RootsTech 2015

Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Sunday, July 28, 2013

My Current Top Ten U.S. Databases for Tracing My Family Tree -- Sort of

Yes, this is a post in response to Kimberly Powell's About.com article with almost exactly the same name. Her article is "Top 10 U.S. Databases for Tracing Your Family Tree." Although this just popped up today, I think it may be a little out-dated. But it is a good place to start and About.com has a lot of really helpful articles. My own list differs significantly from Kimberly's but does have some of the same websites. I will let you go to Kimberly's article to see her list rather than copy it here.

My first selections include the Big Three U.S. databases:

Ancestry.com
FamilySearch.org
WorldVitalRecords.com

Since I have just written about all three of these sites in the last little while, I will forego any further comments. They all have huge databases of digitized and indexed records to research. Both Ancestry.com and WorldVitalRecords.com put their records right up front on their websites. If you go to FamilySearch.org, click on the Search link, at the top of the startup page, to see the records. FamilySearch has a recent tendency to downplay (hide) the source records, but they are still there.

Now, where would I go next? Well, I would do a Google search for the names I was looking for (sometimes adding the word "genealogy" to the name helps). Then I would search in Google Books for any written or published family histories about the surnames in my research file. Then I would look in WorldCat.org for additional published material about the names and families I am searching for. But, technically, these are genealogy databases, even though they contain endless information about my family.

But back to dedicated databases. What could possibly be next after the Big Three?

Unless you have ancestors in the military, Fold3.com (formerly Footnote.com) now a part of Ancestry.com, is not that helpful, but it does have some valuable records. Very few of my ancestors served in the military, so this isn't a big source for me personally, but it always helps to check. Likewise, I find the U.S. Archives website to be archaic and virtually unusable. So I would have to disagree with Kimberly on both of these sites.  Also, I might note that the Family Tree Connection, listed by Kimberly, has been merged into the Genealogy Today Subscription Data Collections.

By the way, the LDS Family History Centers have many of the subscription services online for free for use in the Centers.

Hmm. I have only gotten three sites listed so far. What could be next? Well, here is my real practice. I don't find any of the other databases listed by Kimberly Powell to be "must use" sources. I do use the U.S. Gen Web and RootsWeb (also owned by Ancestry.com) but I would not consider either of them to be go-to places initially for research because most of their information is unsourced and further, shows up in Google searches.

I guess I am struggling to come up with a list. But I do have some more suggestions.

How about Mocavo.com? I don't think this genealogy search engine is a database, but it is certainly valuable. For searching newspapers, how about Elephind.com? This search engine searches the Library of Congress Chronicling America database and many others. I would also have to rank Archive.org and the Hathi Trust as hugely important for genealogists, but they aren't genealogy databases either, but they have huge resources including Archive.org's complete 1790 through 1930 U.S. Census records and the U.S. Census Soundex. Let's not forget Cyndi's List. Cyndi has a hugely valuable source of listings in every conceivable category.

I also like sites such as ProGenealogists.com (also part of Ancestry.com) for the lists of links they have to genealogy sites.

This is getting serious, I haven't made it to number four on my list yet. There are a lot of digitized newspaper sites, some free, some subscription, and I use as many as I can, but none of them are so comprehensive as to be singled out except perhaps the ones on WorldVitalRecords.com. I am starting to repeat myself, I fear.

Of course, as long as I am mentioning huge websites, I must include Trove.nla.gov.au and Europeana.eu. Oops, we were talking about the U.S. weren't we.

Well, I'll think about it some more and see if I can come up with seven more U.S. databases to search.

9 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Oops. I know better than that, however the address is trove.nla.gov.au

      Delete
    2. Oopsie from me as well. I have it as a shortcut in my browser which gets around the pesky problem of knowing where it is.

      Delete
  2. James, you note "Although this just popped up today, I think it may be a little out-dated." It is at least older than October, 2010, when Ancestry.com bought footnote.com and renamed it. Ms. Powell's list includes Footnote.com as one of her favorites.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Have you considered doing a review of the customer service track records of the databases that require paid memberships? For instance, how does WorldVital Records compare to Newspaperarchives, which has a less than pitiful record?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well on problem with that approach is the extreme variation in customer satisfaction with various websites based on the user's personal experience. I get the entire gamut of responses from people about every genealogy website. It is really hard to come to a consistent viewpoint. I field detractors of Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, MyHeritage.com and about every other website out there.

      Delete
  4. On GenSoftReviews, a reviewer has just posted: "When I first started with MyHeritage I didn’t know what I was doing. Thanks to the many features MyHeritage has I have been able to go back to about 840 AD with my family genealogy." Not my own experience with MyHeritage, though - not even close to 840 AD!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  5. At the TXFannin GenWeb, we show up in Google searches because we have transcribed all of our 12,455 obits and any print images to make them accessible to screen readers and to search engines. We source all of our data and we research "inherited data" for which we do not have sources. We spend hours and hours researching and adding sources only to have you tell your readers not bother because we have so little of value to offer.

    You must realize the influence you carry in the genealogy community. I hope you realize the damage you have done to those of us who are really trying out here and will now have fewer site visitors based on your recommendation not to bother with us.

    There are many USGenWeb sites as good as or better than mine. There are also many which could use some serious work but it is not fair to paint us all with the same brush. Many of us strive to be the "go to site" for initial research you describe. You've now made our efforts that much harder.

    Suzie Henderson
    TXFannin.org

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am so sorry I painted the entire USGenWeb with such a broad brush. As you point out, some of the sites are carefully documented. My mistake was lumping the USGenWeb in with RootsWeb. See my subsequent post.

      Delete