Using Rootsweb

By Mary Harrell-Sesniak
“Genealogy is not just a pastime; it’s a passion.”

Genealogy Favorites and Freebies. Everyone has favorites, and I am no exception, especially when it comes to free genealogy websites. They don’t completely replace subscription sites but are a wonderful starting point for your research.

RootsWeb, of course, is my top pick, not because I am associated with it, but because it is rich with genealogical tools and has an extraordinary network of user-contributed content, mailing lists, and message boards.

There are too many features to cover them all, but my top picks include the Obituary Daily Times and family trees at WorldConnect, along with these additional resources.

Blank Charts and Forms
Index of All Search Engines and Databases
Message Boards
Newsletters —RootsWeb Review and Ancestry Weekly Discovery
RootsWeb MetaSearch —Searches multiple engines
RootsWeb Surname List (RSL)
Social Security Death Index (SSDI)
U.S. Town and County Database

When asked which sites are best outside of RootsWeb, I typically answer, “It depends what you are looking for.” Try to focus on locations, events, or specific topics. A nice site for surname and location links is Linkpendium , developed by Karen Isaacson and Brian (Wolf) Leverich, co-founders of RootsWeb. And these are some military links of interest.

Civil War Soldiers & Sailors
Daughters of the American Revolution Genealogical Research System (GRS)
National Archives and Records Administration—Genealogists Archival Research Catalog

A nice selection of vital record transcriptions and images can be found at FamilySearch , the website for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS).

And here are some more free sites, organized by categories.

Google Books

Cemetery Databases:
Find A Grave (burials, bios and photos) (burial data only)
Political Graveyard (politicians only)
U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs Gravesite Locator (includes many spouses)

Immigration & Passenger Lists:
Castle Garden
Olive Tree
1-Step Webpages by Steve Morse (searches other sites)

Land Records:
Bureau of Land Management

Queries and Message Boards:
Cousin Connect

Who Do You Think You Are? —Learn search techniques followed in tracing the ancestry of celebrities

In addition to these suggestions, look to state archives and local genealogical and historical societies. Many will feature content specific to their area or direct you to related sites.

Finally, there is one more freebie, which may surprise you. Many subscription sites, such as, offer free databases, which are located by entering the keyword free into the card catalog. Among the freebies you’ll find at, are a variety of census records, New York Passenger Lists, 1820–1957 and the U.S. Naturalization Record Indexes, 1791–1992 (indexed by the World Archives Project).

A search of the Internet will uncover additional lists of favorites and freebie genealogy sites, including ProGenealogists list of the 50 Most Popular Genealogy Sites for 2011. Your lists of favorites may differ from these, so feel free to let us know what your favorites are at RootsWeb and around the Web!

Permission to reprint articles from RootsWeb Review is granted unless specifically stated otherwise, provided: the reprint is used for non-commercial, educational purposes; andthe following notice appears at the end of the article: Previously published in RootsWeb Review: 14 September 2011, Vol. 14, No. 9.

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