Family Tree Magazine’s September 2010 issue announced their choices for the 101 best websites of the year. This year magazine editors chose to highlight free websites—or at least those that don’t charge for the website’s primary offering.
As the size of the World Wide Web grows boundlessly, I don’t envy the job Family Tree Magazine’s editors face each year. Here’s a brief zip through their categories, with some comments and a couple of additions of my own. Click on the category name to see all the sites on their list.
- BYU Family History Archives – This collection of genealogy books has grown to more than 17,000 items. I think some of these are FamilySearch Family History Library (FHL) reference books previously available only at reference desks. For example, use “1790-1840 Census register : a listing of Family History Library microfilm numbers for the 1790-1840 United States Federal Census population schedules” to convert federal census films between FHL film numbers and National Archives (NARA) roll numbers.
- FamilySearch.org – What more can I say? <smile>
- RootsWeb.com’s WorldConnect remains my favorite GEDCOM publishing site. And don’t forget its message boards—still a favorite spot to seek genealogical help.
- Ancestry.com doesn’t fit within the parameters for this year’s best websites, but it has some freebies that are better than the equivalents on qualifying sites.
- Ancestry Member Trees keep getting better and better. To get a free account and build a free tree, start at www.ancestry.com. Click on Start my tree and Ancestry.com will walk you through the steps. If you are not interested in a subscription, don’t accept the free trial.
- The Ancestry.com Wiki: The Source and the Redbook in digital format.
- Did you know that not all the free Google newspapers are accessible via the Google News Archive Search webpage? I don’t think that page returns results for the Salt Lake City, Utah Deseret News historic archive, even though it is powered by Google. It contains images of issues from 15 June 1850 to 30 December 1988. The archive includes The Church News insert, which included ministerial appointments for Latter-day Saint congregations (wards and stakes).
- Bureau of Land Management General Land Office Records and
- Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System are great resources for ancestors that bought land from the Federal government or served in the Civil War.
- You are not likely to find your ancestor’s name in the American Memory collection of the Library of Congress, but you may find online maps, newspapers, photographs, and other resources that can add color to your ancestors’ stories.
- I second Family Tree Magazine’s selection of the NationalAtlas.gov U.S. atlas.
- We’ve all seen and used USGS maps. US Topo is the modern replacement and will be available as free PDF files. Check out the states currently available.
- The Geographic Name Information System (GNIS) let’s you find the location of places otherwise difficult to locate. Links to the Census Bureau’s Tiger Map Server are currently broken while the 2010 census is processed.
- The Mountain West Digital Library is a consortium of digital collections from libraries, historical societies, and universities in Utah and surrounding states. You might find your ancestor on this site, but you can definitely learn more about their world. Some of the many collections:
- Early Las Vegas Nightclubs (I threw that one in to keep you non-locals interested :-)
- Charles R. Savage historic photographs
- Early Latter-day Saint publication collections
- Nevada in Maps
- Overland Trail collections
- Community collections such as Provo Historical Images and Orem Heritage Museum
- Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps
- Topaz Japanese-American Relocation Center
- University of Utah Photograph Archives
- Upper Snake River Valley Idaho Histories
- Utah State Historical Society Classified Photograph Collection
- William Edward Hook Glass Negative Collection
- Google Book Search – This place is incredible. But don’t limit your searches to your family names or you’ll miss gems like these:
- Puzzled by old words? Use contemporary dictionaries from 1756, 1823, obsolete words of 1834, 1838 (Latin), 1857, and 1883.
- Old issues of genealogy journals like The Register, Vol. 69 and Ancestry Magazine.
- The 1790 Census (OCR Index)
- State records such as Vermont Records of the Governor and Council, vol: …, 6, 7, 8, …
- WPA projects like Utah: A Guide to the State and Inventory of Town and City Archives of Rhode Island.
- Classic genealogy books like Vital Records of Rhode Island and Savage’s Genealogical Dictionary.
- Internet Archive – In addition to the Wayback Machine, the archive’s book collection includes a Genealogy Collection and images of U.S. Federal Censuses!
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- The Ancestry Insider – Wow! This is an honor. Or a typo. Probably the latter. Seriously, Family Tree Magazine editors provided me early encouragement. Their continued support means a great deal.
As does yours.