Veterans Memorial Library

Genealogy Research Part II: Advanced Searching with Online Sources


To review top Internet sites where reliable (and mostly free) genealogy information can be found.

To review Internet sites that provide genealogy message boards and mailing lists

To review general-purpose Internet directory sites that index genealogy sites.

To understand Internet searching techniques that can be helpful in locating family information


Online genealogy has revolutionized the field of genealogical and historical research.  Hunting your ancestors has never been easier, and more fraut with error and frustration. 

How Online Genealogy has revolutionized the field:



The most important element to consider is the difference between primary and secondary resources on the internet and on paper:

Primary Source Materials

Secondary Source Materials

Most genealogy on the web is secondary data.  You must consider all genealogy data to be
a key or a link to the primary source to further your research.

Evaluating a Secondary Source

Always maintain an attitude of skepticism regarding others' data. 
Always go to the primary source. 
Always properly cite your own research - it's easier to track where it came from.  Memory is  fragile.

1. Top Genealogy Internet Sites

Directories: These sites have been created by individuals and organizations to provide you with a "directory" approach to finding information. Genealogy links have been organized much like the index of a book where you look for a broad topic and then find subtopics or categories of the main topic. These can be a valuable way to save time in your search, as you are more likely to find sites that contain useful, reliable information. - Cyndi’s List is one of the largest Internet directories for genealogy links. Includes state, international, ethnic, military, and many more categories of sites. - RootsWeb is a free genealogy site supported by Links to many local history sites, search engines, message boards, mailing lists, and information on getting started. - Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne Indiana. Contains links to many state and international sources. Also includes a detailed listing of the materials at the Allen County Public Library. - The Genealogy Home Page. Links to worldwide resources, mailing lists and newsgroups, religious resources and more. - Ancestor Search. An Interactive Directory of 400 Genealogy Search Engines.  -  The Olive Tree Genealogy by Lorine McGinnis Schulze.

Clarke Historical Library -  Central Michigan University
    The Clarke Historical Library has a listing of its Michigan and US history holdings online, as
    well as a bibliography of materials on Native Americans. Presently, the library has online the
    scanned in 1884 County Histories for Isabella, Gratiot, Midland and other Michigan Counties.

Searchable Sites - Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Contains individual records, pedigree records, vital records, and the International Genealogical Index. Search a single set of records or all records plus the Internet. - Home page for the USGenWeb Project. This site is developed and maintained by volunteers and is designed to provide free access to state and county websites as well as tombstone (cemetery) records and census records. - Searchable index of immigrants arriving through Ellis Island. Time coverage is 1892 through 1924. - National Archives and Records Administration. Click on Genealogy in the pull down menu at the top of the page. Includes information on using census and immigration records.

Local History Links - Michigan Family History Network. Michigan vital records links, databases and biographical histories. Links to county sites can be found at - is the MIGenWeb site for Isabella County..

http://www.mifamilyhistory/isabella/native.html - Local Isabella Country links to Native American Resources. - Michigan Genealogical Death Indexing System.  Death records covering 1867 to 1884. 

2. Communication/E-mail sites

Message Boards and mailing lists are ways of communicating with others who are engaged in genealogy research and who may have information related to your search. Here are brief descriptions of the differences between these methods of communication:

Message Board: Provides a place for anyone to post a message a message regarding a surname or topic. There is no requirement to subscribe to that particular message board. Hosted by services like

Mailing List: You subscribe to a mailing list with others and are able to post and read message to and from this group. People not subscribed to the list will not see the messages. - provides tips for getting started, message boards, mailing lists, websites and more. It has the same message board as but also includes mailing lists. Click on "Mailing Lists" at the top of the screen. Sign up for email newsletters also. - message boards by surnames, U.S. States, countries, general topics, computers, and software.

Family Trees: Some sites allow you to create your own family tree or download software. - Within, you can click on "Online Family Tree" to get a form for posting your family tree to create and save your family tree at so it will become part of the Ancestry World Tree. You can also download family tree software to use on your computer. - Can enter your immediate family tree and then add to it. - Offers software (not free) and classes (free) on doing genealogy research. - You can submit your family tree to the Pedigree
Resource File, available online and in Family History Centers.

3. Newsletters, Online Columns and Magazines (E-Zines)  - Dear MYRTLE's Daily Genealogy Column.  -  Genealogy Etc. by
Donna Porter Phillips

"Along Those Lines..." - George G. Morgan's latest column.

Mic Barnette's Weekly Genealogy Columns

Cyndi's List: Magazines, Journals, Columns & Newsletters

Dick Eastman Online - Get the latest family history news and techniques from Dick Eastman

GC Extra - Liz Kerstens explores family history research via new technology in this added feature of Genealogical Computing magazine.

The Family History Compass - Juliana Smith makes family history easier with helpful tips and information

Family Tree Magazine
Each week, the staff of Family Tree Magazine e-mails brief but helpful research, organization and preservation tips free to genealogists and family historians

Missing Links
RootsWeb's Genealogy Journal which is sent out weekly and is read by over 390,000 genealogists from around the world.  By Julia M. Case and Myra Vanderpool Gormley.

4. Directories of Genealogy Information

Many general purpose web portals and subject directories also have a link to genealogy sites that have been reviewed by librarians or other researchers and have been found to be useful

Here are some of our favorite Internet directories to genealogy sites. Several of these directories will contain links to the same websites but there may be some variation in the depth and breadth of coverage as well as personal preference for ease of use.

Michigan Electronic Library (MEL) – - Click on the Genealogy link listed under Arts and Humanities.

Librarian’s Index to the Internet (LII) –  - Click on the Genealogy link listed under People.

Internet Public Library (IPL) – - Click on the Genealogy link listed under Reference Center.

Yahoo – - Follow the links Arts & Humanities>History>Genealogy. Continue to >Chats and Forums>Mailing Lists or >Usenet (newsgroups) for communication forums.

Google – - Click on the Directory tab. Follow the links to Society>Genealogy. Also has communication links under Chat and Message Boards.

5. Digital Collections on the Internet

Along with genealogical databases there are a significant number of digital image collections.  These collections help us to get a clearer picture of the daily lives of our ancestors.  This helps us to immerse
ourselves in the culture of the times that our ancestors lived in.  It is important not to bring 21st Century
viewpoints and experiences to 19th Century research.

    Making of America -
    Consists of the Making of America Journal Collection and the Making of America Book Collection.

    Library of Congress, The National Digital Library -

    American Memory Project -

   Michigan State University Libraries, Digital Sources Center -

   National Archives Archival Research Locator -

    University of Michigan Ditigal Library Project -

6. Understanding Internet Search Engines

Search engines are another way to find information on the Internet. Rather than linking to sites that have been reviewed by a person, a search engine searches a database of Internet files collected by a computer program (also called a robot, spider, wanderer, crawler, or worm). A search engine allows you to enter keywords relating to a topic in order to retrieve a list of Internet sites or "hits". Popular search engines include:  - Google  -  Altavista  -  Yahoo!  -  ALLTHEWEB  -  Dogpile - Metacrawler

Search engines allow you to enter very specific search terms such as family names, locations, etc. and find sites that may be useful. To improve your results with a search engine, try some of these tips:

All search engines have specific rules for submitting queries. Read the help feature or use an Advanced Search to help you better identify what you are looking for.

Search engines need spaces between words (the URLs don’t have any spaces). All search engines provide a "bar" for typing in your search terms and a search "button" for processing your search.

Phrases should be placed in double quotations. Some search engines allow you to check a box for phrase searching.

Examples: "john doe smith"

"lipsey family"

Use all lower case letters. Upper case (capital) letters will usually force an exact match and will return fewer results.

Altavista ( allows truncation searching. This technique can be used to search various forms of a word or name. Include the root of a name followed by an asterisk (*).

Example: lazar* - will locate lazarus, lazard, lazareff, lazaris, lazare.

Altavista and Google allow field searching which may help to narrow results. Fields that can be searched include titles, URLs, or text.

Altavista commands: title: lazar* AND family url: lazaris (no spaces for url search)

Google commands: in title:"smith family" in url:lazaris

Remember to try different variations of your search. Use terms with or without an "s", use phrases together with words, break a phrase apart or combine words into a phrase.

When to use this method: You should use a search engine when you have a narrow topic or idea to research, when you are looking for a specific site, or when you want to retrieve a large number of documents on your topic. Search engine databases are usually larger and more current than directory databases.

Additional Sites to Have Fun With!!

International Blacksheep Society of Genealogists - Looking for Baaad ancestors?

SmartDraw Genealogy Software - Draw Genealogy Charts, Family Trees, Pedigree Charts, Genograms, Ecomaps, and More  - Web Search for Genealogy

Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness - volunteer site for various kinds of lookups, from cemetery photos to public records lookups.

Copyright © 2003-2004 all rights reserved of original content by Monica A. Fox

Copyright © 2003-2004 all rights reserved of additional content and graphics by Donna Hoff-Grambau
Volunteers hold copyright to the material they have donated for this site.  Not to be copied and used in any format to any other site or in any other media. 


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