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The intent of this document is to describe how to do genealogical research using mostly free Internet resources. I hope that you will find some family information immediately. Genealogy research can be time consuming and require study, but there is much that you can do on the Internet that is fast and easy. Let's do the fast and easy things first. We will see how to use e-mail, e-mail lists, and message boards to find and communicate with relatives and other researchers. The most important online internet resources will be identified which contain census and vital statistics information. I hope that you will be able to access these databases and, within minutes, find information about your family.

I have tried to be general in the discussion to describe types or resources and how you find them rather than list 200,000 specific web sites as is done at CyndisList.com. However, I have detailed many examples that relate to my own British American interests.

The most powerful feature of web pages is their ability to have links that will take you to other web pages. This is good when you are linked to useful web sites, but there are many sites that are just list of links to other sites and a lot of those links go to Ancestry.com. Ancestry.com has an affiliate program where they pay a commission to sites that link to them. Many of these links imply free access which turn out to be Ancestry.com's free trial subscription where you must register and provide a credit card number. This affiliate scheme is confusing to innocent users. Don't get it wrong, Ancestry.com is a very professional organization and their free trail subscription is a great offer, but the web of 3rd party links to their site are often misleading.  There are Ancestry.com affiliate links on this page, but they are clearly labeled as Ancestry.com.

Another common type of web site is the type that provides a surname or family search capability that automatically generates searches of the popular genealogy sites. There are numerous sites like this and they tend to all tend to be affiliates of Ancestry.com and provide a number of links to Ancestry.com.

Although I want to define the basic steps to do Internet genealogy, I don't want to describe the basic steps of genealogy in general. That has been done many times before and you will find excellent descriptions at

I also do not want to describe how to research paper documents. That has also been done many time before. Many archives describe their documents on their web sites. Example are

I have not described basic Internet terminology here. If you are not familiar with basic Internet issues such as viruses, spam and netiquette, refer to Cyndi's List page entitled Internet Stuff You Need to Know at www.cyndislist.com/internet.htm. I have not described basic computer and genealogy software issues here. For references to these topics see www.cyndislist.com/software.htm.

RAOGKI don't want to say much about looking up paper records, but you should be aware of a group of volunteers know as RAOGK Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness with a web site at
www.raogk.org.

Maintain a Healthy Skepticism

Although it is a basic rule of genealogical research, it should be emphasized that you need to maintain a healthy skepticisms when you find records. Published records seem to achieve an unrealistic status or legitimacy just because they are published.  Some people incorrectly assume that information published on the Internet is automatically correct. Everyone should realize that anyone can put information on the Internet and much of that information might be incorrect. The problem is not only on small web sites. Major sites such as www.FamilySearch.org and www.Ancestry.com accept contributed GEDCOM files from anyone. The www.FamilySearch.org web site adds the following warning when Ancestry File data is displayed.

  • The information has not been verified against any official records.

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