Tag: websites

My top ten: Best world-wide genealogy and ancestry websites.

After almost twenty years of genealogy research, there are certain sites that have become my ‘go to’ sites for certain aspects of my genealogy research. I thought it might be helpful for me to post my list of my top ten genealogy and ancestry websites.
Internet Archive

Internet Archive Search

I have also included a description of the reasons why these sites have proved invaluable to me. If you’re looking for information in these areas, be sure to check out these sites.

The headings are links to the sites described and paid sites are indicated by ($) following the heading.

1.  FamilySearch.org

Maintained and updated by the LDS (Latterday Saints) Church, this site has been invaluable for all of my time researching my family’s genealogy. In the past few years in particular, the databases have expanded substantially as the LDS organization works to digitize more and more information. Recently, the search feature has become much more effective and accurate. No matter what country, region or time frame you are researching, this is a wonderful site. Best of all, it is free.

2.  Ancestry.com ($)

Ancestry.com is a favorite for all of the reasons listed for FamilySearch.org, the only difference being that a paid subscription is required. Although I do use Ancestry.com a great deal, I plan my research so I don’t have to remain subscribed all of the time. As I research and find gaps, I keep a ‘to do’ list and when it is large enough to warrant the cost, I will subscribe for as long as I think is necessary, tackle my list, and cancel the subscription when I have completed my list. It has been almost a year since I last subscribed because I’ve been finding a substantial amount of information elsewhere. I am due to subscribe pretty soon to tackle my current ‘to do’ list.

If you’re looking for one paid site that provides extensive data from around the world, this is the one.

3.  Cyndi’s List

Cyndi’s List is the largest site that offers extensive links to genealogy sites and resources on the internet. Cyndi has worked tirelessly for decades creating this site of over 300,000 links – sorted, categorized and constantly updated to maintain currency and functionality.

Recently, however, Cyndi’s List has been the target of a hacker who stole her entire site, making minor changes to ‘make it their own’ and attempting to divert revenue to themselves. Be sure the site you’re visiting is actually Cyndi’s List and help protect her extensive investment and our valuable resource.

4.  Olive Tree Genealogy

Olive Tree Genealogy is an extensive portal of links to valuable data and genealogy research information around the world. Although I do find this site somewhat confusing and difficult to navigate, my investment of time and effort has proved valuable as I have found wonderful, obscure data that I was unable to find elsewhere.

5.  Foundation for Medieval Genealogy

You should have seen my surprise when my husband’s ancestry connected directly to nobles and royalty in the medieval period. For the longest time this was a vast brick wall for me as there is very little quality data available online for researching this time.

I can’t remember how I found this site, but it’s an amazing resource as it’s extensively researched and sourced. The sources are described in detail and where there are questions about the data, they make it clear so we can note these gaps and questions in our own research. Where they have drawn conclusions from the existing evidence they examine the evidence and describe their conclusions.

6.  Directory of Royal Genealogical Data: University of Hull

This is another well researched site about royal genealogy from the University of Hull in England that also covers the medieval period, but they are not as clear about the quality of their sources, the evidence they’ve used to form their conclusions and the reasons they formed the conclusions leading to the published genealogy.

7.  Internet Archive

Besides finding and sourcing dates and events, I also enjoy finding the details of the lives of our ancestors through written accounts. Access to these publications has helped immensely with writing this blog by enabling me to understand the circumstances and times in which our ancestors lived.

Internet Archive tops Google E-Books on this list because it is totally free.

8.  Google E-Books

Google E-Books is essentially a site offering paid and free access to public domain written materials and books with a very accurate, intuitive search feature. If you use the link in the heading, however, it is possible to search only titles available for free access and download. To find free titles, be sure to check ‘Full View’ when conducting a search.

9.  Rootsweb

This is a free site offered by Ancestry.com. It’s a valuable resource for providing free access to user input data and family trees. Although I don’t entirely trust the data offered on this site for the simple reason that it is made up from ‘user input’, it has been very valuable to me when encountering those frustrating brick walls. I use the information here as ‘clues’ which have helped me break through those brick walls.

This data is recognizable in my Blythe Database because I do not enter sources or indicate very poor quality sources. Those using my database should interpret these facts as questionable at best.

10.  GeneaBloggers

GeneaBloggers was the genius idea of offering a directory of genealogy blogs. When I have some time on my hands and just want to explore what others are doing and saying, I start at GeneaBloggers.

Have fun checking out these sites!

Google Tools, Tips and Tricks for Genealogy

Google Tools, Tips and Tricks for Genealogy

Google Tools, Tips and Tricks for Genealogy

In my 12+ years of genealogy experience, I have become very attached to the Google tools, tips and tricks for genealogy research!

Once I discovered these tools, I haven’t looked back. I use them frequently in the course of my research.

Free Genealogy Search Help

This is the one Google search tool I use most often – and therefore I’m listing the direct link here. It creates a series of searches using different groupings of keywords from the input boxes for given names, surnames, birth and death places.

Easy Google Genealogy Searcher

Provided by Ancestor Search, this page provides several pre-set custom Google searches and tools. This is especially valuable for those who are not familiar with the codes and conventions for custom searching in Google. Below are basic descriptions and hints for effective use of each search tool. The tools on this page include:

Google Genealogy Search

  • Use (“) quotation marks around a specific word or phrase to be included “as is” in your results.

Search for Genealogy Surname Websites

  • This tool is valuable for finding websites with specific surnames in the title, most especially when surnames are also common English words in every day use such as ‘Mason’ or ‘Forest'; are also ‘given’ or ‘first’ names like ‘James’ or ‘Stuart’. In addition, this search helps to delve into more obscure sites that are deeper in Google results.

Google Book Search

  • An inordinate amount of valuable genealogy data exists within books and publications that in the past were not easily searchable. Google has taken great strides in digitizing ‘in copyright’ and ‘out of copyright’ material for access online. This tool searches the full texts of books digitized by Google. Although not as high in quality as vital records such as births, deaths and marriages, when such records are not available or cannot be found, this is the next best thing. A great benefit of material obtained this way is that it is frequently in narrative form, recounting actual events and circumstances, adding ‘flesh’ to the ‘bones’ of most genealogy research.

Google Blog Search

  • Tool for searching within other blogs. This can be very helpful for finding data compiled by other genealogists who have their own blogs.

Google Newspaper Search

  • Search for obituaries, news stories or other items appearing in newspapers. Be sure to use the surname as well as specific keyword(s) in your search.

Google Search Within or Excluding a Genealogy Site

  • Enter the keyword(s) and relevant site name in the appropriate boxes and select either ‘only with’ or ‘excluding’ in the drop-down box.

Search for Sites Similar To

  • Enter the url of a site you’d like to use as an example. Useful for finding similar sites on a specific topic.

Search for Gedcom Files

  • GEDCOMS are valuable files created by genealogy software for easy transfer and import of data in a manageable size. For this to be useful, it is necessary to have software to either convert to a viewable format or with the ability to import.

Search US Newsgroups for Genealogy Queries

  • Newsgroups are online communities of like-minded researches who post information, queries and answers. To limit results to just genealogy sites, add the word ‘genealogy’ to the search string.

Search for Definitions of Genealogical Words

  • The Google Dictionary searches for definitions for dated words, terms and acronyms. Very useful for finding the meanings of old-fashioned terminology frequently used in genealogy data and research.

Google Genealogy Calculator

  • An amazing tool for calculating are or distance using old-fashioned words and phrasing (i.e. calculating dates using mathematical functions: [1927-82] or converting old fashioned measures into contemporary measures (i.e. 40 rods in miles). If an immediate result is not shown, the page will likely list another calculator to use (i.e. arpents – no answer shows, but an arpent calculator appears toward the bottom of the results page).

Search for Genealogy Images

  • A tool to search for images by keyword using file type and size filters. This is actually quite an amazing little tool. I always use it when reseraching and I’m constantly amazed at how many images it finds on obscure websites that I never would have found.

Search by Location

  • Perform a keyword search filtered by location using address, city, state, and or code.

Google Search for a US Street Map

  • Search for specific locations (old or recent) to locate nearby landmarks (i.e. civic buildings, schools, churches, hospitals, etc.)

Google Search by Language and Country

  • This tool is invaluable for those seeking to search websites in a specific language and/or from a specific country.

Google Translate Text

  • A quick and easy tool for translating snippets of text. Select the languages of conversion from the drop-down box.

Translate a Genealogy Web Page

  • To translate a full web page, type the full url (including ‘http://’) into the search box and select the languages of conversion in the drop-down box.

Google Search by Family Tree

  • This is the one Google tool I use the most. It’s ideal for searching for specific combinations of names and relationships, thereby eliminating a great deal of ‘chaff’.

Following are more generic tools that can be very effective for genealogy related searches:

‘Related Images’ Image Scrolling

  • Every keyword search produces a set of links in the ribbon across the top of the screen. Click on ‘Images’ to go to only image results. Then, across the top of every Google image results page is a list of any ‘related search’ links that exist. Just hover over a link to view a preview ribbon of images from that search.

Image Search

  • This search can be very useful for trying to identify photos by individuals, locations, etc. by uploading the photo for Google to compare to other photos on the Internet to finds similar photos. Searches can be filtered for only faces, clip art, high-res, etc.

Results from Those We Know and Trust

  • When signed into Google+ and with the search options set to allow personal results, Google will highlight results from within your own Google+ community with this icon.
  • If you wish to toggle personal results off, just click on this icon in the top right of your screen.
  • Here is an image of some of my own personal results after searching for the town in which I live:

    Google Plus Personal Results

Include or Exclude Words in Search Results

  • To make sure certain words are included in the search without regard for order, use the ‘+’ symbol (i.e. Christian +Keefer). Likewise, to exclude words, use the ‘-‘ symbol (i.e. Christian -Keefer).

Ensure an Exact Phrase or Group of Words in Search Results

  • Use quotation marks at the beginning and end of the string that you wish to be exact in your search results (i.e. “Christian Keefer”).

Using a Wild Card Effectively

  • Wild card searches are especially effective in genealogy. With Google, the ‘*’ can be used in place of a word if there could possibly be more than one choices in a phrase or if you don’t know what the word might be. For a wildcard search, insert the ‘*’ wildcard in place of the word(s) in question.  (i.e. “Christian Keefer” “* Jacques”). In this example, the missing first name is represented by the ‘*’ and search results come up showing several possible first name possibilities.

Narrowing Search Results

  • Despite our first instinct to throw as many words as possible into a search, this actually can defeat the purpose. The extra words will most likely result in unrelated results due the the extra word(s). Start with as few words as possible and add ‘key’ words to your search in an attempt to narrow your results.

Targeted Searches

  • To search only specific sites, add the ‘site:’ prefix to the desired url (i.e. site:emptynestthemes.com). You can also search specific site types, domains and/or countries signified by a url suffix. Just add the same site prefix when searching (i.e. ‘site:edu’ for education sites; ‘site:ca’ for Canadian sites).
  • To find related websites, use the prefix ‘related:’ in front of the site’s url (i.e. related:emptynestthemes.com).
  • To search for specific file types, use the  ‘filetype:’ prefix in front of the desired file extension within your search string (i.e. filetype:png chilliwack schools).
  • To find definitions with Google, use the ‘define:’ prefix in front of the term to get a list of definitions from several online dictionaries.
  • Search for any numbers in a specific such as price ranges by placing two dots ‘..’ between the two numbers (i.e. Chilliwack real estate $100,000..$300,000).
  • Google can be used as a calculator. Just type in the equation using symbols to represent the functions. (i.e. 100*10, 100/10, 100-10, or 100+10). The first entry in the search results page will be the answer to the equation entered.


Genealogy News Bites – May 5, 2014

genealogy news bites picsIn an effort to help ease the load of searching for genealogy news and genealogy events, I prepare a ‘Genealogy News Bites’ post to gather together what I feel are the most important or informative genealogy news headlines from the previous week (or thereabouts). Following are the most recent and relevant genealogy news headlines.


Olive Tree Genealogy

Victorian Reform School & Prison Records Online – A Contest!

John Wormald age 11 Reform School 1892 Ancestry.co.uk, Ancestry.ca and Ancestry.com have recently published some fascinating reformatory school and prison records from West Yorkshire

Irish Census Records 1821-1911 online

1821 Census Colebrooke (Aghalurcher, Fermanagh) Irish Census Records from 1821 to 1911 (with gaps 1861 to 1901) are now available online.  The earlier records are scattered and many have not survived but The National Archives of Ireland

Prosapia Genetics – Worth the Money?

Yesterday I decided to check out a website that has the genealogy community buzzing. The Examiner called it a “Groundbreaking GPS tool [that] finds your ancestors, genealogy, family tree and history”  Basically it is being touted as

Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

Panel to discuss genealogy issues in La Verne – Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

The panel sponsored by the Southern California Society of Professional Genealogists will provide members and guests with a special opportunity to meet in a roundtable setting


Matthew 1:1-17; The Genealogy of Jesus (Cross-Reference Comparison)

Some believe that Matthew’s genealogy focuses primarily on the family tree of Jesus’ adopted father, Joseph, while Luke’s highlights the lineage of his mother, Mary. Another theory

Genealogy Canada

RCMP obituary card index and notices, 1876-2007

Here is an instance which demonstrates the co-operative partnership that exists between Ancestry and Family Search these days with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) obituaries card and notices between 1876 and 2007

OGS announces officers for 2014-2016

The slate of new officers for 2014-2016 was announced today at the OGS Conference. The president is Alan Campbell. Alan is from the Lambton Branch of the OGS.The vice president i…

Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter

Evernote Was Made For Genealogy | Eastman’s Online Genealogy …

Cyndi of Cyndi’s List has started a new section entitled, Evernote Was Made For Genealogy. She writes, “I will admit it. I’m an Evernote junkie. I love this tool and all it has to offer

Ancestry.com Blog

Don’t Let Mold Destroy Your Family History

Mold is a four-letter word. It can destroy your documents and it can make you sick. What do you do when you discover that great-grandpa’s Civil War letters or the family Bible has mold on it? Here are some tips

New to genealogy? Get started with numerous free genealogy sites and tools available online.

Gerard Ronald Joseph Turmaine, c. 1938.

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 sheet I designed for interviews or for others to fill out and return. The reverse side is for notes, tasks, etc.
  • Explore, download and set up free genealogy software for cataloging data, sources, images and documents. 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 Ancestry.com, where I find I get by far the best return for my dollar. I post weekly with a listing of all of the updates and additions to both of these databases and they can be accessed by clicking here or the Updates/Additions button on the upper horizontal menu of any of the other pages on this site.
  • 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.

Finally! A place to get reviews and consumer alerts for genealogy products and services!

Check markI have spent the last few weeks setting up my new review and customer feedback site, “View From the Empty Nest”.

I was inspired to do this by my recent posts regarding the scam genealogy websites owned by Jason Fraser, and feedback from others learning about these sites that indicated there is a need for a place for reviews and customer feedback for genealogy products, software, services, websites, etc.

“View From the Empty Nest” is set up for all types of reviews and users are welcome to provide feedback through the comments or review sections following the posts and pages. (Not all posts and pages have the customer review option, so please leave a comment instead.) The menu for customer alerts and reviews is in the sidebar. Feel free to explore.

Fair warning: I’m still tweaking and experimenting, so you’re apt to notice changes occurring in the near future. Any feedback regarding this site is also welcome.

My Top 29: Best Christmas Gifts for the Avid Genealogist


Are you struggling to find the perfect Christmas gift for the beloved Genealogist in your family? Unsure where to start looking?

Here is a list of the best genealogy products from a wide range of categories and price ranges. At the very least, it should provide some inspiration.


Flip-Pal Mobile Scanner

The one gift that would be perfect for every genealist is the amazing, compact, Flip-Pal mobile scanner.
How does the Flip-Pal differ from the standalone scanners we are used to using? It provides invaluable mobility and flexibility. It is mobile in the sense that it can be used outside the home for on-site research and document reproduction, such as in libraries, archives, government offices, etc. It’s amazingly flexible in that it’s battery operated and is capable of scanning oversize documents (that would never fit on a stand-alone scanner) in multiple parts and then stitching them together to create one complete high resolution document. Flip-Pal is currently offering holiday specials for savings of $20 to $55, depending on the bundle purchased.


Genealogy Site Subscriptions

Several valuable websites offer subscriptions of varying terms and prices, some universal and some specializing in special areas of research such as military, by location, etc.

A few of these are:

  • Ancestry.ca (Canada)
  • Ancestry.com (US and Global)
  • Genes Reunited
  • Fold3
  • One Great Family
  • Archives.com



The first large purchase I made for my genealogy research was a laptop. The portability was invaluable to me as a hockey mom and will be important as an empty nester and retiree. During weekend hockey tournaments, while Stuart and Mark were watching TV or playing games in the hotel room, I could be happily conducting research. Here are some amazing laptop buys.

  • Samsung Chromebook (Wi-Fi, 11.6-Inch)
    • I have both a Mac desktop and a Windows laptop. I much prefer using a Mac, but my preferred genealogy software (Rootsmagic) does not offer a Mac version, despite my constantly bugging them, asking for them to create a Mac version. If they ever offered a Mac version, I would never switch to anything else. At $249, this laptop is a recognized and respected brand at an unbeatable price.
  • Apple iBook Laptop 12.1″ M9164LL/A (800-MHz PowerPC G4, 256 MB RAM, 30 GB Hard Drive, DVD/CD-RW Drive)
    • Had I not been forced to purchase a Windows laptop to accommodate my software, I would have gladly paid the higher price for a Mac. It’s so worth it for the quality. The features for working with images are unparalleled.
  • Dell Inspiron i15R-1316BLU 15-Inch Laptop


External Hard Drive

I use a Seagate external hard drive and I love it. It’s very compact and easily fits in a laptop case with the mobile scanner, mouse (I don’t like trackpads), and cords required to work away from home. I can’t stress enough that in this case, size matters. Mine is a 1T hard drive and I would never consider purchasing anything smaller, especially since I prefer to work with high quality, high resolution images as much as possible.

  • Seagate Expansion 500 GB USB 3.0 Portable External Hard Drive STBX500100
  • Seagate Backup Plus 1 TB USB 3.0 Portable External Hard Drive STBU1000100 (Black)


Online Backup

If your loved one has a laptop and finds it easier to not carry around a hard drive, then Mozy Online Backup may be the solution. It’s easy to get up to 2GB free, and even more online storage is available for a fee.


Genealogy Software

  • Rootsmagic
    • This is the genealogy software I use – and have used for ten years. I have remained loyal to this software because of their frequent and consistent updates, and the flexibility to handle custom dates such as those in Quaker research (i.e. 3d 11th mo 1708) or date ranges (i.e. between about November 3, 1708 and 1710).
  • Heredis
    • This is the one software I seriously considered to replace Rootsmagic – and I actually did purchase it after trying the demo and being impressed. As soon as I started working in our Quaker lines again, it was immediately apparent that this software was unable to handle custom date formats, translating them in very weird indecipherable ways. I will say, however that I was impressed enough that I would try again if they ever change it to handle custom dates. They were very understanding about my reasons for requesting a refund and provided it readily.
  • Family Tree Maker
    • I did own Family Tree Maker and switched to Rootsmagic because it suited my particular research and goals better. It is a favorite of numerous others though, so I am including it here.


Genealogy Books

Here are a few books I would recommend.

  • For the novice genealogist.
    • The Everything Guide to Online Genealogy  – Use the Web to trace your roots, share your history, and create a family tree (Everything Series).
    • 101 of the Best Free Websites for Climbing Your Family Tree
    • Genealogy Online For Dummies (For Dummies (Computer/Tech))
  • For the advanced genealogist.
    • The Everything Guide to Online Genealogy  – Use the Web to trace your roots, share your history, and create a family tree (Everything Series).
    • Beyond the Basics: A Guide for Advanced Users of Family Tree Maker 2011
    • Professional Genealogy: A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers, and Librarians
    • The Troubleshooter’s Guide to Do-It-Yourself Genealogy: Advanced Techniques for Overcoming Obstacles, Removing Roadblocks, and Unlocking Your Family History!


Fun and Helpful Genealogy Products

  • Sony ICD-SX25 Digital Voice Recorder
  • Genealogy Confusion blue Family Fitted T-Shirt by CafePress
  • Executive Family History Binder
  • Wall Chart-Genealogy Of Jesus Christ (Laminated)
  • Genealogy Binders
  • Genealogy Text Mousepad