you’ve compiled your data, and enlisted the help of relatives, it’s time to
turn to online resources. There are
several major genealogy websites which offer both free and member-only
information. You can search the Social
Security Death Index for free on several sites, which is very useful for
learning the vital statistics of many twentieth-century ancestors. You should also check out the online
resources provided by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (aka the
Mormon Church) because the Church has compiled genealogical data on millions of
people. It’s free to use their site,
which has a powerful search engine.
There are also local branches of Family History Centers, also provided
by the LDS Church, in which you can examine rolls
of microfilm containing original census data from all available censuses (up to
1930) and other official data.
addition to searching for records, most online resources also contain message
boards and forums, designated by surname or specific geographical location. You can enter a query about an individual or
branch of your family, and find other people researching the same name. It’s quite possible to make connections with
distant cousins in this manner, and ultimately to obtain copies of records or
photos that they might possess.
extremely useful reason to begin your research online is that many sites have
lists of volunteers who will photograph cemeteries or landmarks, look up
records in their local courthouses, or complete other types of research where
they live. This allows you to gain
valuable artifacts without having to travel.
People in the genealogy community tend to help each other out, and these
volunteers will often do the research and mail it to you for only the cost of
copies, film development, and postage.
Just make sure to give specific questions, not instructions like, “Find
everything you can on the O’Connell family.”
cautionary note: like anything else on
the Internet, the information presented is only as good as the person who
submitted it. Many people post their
family trees with little or no verification (especially those who claim links
to royal families), so use caution before integrating this information into
your own data. However, this warning
doesn’t apply to official, digitized versions of government documents – like
census, Social Security or other official vital information – whose accuracy
can generally be depended upon. Also,
many of the trees uploaded to the Web by researchers contain contact data, so
you should always email the user and ask specific questions about their