All things history and genealogy.

All things history and genealogy.

New to genealogy? Start with free genealogy sites and tools online.

New to genealogy? Start with free genealogy sites and tools online.

Using available free genealogy sites and tools to the best advantage.


I’ve been doing genealogy research for well over fifteen years now and have amassed a database of over 100,000 individuals with supporting sources, images, and documents for over 90% of the individuals, which are available for free download. Yet, I still find new information every day.

There is a certain pattern of research I highly recommend to new researchers and here it is:

  • Interview or have a questionnaire completed by as many accessible family members as possible.

Everyone needs a place to start and with genealogy, depending on the location of the information sought, privacy laws vary, but information can be inaccessible for up to 100 years back.

To successfully trace back further than 100 years, one must have information from a closely linked generation to provide clues for working back in the family history. From here, one can also work forward and fill out collateral lines by contacting individuals who are willing to impart information, documents and sources that are not public due to privacy laws.

Here is a double-sided Family View Report I designed for use during interviews or for others to fill out and return. The reverse side is for notes, tasks, etc.

Using free software allows you to learn which functions and features are important to you if you find you wish to use paid software later on.

  • Using the Family View Reports gathered, enter the data into your genealogy software of choice and then research the individuals mentioned with the free sites, databases and tools available online.

I have amassed a very large collection of links to free resources of all types in the right sidebar. It pays to explore the free resources first and obtain as much information as possible until one or more ‘brick walls’ are reached and no further information is forthcoming for free.

I also highly recommend the free genealogy link directory site Cyndi’s List, which offers over 300,000 categorized and cross-referenced links.

  • Once one reaches a brick wall (sometimes called a dead end), it is advisable to explore the paid resources available online.

The paid site I recommend most highly is , where I find I get by far the best return for my dollar.

I post periodically (usually between 7 and 14 days apart) on this blog with a listing of all of the updates and additions to both of these databases and they can be accessed by clicking here.

  • If the cost of research is a concern, I have found that it’s best to purchase a short-term subscription for the paid site you prefer.

Work within this site as much as possible during the subscription period to try to find information to help break through any brick walls, and then once the subscription expires, once again use the free resources to continue.

Working in this manner can save a considerable amount of money over time.

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