Top Genealogy Websites, Pt. 1: Google

I have been working on my family history for 50 years now. So much has changed—family researchers today have a much different task then we had decades ago.

Looking at the online genealogy tools available today, I would like to focus on the top 13 websites that will save you time and money so that your family research is preserved, well documented and readily available to the rising generation of your extended family tree.

Over the next several blog posts in our ongoing content series I will show which genealogy websites are the best and why you need to be using them to trace and document your family tree. All of these genealogy websites are world-class, the crème de la crème.

a Google logo

Credit: Google.com

Top Genealogy Website #1 – Google

Yes, there are millions of genealogy-relevant items on the open Internet. Beginners and advanced researchers can quickly find valuable records about their target ancestors online—and doing a search on Google’s search engine is an excellent way to find these ancestry records.

screenshot of a Google search for Willard Henry Kemp

Credit: Google.com

A Google search for my grandfather, Willard Henry Kemp, pulls up 22.3 million search results.

I can see that the first few results have accurately pointed me to online records that I can use. But—there are 22.3 million of these suggested matches! There must be a way to cut through this huge amount and get to the family records I really want to use.

Let’s try that Google search for my grandfather again.

Helpful Genealogy Search Tool: the Phrase “~genealogy”

Use this handy tool ~genealogy to fine-tune your Google searches.

This tool tells the Google search engine that you want to focus on genealogy records and resources, narrowing your search results to those records. Use it in your Google searches to save time and get the most useful records for your family tree research.

This time I will search for information about my grandfather in Google by putting his name in quotation marks (to exactly match his name) and I will add: ~genealogy.

screenshot of Google search for Willard Henry Kemp adding phrase "~genealogy"

Credit: Google.com

This time the Google search engine returned 35 targeted search results. That is a lot easier to review than 22.3 million.

I can quickly open and evaluate these records and then try alternate Google searches to expand my search results, such as:

  • “Willard Kemp” ~genealogy
  • Kemp and Stamford ~genealogy
  • etc.

I highly recommend you try a Google search to get an idea of what information might be out there on the web about your target ancestor—and then use the phrase ~genealogy to make the search results more manageable. Using Google is a great way to start exploring your family history.

Next article: #2 The Online Digital Book Sites

Genealogy Records Storage: Tips & Software to Preserve Your Family History

After doing family history research for awhile, genealogists reach the point where they ask themselves: I have gathered all this information—now, what do I do with it?

Genealogists are the family hunter/gatherers, sifting through family obituaries, photographs and birth certificates. We take that information and organize it on our home computers in family tree software programs like PersonalAncestralFilePAF, LegacyFamilyTree and RootsMagic.

These family tree software programs designed for personal use at home are excellent ways to manage and organize your genealogical data.

But, at the end of the day, they are only the first step in compiling and sharing your family history.

As genealogists we want to share the family’s information with the rest of the family, to preserve it for the rising generation. We must find a way to make this family history information “permanent” with today’s tools and resources.

What are the storage options open to us?

Storing Genealogy Records at Home

We can protect and keep our genealogical data on a home computer, being careful to make back-up disks and giving copies of those disks to relatives near and far. I have done that for over a decade. The downside is that right now my relatives just are not interested enough in our family history to upload that data. They simply—on a good day—take the disks I sent them and put them in a drawer. The family data is preserved but it is still at the one-off level: it is preserved but only accessible to a few people.

We have seen genealogists spend 40+ years gathering family data, carefully managing it in their paper or computer files—only to have it all discarded as the person dies and the family downsizes, consolidates and moves to warmer climates. The pattern has been that the genealogy records gathered by each generation are known only to a few and are seldom preserved.

It is urgent that genealogists use the report function on their genealogy software programs to print and share their research. These reports can be targeted to report on all descendants of specific parts of the family and can even be personalized so that each person has a copy of their family tree—starting with themselves and going back in time.

Storing Family Records in the Online Cloud

Are there ways that we can preserve our family history information and at the same time widely disseminate it?

Yes.

This is important. Now that we all live in an interconnected world we can easily share and preserve our information with family members we have never met.

Genealogy Tip: For security reasons, only put information about deceased members of your family online. Make that information “public” so that it seamlessly becomes a part of the global family tree being built by millions of genealogists worldwide. If you add what you know—and I add what I have discovered—a much stronger and accurate family tree is built, permanently available online.

Where do I plant my tree online?

You want to use the standard “family tree” websites: FamilySearch.org and Ancestry.com

FamilySearch.org. This free site has multiple options for uploading family trees. Their “new” family tree site is still in limited release but is expected to be fully open to the public later this year. Register now to get an invitation. Users can personalize and view this information in multiple languages, including all of the expected European, Scandinavian and Asian languages.

Ancestry.com. This commercial site has millions of family trees with documentation and photographs. It is essential that you make your tree “public,” making the information easily findable by genealogists worldwide.

What about using Facebook, a blog, or other sites?

Earlier I noted that you can print a family tree report from your home-based family tree software—but notice that you can also print these as PDF reports.

Be careful to adjust your settings so that none of the current, living generation of your family is printed in the report.

Then you can easily upload a copy to your Facebook page, blog or similar sites.

Scribd.com

One terrific online resource is Scribd.com.

This free website encourages everyone to publish their reports online. I regularly post copies of my genealogical reports here, and this has paid off. I have heard back from relatives in the United Kingdom and around the world who never would have found me on a “genealogy” site.

Genealogy Record Storage Online with Scribd

Scribd.com for Online Genealogy Record Preservation

How did they find me on Scribd.com? Easy—that site makes every word, every name fully searchable on Google and the other search engines. So—when my cousins decided to start looking at our family tree they searched using Google and Bingo!—they found my family tree report.

One nice feature of Scribd is that I can update my family history information, then upload and overlay the original version of my report. So all links are preserved and the information available will be the most accurate version of my research data.

Take time this summer to find ways to permanently preserve and disseminate your genealogy research. Doing so will inform and entertain your family members—and help your own family history research by getting others involved.

Books of the Week – Donald Lines Jacobus

Millions of books are going online.
Entire libraries – that never close; a
vailable 24/7.

It is now possible for genealogists to read, download and keep genealogies, local histories – publications of all types and sizes. Instantly accessible online and easily stored on your personal laptop or handheld computer.

Donald Lines Jacobus (1887-1970) – well known as the Dean of American Genealogists was writing since he was a young boy. The New Haven Register 18 May 1900 carried a remarkable, lengthy article about his discussion of Biblical and Classical genealogy – written at the age of 12. Click here to read the entire article. It is published online in GenealogyBank.

Jacobus was a prolific writer and his books are going online.

You can read some of his earliest publications – The Lines Family – about his mother’s family that was published in 1905


and The Wilmot family of New Haven, Conn., published in 1904 by the New England Historic Genealogical Society.

You may even read his book of Poems published in 1914 by the Harty-Musch Press, Inc. in New Haven, Connecticut.

Milestones in the Wilderness (1914)

Take full advantage of what the Internet has to offer. You will find thousands of published genealogies & local histories online at:


Internet Archive
Google Books
Family History Archive

and GenealogyBank is your best source for online newspapers – over 4,200 newspapers and 260,000+ digital books and documents online.

It is a great day for genealogy!

City Directories

Thousands of city directories are going online.

City directories are a basic tool for genealogists. City directories are like an annual census of the cities and towns across America. Now – thousands of them are being digitized and put online.

Read about the history of city directories here: Williams, A.V. Growth and Development of City Directories. Cincinnati, OH: Williams Directory, Co., 1913. 152p.
Download and Keep this book in your personal library!

City directories usually listed all adult residents of the community. Typical entries give:

Name; address; occupation; relationships; notification that a person moved & where they moved to; divorce dates/remarriages; widows etc.

Here is an example of entries identifying widows – giving the names of their deceased husbands in the Indianapolis 1914 City Directory. Here are just a few examples of the city directories that are going online:

Google Books

Internet Archive

Google Books

Google Books

Google Books

Google Books

Internet Archive has over 2,300 city directories online and Google Books has over 1,000 city directories online. These directories are not on GenealogyBank. All genealogists should use those sites to find city directories. Good things are happening all across the Internet.

It is a great day for genealogy!

Chicago, IL Key Genealogy Resources Online – Handy Guide

Chicago Genealogy Resources.
Bookmark and save this page – so you may easily refer to it often.
Your handy guide to the sources you will actually use to build your family tree.


Birth Certificates – 1878-1922
FamilySearch Pilot
Birth Registers – 1871-1915
FamilySearch Pilot

Census
1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920
1850 – Mortality, 1850 – Slave Schedule
FamilySearch Pilot

City Directory
1844; 1855; 1856; 1863-1864

Deaths – pre 1916. Illinois Statewide Index
Illinois State Archives
Deaths 1916-1950. Illinois Statewide Index
Illinois State Archives

Deaths 1937-Present. SSDI

Land Records – Illinois Public Domain Land Tract Sales
Illinois State Archives

Marriage Records – 1871-1920. Chicago, IL
FamilySearch Pilot
Marriage Records – 1763-1900. Illnois Statewide Index
Illinois State Archives

Military – WWII Draft Registration Cards
FamilySearch Pilot

Illinois State Archives- Military Database Projects
Illinois Veterans’ History Project
Illinois War of 1812 Veterans
Illinois Winnebago War Veterans
Illinois Black Hawk War Veterans
Illinois Mexican War Veterans
Illinois Civil War Muster and Descriptive Rolls
Illinois Civil War Veterans Serving in the U.S. Navy
Illinois Civil War Veterans of Missouri Units
Illinois Spanish–American War Veterans
Database of the 1929 Illinois Roll of Honor
Illinois Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Home Residents

Newspapers: 1854 – Today
Bags & Baggage. (Chicago, IL) 1937-1943
Bulletin. (Chicago, IL) 1968-1969
Central South Sider. (Chicago, IL) 1929
Chicago Courier. (Chicago, IL) 1974-1975
Chicago Herald. (Chicago, IL) 1890-1891
Chicago Metro News. (Chicago, IL) 1973-1990
Chicago Sun-Times (Chicago, IL) 1/1/1986-Current
Chicago Times. (Chicago, IL) 1854-1888
Chicago Tribune. (Chicago, IL) 1/1/1985-Current
Chicago World. (Chicago, IL) 1925-1935
Daily Inter Ocean. (Chicago, IL) 1874-1896
Daily Southtown (Chicago, IL) 7/31/2004-11/17/2007
Illinois Sentinel. (Chicago, IL) 1937
Inter Ocean. (Chicago, IL) 1874-1896
Latin Times. (Chicago, IL) 1868-1975
Metropolitan Post. (Chicago, IL) 1938-1939
Noticia Mundial. (Chicago, IL) 1927-1928
Olivet Baptist Church Herald. (Chicago, IL) 1936
Pomeroy’s Democrat. (Chicago, IL) 1869-1879
Skyline (Chicago, IL) 12/8/2005-12/6/2007
Sol de Chicago. (Chicago, IL) 1960
SouthtownStar (Chicago, IL) 11/18/2007-Current
Sunday Times. (Chicago, IL) 1869-1876
Vida Latina. (Chicago, IL) 1952-1963
Vorbote. (Chicago, IL) 1874-1875

Slave Records
Database of Illinois Servitude and Emancipation Records
Illinois State Archives

Joel Munsell – a genealogist & publisher who went to jail to protect his sources

Joel Munsell was an active genealogist, publisher, printer and journalist. He’s always been one of my “heroes” for his legendary contributions to genealogy and local history. (Photo – Munselle’s Picassa Gallery)

I was looking on GenealogyBank and found his marriage to Jane Caroline Bigelow (1812-1854)

17 June 1834 Independent Inquirer 28 Jun 1834

And here is his obituary - (New York Herald – 17 Jan 1880).

Look at this article from the New York Herald – 28 Feb 1845.

Munsell published a small pamphlet in 1845 – Pulpit Sketches, or Dreams of a Pew Holder. The author was not identified. The pamphlet by innuendo subjected prominent citizens to “libelous ridicule”.

Real controversy erupted and following a Grand Jury Munsell was found in contempt and had a “choice to pay two hundred and fifty dollars or stand the imprisonment” …. all for not revealing the author’s name. He went to jail.

This case is held up as one of the early cases where journalists went to jail rather than reveal their sources.

But dig a little deeper.

This pamphlet was pointed and barbed – on page 27 the new chapter compares “Rev Dr. J.N.C. to “Judas Iscariot”. Tough stuff.

Who was the Rev. Dr. J.N.C.? Why attack him?

As in our day when the President’s team had moral problems they called on the minister’s of the day to resolve the issue. In Andrew Jackson’s day his cabinet was deeply involved with a scandal involving Peggy Eaton – that drove cabinet members to resign.

The President called on the Rev. John Nicholson Campbell (1798-1864) to examine the situation and counsel with the parties involved. Read the details here in the San Jose Mercury 3 May 1903.

Those actions in 1831 resulted in Munsell’s pamphlet in 1845.

But, who was the author?

Librarians and historians have concluded that the author was Henry Steel Olcott (1832-1937). So it was a 13 year old boy who wrote this pamphlet attacking the most learned and respected clergy of his day.

My question is: Did Joel Munsell refuse to say who the author was from journalistic zeal to protect his sources or because his source was a 13 year old boy? Or – was someone else the author of that pamphlet?

Write me and tell me what you think.

.

Disciples of Christ Historical Society sustains severe water damage

DeciplesWorld is reporting that “the Nashville-based Disciples of Christ Historical Society suffered severe water damage the last weekend of April when what the organization believes was a faulty valve in the heating and air-conditioning system allowed gallons of water to pour from top to bottom of the half-century-old Thomas W. Phillips Memorial Archives that houses the society.” (See the complete article by Ted Parks. Disciples Historical Society sustains severe water damage).

“On Tuesday, staff packaged 115 boxes of damp items, including books, periodicals, church records, and video tape, for shipment to a company in Michigan that freeze-dries archival and museum materials to remove moisture. Out of the 12,000 cubic feet of material the society stores, only about 130 cubic feet of books and other items got wet and required repair, Harwell explained.”

The Disciples of Christ Historical Society Library contains “37,000 books, 35,000 biographical files, 25,000 congregational records, and 2,000 audio-visual items.”

Sara Howell, DCHS Chief Archivist sent me this link to other pictures of the damage.

Virginia is 401 years old today!

Happy Birthday to Virginia!
The first colonists arrived in Jamestown, Virginia on May 14, 1607 and with ups and downs the Commonwealth has prospered ever since.

GenealogyBank.com is packed with early Americana – including millions of Virginia items go back to the 1700s.

Newspapers
GenealogyBank has more than 100 Virginia newspapers – containing more than 2.3 Million articles. There are multiple titles going back to the 1700s and early 1800s.
Click here for a complete list

Also – GenealogyBank has more than 4 Million Virginia obituaries and death records in the America’s Obituaries and Social Security Death Index (SSDI) sections.

Other Virginia Resources in GenealogyBank

Search for Virginia documents in:
American State Papers and US Serial Set in the Historical Documents section.
There are thousands of Virginia documents in the Historical Books section that are unique to GenealogyBank.


For example – here is a petition to Congress signed by the local Virginia residents south of the James River that were seeking improved conditions on the Turnpike to Richmond.



Here is an example of an early Virginia funeral sermon – for Mrs. Ann Boyd who died 1819.



Terrific sources.

Beyond GenealogyBank – here are other useful sites for Virginia research
Virginia Census Records
1850, 1880, 1900 – Free Online – FamilySearchLabs


Virginia Digital Books Online
American Memory Project
Documenting the American South

Google Books
Making of America

Library of Virgina – Virginia Land Records

Virginia Genealogical Society
Be sure to see the back issues of their newsletter that you can download and read online

Virginia Historical Society
Current issue of Virginia Magazine of History & Biography
Be sure to see their online research guides

Virginia Vital Records
See the collection at the Library of Virginia
Virginia Department of Vital Records