By Debra DuPree Williams @DDuPreeWilliams
If you’ve read my blog for a while, you know that part of its focus is on genealogy. As I’ve said, I’m not a professional genealogist. Like most of you, I began with a curiosity about where I came from . . . where my roots are. My journey began back in the 1990s when we moved to Florida and I met the regent of my local DAR chapter, a fellow-member of our church choir.
I had no clue where the road would lead me but believe me when I tell you, I’ve been on more pot-hole-filled, back-woods-country-roads than I ever thought possible. I’ve gotten lost more than once. I’ve driven over rain-slicked, red clay roads, over briar and bramble, and trudged through the thickest, insect-infested woods in south Alabama. All for the sake of finding the final resting place of a long-forgotten ancestor.
I Found Her!
Let me tell you, the thrill of seeing that person’s name carved into a piece of stone has been worth every single scratch and bite I’ve gotten. And, not once have I gotten into poison ivy. Thank you, Lord.
When I began this genealogy journey, I didn’t even have a cell phone. I was one of the last holdouts for the new technology. I’m still not very tech savvy, but I’m learning something new every day, and I’m not intimidated by such these days. I’m doing my best to embrace all of these tools as the helpful friends they are. But I want you to have an easier time than I had, so today I’m giving you my top choices for help in beginning your ancestor search. I hope you find these sites useful
My Top 5:
Did you know that Ancestry is the most widely-used site of all? Yes, you do have to pay for it and it’s not cheap, but you can get fourteen days for free. I suggest you make a list of the people about whom you’d most like to learn something, then do a search. But beware—you must proceed with caution as not all of the information you find in a tree will be accurate. After all, it is added by amateurs for the most part. Here’s my rule: if it isn’t documented, don’t add it. Then go do your own research for any document that will help you identify this person through deeds, marriage records, death records, birth (if you can find it), wills, court proceeding, etc. Since you may not want to join, be sure to print the pages you find and save them in a file folder. Believe me, you may never find them again, so be sure to print the pages or take a screen shot of your findings. I've been a member of Ancestry for many, many years and I like it. It offers a variety DNA information once you've tested with them.
USGenWeb Project ()
This one is free. It has resources for every US state and most counties within those states. Content will vary from state to state and county to county. Common records you may find include cemetery and marriage records. You may also add your own records here, but please make sure they are documented.
National Archives and Records Administration (NARA): https://archives.gov
Another free site. It’s where the government stores most federal military, census, and immigration records. There are many things available here that you may not find anywhere else. Some are digitized.
Free. One of the best free sites out there. Here you may search millions of digitized and indexed records from around the world. Be sure to check out the Learn tab. You can even rent microfilmed records for use at your local FamilySearch Center. And, add your own family tree. Again, be sure it is well documented.
Another free resource. If your library offers this, it is a great source. You’ll find Revolutionary War records, US census records, local and family history books, even articles. Know that you will have to sign up with a user name and password.
This is a new one to me, but when I jumped in and began looking around, I found it to be a great place for the beginning genealogist. It covers quite a variety of topics and answers some of those questions that most of us will have at one time or another. Enter genealogy basics into the search box. You'll find many articles about how to get started.
These are just a few of the sources I’ve used at one time or another as I’ve searched for my ancestors. I didn’t add it to this list because it seems so obvious, but don’t forget to do a Google search. You never know what may show up. I hope you find that elusive ancestor, that brick wall. Happy hunting.
Have you begun a genealogy journey? Tell us your favorite sites below. I'm always looking for sources of good information.
Digging Up Dirt—My Top 5 Resources @DDuPreeWilliams (Click to Tweet)
Bonus Sites to Check Out:
Family Tree Magazine https://www.familytreemagazine.com
Find a Grave http://www.findagrave.com
Cyndi’s List http://cyndisliist.com