My Top Free Genealogy Websites – Part 3

Education, Wiki’s, and Blogs

Tuesday’s Tips
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. Third are education, general information websites, and Blogs. All three are essential but used differently.

I have a regular task in my genealogy activities that tells me to do an hour of training or education every week. I keep up with it, and if I miss a week, I’ll do two hours the following week. Certainly, I have done some paid training. I’ve taken the Genealogy course from Great Courses and few courses from the National Institute for Genealogical Studies. But, the vast majority of my regular genealogical training/education is via online website videos.

Videos

  1. Roots Tech – Due to Covid-19, the 2021 RootsTech conference will be free and electronic. If you haven’t registered yet, do so. It is a fantastic set of presentations and training. They also have a video archive of past sessions. These presentations are from the top genealogists in the country and provide top-quality information.  Watch the past videos in anticipation of the 2021 conference in February.
  2. Legacy Family Tree Webinars – Legacy Family Tree Webinars is a paid site. However, the Webinar Library contains the last couple webinars and are typically free. Additionally, the “Upcoming Live Webinars” are excellent, and you may register to see them for free. If you miss the live presentation, it will be available in the previous webinars list for a short time. If you find the free webinars aren’t enough, you can subscribe to all the Legacy webinars.
  3. Ancestry Academy – These are typically 3 to 6-minute presentations focusing on a particular topic. For example, the “Newspapers.Com” set includes 11 videos about using Newspapers.Com (owned by Ancestry). There are also video sets about the U.S. Censuses, Population Schedules, and a host of other topics.
  4. YouTube – Of course, YouTube has some excellent material and you can learn about just about anything on YouTube. In your search, include “Genealogy” and then any topic you are interested in learning more about. My search for “Genealogy X-Chromosome DNA” yielded dozens of fascinating and potentially useful videos about the topic using Family Finder, GEDMatch, and 23 & Me.
  5. Library of Congress – There is an amazing number of films and videos available through the Library of Congress. A search for “Genealogy” yielded 114 items available online. Some were things like “Shakespeare’s Genealogies,” but the majority were items about our kind of genealogy, including an excellent presentation on “Family History in the U.S. Church Records.”

Don’t forget to look for videos that may be available through the local historical society, county society, or state library in the area your ancestors lived. As an example, I’ve posted nearly two dozen videos for the Scarborough Historical Society to YouTube on topics such as “Barns in Maine,” “Tide Mills,” and “Scarborough’s Black Point; a Century of Conflict.”

Wiki’s

  1. Wikipedia – Not specifically genealogical, but filled with encyclopedic information. A search for “1820 Census” quickly reminds me the census was conducted on 7 August. An article for a place like Scarborough, Maine, tells me much of its history, including what counties it was in. Often, I’m looking for a neighborhood in an area, and Wikipedia provides the answer.
  2. Family Search – I find the FamilySearch Research Wiki to be the most valuable wiki for my use. When I have completed my phase 1 and phase 2 research, I will typically go to the Family Search Wiki. I’ll enter a place my ancestor lived, for example, Scarborough, Cumberland County, Maine. I will then go through the websites and information there, then I’ll go through the county page, and finally the state page. Besides being a site of links, it tells a lot of information about the town, county, and state, when and where various records might exist.
  3. RootsWeb – The Rootsweb Wiki is now the Ancestry.Com Family History Wiki. There is a lot of background information about military records, state records.
  4. DNA Painter – Not actually a wiki, but DNA Painter provides tools and information I often find useful in my understanding of DNA. Blane Bettinger’s Shared cM Project tool is my most used DNA tool. It provides the means to quickly see the possible relationships given a specific amount of DNA. Invaluable.

Blogs

There are hundreds of blogs and podcasts that relate to Genealogy. First, it makes sense to subscribe to the blog or podcast for any site you pay for a subscription. It is always good to see what they are posting as new or interesting. So, I receive regular blog postings from American Ancestors, Ancestry, Newspapers.Com, etc. That said, I like, and pay attention to, several free blog sites.

  1. The Legal Genealogist – My favorite free blog is Judy Russell’s “The Legal Genealogist.” She focuses on Genealogical issues, ethics, and events. Her blog does an excellent job of alerting its subscribers to problems occurring in the genealogy world. I love it and her perspective on things. She is always thoughtful in her analysis and causes you to think.
  2. Genealogy à la carte – Although the focus of Genealogy à la carte is Canadian, I find that Gail Dever does a great job of keeping the topics interesting to me, who has no known Canadian ancestors.
  3. Genea-Musings – Randy Seaver provides excellent material about what is new and available in news, articles, and record collections. He gives ideas for your research and links to podcasts and videos. His write-ups regarding his ancestors are excellent examples for you to use in your ancestor biographies.
  4. The Ancestor Hunt – As probably my favorite site that provides links to other sites, I’m always interested in what Kenneth R. Marks has added or updated to The Ancestor Hunt. I always check out his articles for places I’m researching.
  5. DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy – It is hard to keep up to date with the latest in the ever-changing world of Genetic Genealogy. Roberta Estes does a great job of keeping folks informed using understandable writing. Her writing can challenge my understanding, but I like that. Her blog helps to keep me up to date in my genetic genealogy comprehension.

I didn’t write about podcasts in this list. Sadly, I don’t listen to them very often. Some people find them useful, but I am more visual in my preferences. So, I’m much more likely to do videos than podcasts. Even if the video is a “talking head,” I prefer that to a podcast. In any event, Randy Seaver’s Genea-Musing can point you to lots of great podcasts, if that is your preference.

Keep climbing your trees,

 

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. Archive.org – 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: https://archive.org/details/@dontaylor50). 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.

 

 

 

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.

The Canadian Library & Archives

Tuesday Tips

I had the opportunity to do some genealogical research for a friend who knew virtually nothing about her grandfather, Andrew Halcro.  He died in 1925 at the age of 48 and was not talked about much by the family.  What made him of interest to me is that he was born, lived his entire life, and died in Quebec, Canada. I have very little experience with Canadian ancestors and thought researching him would be a great exercise for me to learn more about Canadian research.

First – Family Search

My first step in learning about an ancestor is to try to find the individual in Family Search. I quickly found my subject as ID: LYBX-5WS. Next, I go to Sources for the individual. In this case, I learned that someone had associated three sources with events in my subject’s life.

    1. 1881 Canada Census showing Andrew in the household of his father, Frank.
    2. 1891 Canada Census showing Andrew in 1891 Census but no image of the record.
    3. A 1998 obituary of one of Andrew’s sons indicating that Andrew was the son’s father.

Going from the most recent record back, I reviewed the 1998 obituary and then incorporated it into my research. The 1891 Canada Census was something of a conundrum. Why was there no image at FamilySearch?

Library & Archives of Canada

I was pretty sure I’d find it at Ancestry.Com, but that requires a World Explorer License. So, I did a Google search for: 1891 Canada Census.  I immediately saw an entry for the Library and Archives of Canada. I did a search for Andrew there and immediately found him. His entry was the only result.  There were links to download an image for the entry in either JPG or PDF format; I like that.

I then began to look at what else they have at the Library and Archives of Canada. All kinds of Census records from 1825 “Lower Canada” to a “1926 Prairie Provinces” Census.

As I wandered around the site a little bit, I learned they have Military Records, Passenger and Border Entry Lists (Immigration records), Birth, Marriage, & Death Records, Divorce records, and even some city directories online. What a great resource; not only does it have wonderful records, it is free. Anyway, it is a “Bright, Shiny Object” in my current project, so I took some notes to come back and data-mine the resource soon.

I searched the Family Search Records and was not successful in finding any new records relating to my Andrew. However, I noted there was another person with the same name living in the same town at the same time. I would need to be careful to differentiate between my Andrew (1876-1925) and this other Andrew (1811-1878) in any records I find.

Future Actions:

Datamine for the Halcro family in the Library & Archive of Canada.