Genealogy Research on the Web

Looking for your roots has never been easier or more fun.

By FamilyTime

 Happily, the Internet has made the search for our roots easier than ever. While many of us have long been fascinated by our family histories, there is more opportunity now to discover a great deal about family members who came before us.

Genealogy is more than a hobby. Its study helps us understand ourselves and our families better -- and at the same time we learn about history.

Finally, the discipline and determination required to track down a family tree is a satisfying intellectual pursuit.

(Mostly) Free Stuff
If you log onto just about any search engine and type in "genealogy" or something similar, you will be rewarded with a number of sites.

Some of the free-access sites are great places to start your search. These include the Internet Family Finder, the Social Security Death Index, the USGenWeb, and GenForum, which is a message board for serious and would-be genealogists. The Ellis Island site is provides a lot of information, as well.

You can also search your roots at the local library. The librarians at the help desk are well trained and can guide you through the process.

The paid Internet sites are quite extensive and many serious researchers find them extremely useful.

Before You Log On
Prepare yourself for your search. Before you log on, gather together as much information as you can about your family. Keep organized files of your research.

Research should reflect as much as you know about family members, including births, marriages, and deaths. Also seek information about migrations, businesses, and land holdings.

Interview family members - particularly those who are older. While no two stories will be exactly the same and memories can be faulty, with experience you will begin to recognize what is real and what is not.

Review research already done by other family members. You may want to work in tandem with Cousin Gertrude, or not. But her work should augment yours. Great-Grandpa's records, unearthed after decades in an old desk, may provide valuable facts, but all should be verified.

Network and Investigate
The Internet makes it possible to chat with others who share your passion for genealogy. Learn from their mistakes and their successes.

Query organizations and sources whenever you can. Before sending out a query, word it so that it is precise and focused. Be sure to include your full name, telephone and fax numbers, and e-mail address.

The query should include:

  • As much information about an individual as you can give in a few sentences.
  • Precise location information, including country, state, county, and town, if possible.
  • A time period or any relevant dates.
Never be satisfied with the first answers to queries or your early research. Keep digging until you can verify dates, places, names, and other information by logical and sound cross-referencing.

Don't neglect sources other than the Internet. When you get involved in genealogy, you will one day find yourself digging through old records in libraries, court houses, and government offices. All sources are useful.

Share Your Findings
You will want to share the information you gather with family members. The Internet is a great tool for this, too. While someday you may put everything in a book, sharing tidbits and more extensive research via e-mail is a good way to generate excitement.

Sharing your successes and techniques with other hobbyists is equally satisfying. There are on-line genealogy chats and groups that will give you access to others who are as dedicated to this pursuit as you are.

Good luck!