Being part of a family takes a lot of work: keeping in touch with everyone, planning a wedding, working on your marriage, becoming a parent, and caring for your loved ones old and young can be a challenge greater than one person can handle. We've put together a collection of Web sites that can act as a family counselor, genealogist, storyteller, long-lost friend or relative finder, and even personal organizer.
Researching your genealogy is about more than becoming your family's own private detective. Your ancestry can help you determine your risk for certain health problems, find long-lost relatives, and even unearth a distant connection to a royal family. Well, maybe finding fourth cousins and a history of heart disease are more likely than discovering your rightful claim to the Welsh throne, but you can always hope.
- The Census Bureau does not make census information about individuals publicly available until 72 years after it is collected. For more information from the Census Bureau, take a look at this site.
- Starting a search for your family's history is a good time to ask an older relative about the good old days. See if you can get specific names, dates, and details about your family's history that may help you discover more family later on. The more specific your information is to begin with, the easier your search will be.
- Checking online family trees might be more helpful than you think. If you share a common ancestor with another genealogist, some of your work may already have been done for you.
will immediately prompt you to enter your name so you can build a family tree. Click on the arrow next to your name to add a brother, sister, mother, father, or child, and then click on that person to branch out further. Geni will automatically fill in the last names as it sees fit (but you can easily fix them). It's so fast and simple that it's almost addictive. Your Geni family tree is confidential, but you can share it with anyone by sending them an e-mail invitation.
has a downloadable software search tool to help you discover your ancestry. You can build a family tree (complete with pictures of family members), and create a Web page to keep in touch, share pictures, and organize events. The community aspect of the site allows you to search for your ancestors among the family trees already on the site. Results for searches are moderate at best. Many of the family trees are private, so verifying the identity of an ancestor is difficult if not impossible.
has some helpful research guidance for clues to your family history as well as tips on how to track your progress as you find your ancestors. Check out the list of helpful Web sites that can aid in your search
. FamilySearch has free software to help track your family history. This site is from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in association with the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.
has some great tools to help you get your ancestry search started. For a fee you can access their records, or create a family tree for free here, and get in touch with other ancestry researchers like yourself. If you created a family tree using software from another Web site, you can upload it here as well. The general search feature for this site is better than the others because you can search for family trees, public documents, photos, and more. You may also get a "Did you know?" fun fact about the name or person you are searching for.
is a huge categorized index of some of the sites on the Web that will help you in your genealogy research. Not all of these sites will be useful to you, and sifting through them will take quite a while. If you are looking for a very specific type of site and haven't had any luck in other places, this might be worth a try. If you are looking for help, browse the index or read the frequently asked questions that are posted on the left-hand side of the screen (you have to scroll to get to them).
The National Archives
has a "Genealogists/Family Historians" section with tools and tips to help aid in your search for genealogical information. There is a "What genealogical records are online?" section that will show you what information you can expect to get from researching online.
The USGen Web Project
is a volunteer-edited free service hosted by rootsweb.com
. It is designed to provide resources for researching genealogy for each state and county in the United States. Expect to do a lot of clicking around on this site, as it's organized pretty badly, but you might find a good resource or two for the county you are searching. Along with sites that directly relate to genealogy, you will find census data, maps, and historical data. If you'd like to see the worldwide version of this project, visit www.worldgenweb.org
My Family Health Portrait
is a tool from the U.S. Surgeon General to help you track your family's health history and figure out how best to approach disease prevention.
About.com's Genealogy Relationship Chart
is a tool to help you figure out how two people in your family are related. Confused about whether you are third cousins three times removed or second cousins four times removed? You'll find the answer here.
The Family Tree DNA Project
will analyze your DNA to look for genetic links to unknown relations. Send away for a kit (they start at $121 and increase in price from there), and find out if you have any distant relatives already in the database.
The Genographic Project
operates in collaboration with National Geographic to try and trace human migratory patterns through the collection of DNA. You can buy a kit for about a hundred dollars to have your DNA analyzed; you will then be able to access information about the migration of your genes through time and location. This project is not about the medical information contained in DNA, but concerned with the movement of certain peoples throughout history.
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