an Indian costume, including a headdress. Donna and Sammy went on their National Tour with “Princess Winona,” a Native American.

On the Ship – 1930

Finally, there are two photos of Russell on a ship. I believe this was from 1930 when Sammy, Donna, and Russell traveled to Panama for work. The first one is of the three of them, while the second one is of Russell looking away.

Russell aboard ship with his father & mother, ca. 1930.

Uncle Russ aboard ship, age 3, ca 1930.

I really miss Uncle Russ, he is the only biological uncle of mine I ever met and I really liked him.  In later years, he and my mother became best friends and cruised together. They took an Alaska coastal cruise and a Mississippi riverboat cruise together. I know my mom found them greatly enjoyable. (I never met any of my biological father’s siblings.)