[ROOTS] Genealogy Research Online

Category: Reference

A reader asks: 'I have recently become interested in researching my relatives and ancestors, and creating a family tree. Can you recommend any good software or websites where I can do genealogy research?' Well, yes! Read on for some of the best online genealogy tools...

Research Your Family Tree

Roots, the 1977 television mini-series based on Alex Haley's book, sparked a renewed interest in genealogy for many people. Back in the 70's, learning about your ancestors was a tedious job. But now, personal computers and the Internet make it MUCH easier. Here are some of the best online resources for doing genealogical research and charting your family tree.

Ancestry.com is probably the first site you'll find when you search online for tools to help you research your family tree. It's a great resource, which I have used myself. But it's not free. The "U.S. Discovery" membership costs $20 a month. The "All Access" package adds international records and some other resources for $45 a month.


...is a comprehensive index to over 200,000 genealogical resources on the Internet. You'll find a list of links that point you to genealogical research sites, all categorized & cross-referenced. It's like a "card catalog" to the genealogical collection in the immense library that is the Internet.

family tree genealogy



The oldest and one of the most extensive genealogy sites on the Internet. It's purpose is to connect people so that they can help each other and share genealogical research. You'll find mailing lists, message boards, genealogy search engines, and much more.



An outstanding project that has pages for each state and each county in each US state with extensive links to applicable resources, query boards, surname lists, and most anything else imaginable. You can get to the county pages from the state pages, and to the state pages from the main page shown above.



A project similar to USGENWEB that has sites for every country other than the US. WorldGenWeb is a non-profit volunteer organization that is dedicated to the free use and access of public domain genealogical information. Resources include query pages, message boards, mailing lists, census records, cemetery records, biographies, bibliographies, and family/surname registration websites.



Live Roots is a meta-search engine for genealogy enthusiasts. Searches a bunch of genealogy databases at once, and presents the results on a single page.



Steve Morse's One-Step Web Pages help you drill down into genealogy databases—passenger records, census collections, vital records and more—and let you search them from a single, flexible yet simple interface.



The LDS Church operates this site that allows you to access the the top level documentation available from the LDS archives. Obviously it would be a huge job to put their millions of microfilm records online, but what they have available is an excellent starting point for anyone contemplating use of their resources.



If one of your ancestors came to the USA by way of the Statue of Liberty on Ellis Island, search their name and you can access his or her records in some detail. I was impressed that the database allows you to search using last name, ethnicity, name of town they left, year of arrival and more. You can even see a copy of the ship's manifest listing their names!



If you're looking to fill out your family tree? Go to the Relative Finder site, a database of several million dead and living persons, and their relationships to one another.



You can also check the Social Security Administration Death Index to search for information on deceased persons. (It will ask for your name and email address to access the records. You can enter real or fake info there to get past that roadblock.)


Genealogy Software

Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. What tools have you found helpful when doing family tree research? Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "[ROOTS] Genealogy Research Online"

Posted by:

Mary C Miller
25 Apr 2017

I tried a couple of these that searched Ellis Island and both ended up wanting money to acquire the record.

Posted by:

25 Apr 2017

I tried a couple of these that searched Ellis Island and both ended up wanting money to acquire the record.

Posted by:

Ken Mitchell
25 Apr 2017

Two points; There's an open-source genealogy program called GRAMPS https://gramps-project.org/ as an alternative to Family Tree Maker.

Second, this is why nobody should EVER use a "security question" of "Mother's maiden name" on a web site; if you or ANY of your relatives have ever posted their family tree online, there's a good chance that those genealogical answers are findable. If you ever are REQUIRED to use such a security question, make up a name and use it everywhere.

Posted by:

25 Apr 2017

I live in Canada and I know that my local library subscribes to Ancestry. With my library card I am able to access the most of the site from home, there are some features of Ancestry that to access I need to go to the library. People interested in Ancestry but are shy of the cost might want to check to see if their local library subscribes.

Posted by:

25 Apr 2017

I live in Canada and I know that my local library subscribes to Ancestry. With my library card I am able to access the most of the site from home, there are some features of Ancestry that to access I need to go to the library. People interested in Ancestry but are shy of the cost might want to check to see if their local library subscribes.

Posted by:

25 Apr 2017

You can also submit your DNA on Ancestry which will connect you with many relatives. From there be sure to download your DNA and enter it on GEDmatch.com, even more relatives. GEDmatch is free. There are other sites such as 23&me you can use. GEDmatch recognizes most DNA downloads.

Posted by:

Carl D
25 Apr 2017

I used Family Tree Maker for many years, and others before that. About 6 months ago, I moved to Roots Magic 7. This is far superior to any others I have tried for Software programs. I would give it an "A"!

Posted by:

Mike Higgins
25 Apr 2017

As a volunteer with FamilySearch for the past 5 years, I would like to provide some additional information. There are Family History Centers (FHC's)...and Affiliated Public Libraries (AFL's) in most major and some smaller cities where volunteers are available...always free. to assist. At the FHC's (AFL's have their own), you can access Ancestry and many other subscription genealogy websites at no cost. They are digitizing their vast microfilm library as quickly as they can...many are now available on line...for free...and from your own home...the rest will be coming, hopefully soon. If not digitized, the microfilms can be ordered at a very nominal fee, and sent to a FHC or AFL where they can be researched. In going to the website, be sure to go to familysearch.org (not .com, etc) or you may wind up where you don't want to be! There is also a Wiki page with much information/assistance at https://familysearch.org/wiki/en/Main_Page

Posted by:

25 Apr 2017

I subscribe to Ancestry.com. I have found other related trees that have allowed me to add to mine. Very helpful.
Also use other services that supplement & add to Ancestry info, free stuff.
Prior to using 23&me, I suggest running an internet search, I found some problems.
For DNA testing, I had used Ancestry (twice) & NGS. Ancestry has been advertising lower prices lately.

Posted by:

25 Apr 2017

Another site I have found very helpful is Findagrave.com This site is a database of cemeteries posted by individuals. Many of the memorials also have pictures posted of the gravesite. It is also possible to link family members to each other by linking their parents a spouses. It is completely free.

Posted by:

25 Apr 2017

As an avid genealogist I can safely say that the best source of information on your past family is the LDS library. So much of the information you will run into on Ancestry is unsubstantiated and down right false. If your going to spend the time doing genealogy do it correctly and have proof for every item on your tree. Do not take something from someone else's tree unless it is proven correct. I've been doing genealogy for over 40 years and cant tell you how many times I've had to go back and completely redo a line because I put down something someone else furnished that wasn't true. That being said I do, however, recommend Ancestry with the stated understanding. However be warned it isn't cheap. Family Search is free and offers lots to the genealogist not only online but at any of their libraries.

Posted by:

25 Apr 2017

Thanks, Bob - This is a wonderful article.

My oldest daughter is really into the Genealogy of our family on both sides, my Hubby, and mine. On my side, she has traced my father's family tree back to Robert the Bruce!!! On my mother's side, she found that one of my great-grandfathers was a personal bodyguard to General Washington during the Revolutionary War.

Learning our background is very interesting. However, it does take hours and hours of researching to get the information. My daughter has found many family members that we didn't know about, who share their information with her and she helps them fill in the blanks in their trees. Yes, it can cost money, but most of the time it is just researching the Internet. It can be a lifelong search but a very rewarding one.

Posted by:

26 Apr 2017

My Grandmother on my Dad's side traced our roots back to colonial days but she stopped there because she found out than one ancestor was hanged for treason. LOL

Posted by:

Bruce W
26 Apr 2017

My wife used FamilyTreeNsker in the past, but now used RootsNagic almost exclusively.

Its files are compatible with atheist Access database program, do she can create customized queries and even automate certain types of updates.

Highly recommended.

Posted by:

26 Apr 2017

RE: FamilySearch.org
You mention, "Obviously it would be a huge job to put their millions of microfilm records online," and you are correct. However, you can go to that site and volunteer to work on that effort. Billions of records have already been indexed and billions more await work. All you do is read the microfilm image and type it in. It's all done online and you can spend minutes to hours working on it. Every little bit helps!

Posted by:

Paul S
26 Apr 2017

Be careful to consider "alternate facts" due to misspelling a name. My sister's name is misspelled in the Social Security Death Index. When contacted to correct the information the response was "We won't make a change because we aren't paying her any longer." Logical perhaps, but not helpful for genealogical research purposes.

Posted by:

Tom S.
26 Apr 2017

One to add to the software list, that I've used for years: Legacy Family Tree (www.legacyfamilytree.com)
I found it easy to learn, and it comes in both Standard (free) and Deluxe versions. Worth checking out!

Posted by:

Wilf Comeau
27 Apr 2017

I must totally agree with Jim who posted on April25, prove each Document you receive, otherwise
you will be in the wrong garden. It took me three years to document records through Provincial Archives, Church Records, Provincial Cemeteries
and Military records, that only got me back to my
Great Grandfather and Grandmother. My older sister
and a cousin went through Ancestry and ended up
buying a book of information dating back to Roman
days with similar family names but wrong information. The proper path is hard work and determination.

Posted by:

Cara Rogers
02 May 2017

I've subscribed to Ancestry for about 8 years and it's been worth every dime. I have several family lines that go back to the 1400's. One thing anyone researching has to know is to ALWAYS have an accurate resource of the information you collect. As for software, I've have several and Legacy is by far the best and worth the money. There are too many genealogy sites that are very dangerous in so far as stealing your personal information so if it looks too good to be true, it probably isn't the site you want to be on. Great article Bob Thanks

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