Guest Author - Kim Lynch
Genealogy is a wonderful and fascinating field. We all have a history.
The PBS series "Faces of America" and the NBC series "Just Who Do You Think You Are?" explore the family history of famous Americans. Both of these shows make it appear that compiling a genealogy is fast and easy. "Just Who Do You Think You Are?" has highlighted Ancestry.com as a frequent source. While Ancestry provides access to many useful tools including census records, birth and death records for a limited number of states, selected newspapers, etc. They do not hold the key to everything.
There is a well known saying that "Genealogy without documentation is mythology." Many sites including Ancestry.com, Rootsweb.com and Gencircles.com allow people to post their family trees. These are great resources to connect with others researching the same line and share information. The problem is that many of these trees have been compiled not from documents, but from unverified folklore.
The internet is a great place to get leads, but the documentation that will provide confirmation often has to be obtained by writing the county court house or state vital records department where an event occurred. The CDC has links to state vital records department along with information about what type of records are available and the fees. Many counties have records outside of the states official records dates.
FamilySearch.org is a web site maintained by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and offers free access to a variety of resources including the 1880 census and the Social Security Data base. They also offer a free download of family history software.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints operate numerous Family History Centers. The Family History Centers are open to everyone and offer a wide variety of resources and helpful staff. Use the Family History Center search to locate a Center near you.
RootsWeb.com is a free service that is affiliated with Ancestry.com. You can post or access family trees, the Social Security Death Index, selected birth and death records and public message boards.
If your ancestor arrived at the port of New York and went through Ellis Island you may be able to locate their original arrival record using the free search at EllisIsland.org. This is a wonderful resource, but it should be noted that Ellis Island was only one of many entry points for immigrants to the United States. Other ports of entry include Baltimore, Philadelphia, Galveston and New Orleans. These records are not available on the Ellis Island website.
Additional Free Genealogy Websites: