In the not-to-distant past, conducting genealogy research meant spending hours searching through old files in libraries and archives, sifting through conflicting accounts, and searching for records that were often thousands of miles away.
Today, thanks to the Internet, you can do almost all of your research while sitting at your computer. Birth, marriage, and death records going back hundreds of years have been digitalized and can be found online. You can finish work, play a few online casino South Africa games to wind down, and then proceed with your research without ever leaving your desk.
How to Use the Internet for Researching Your Genealogy
If you’re going to set out on a genealogy journey, prepare beforehand so that you won’t waste your time. Make a list of what you already know and what you want to search for. Bookmark the different search sites, find a good family tree program to store the information that you will uncover, and get ready for an adventure that will teach you about your roots.
1. Oral History
Even with all the modern technological tools, the advice to collect as much information as possible through oral transmission is as valid today as it ever was. Not only will such information save you time but it will give you a place from which to start. Speak to all your relatives to find out what they know – names, immigration dates, even old family legends. Write everything down and keep it in a file so that you can use it as the base on which to expand your family tree.
You might also ask elderly relatives if you can search around their homes. Written records are often stored in family Bibles, in basements and attics, and even inside old photo albums. Again, the more information that you have with which to start, the more fruitful your online search will be.
2. DNA Testing
DNA testing is an increasingly popular method of discovering your ancestry as well as other relatives who you may not have even known existed. There are pros and cons to doing a commercial DNA test. The obvious advantages are that it facilitates genealogy research and provides information that may help you recognize any pre-dispositions to health issues. The drawbacks involve ethics – the fact that authorities may, one day, access your DNA information and use it to deny you health care or use it for law enforcement purposes.
The decision about whether or not to have your DNA tested is yours. But if you’re interested in family history, getting the results of your DNA can help you go beyond what you can learn from historical documentation or relatives. It can tell you where your ancestors came from and more about your ethnicity.
3. Search for Records
The search for records to tell you about your family history is the heart of genealogical research. Birth, marriage, immigration, naturalization, voter registration, census, military, death, and other records can provide a wealth of information about previous generations. How does the Internet help with that search?
There are a number of free sites that you can use for your search. One site that’s chock-full of information is the Morman Church’s FamilySearch.org. The Mormons have been collecting records from around the world for decades. Millions of these records have been digitalized and more are being digitalized at a pace of tens of millions of records every week.
In the catalog of genealogical materials you’ll find online records, microfilm and microfiche of many birth, marriage, divorce, and death records, records of Christenings, war service records, estate files, probate records, poll tax cards, voter registrations, Church records, pension applications, court records, discharge records, service cards, naturalization records, vital records, draft registration cards, passenger lists, travel documents, passport applications, baptism records, obituaries and more.
Ancestry is another website where you can view hundreds of millions of records for free. The website offers more, useful information with a paid subscription but there are plenty of free features that let you know if the site has records that might be of interest to you – at that point, you do need to take out a paid subscription to access those records. Their database lists their 32,000 records collections You can filter according to the parameters of your search and see previews of the records.
You can also access the public member trees to see if information that you have about ancestors matches that of another Ancestry member. Ancestry offers a library of free how-to videos that give you step-by-step instructions for conducting research and information on sister sites where you can expand your search (Rootsweb.com and FindaGrave.com. Archives.com has more than 11 billion digitized records but you must pay to use it).
6. Family Tree Software
At some point, your life will become much easier if you purchase some family tree software. The software allows you to keep track of the information that you discover in an organized and methodical manner. You can share the family tree with anyone else that you want and upload it to DNA research sites so that possible newly-discovered relatives can locate you and you can locate them.
7. Genealogical Societies
Genealogical societies, many of which are on social media, offer excellent opportunities for you to information-share and network with other genealogists. You can join a general genealogical research organization or you can find a society that specializes in the ethnicity for which you are searching.
Other members of the society can help you decode, decipher or translate old documents, give you direction when you get stuck, and generally encourage you as you meet stumbling blocks. You can get referrals to professionals who can help you, oftentimes people who live on the other side of the world and can work for you to locate physical records that have not yet been digitalized.
Curiosity about our roots is universal but today, you can do most, if not all of your genealogical research online.