We are fortunate to live in an era where a lot of genealogy research can be done from the computer. Unlike in the past, when beginning your genealogy meant writing to your relatives, cold calling people with your surname to discover if they are related, pouring over published family and county histories that were already a century old, and going to the library to look up or order records, beginners to genealogy have it easy. Besides interviewing your immediate elder ancestors, which should be a first step for everyone, beginners can do much of their initial genealogy research online. Only after you become an intermediate and expert genealogist do you need to venture out to look for more obscure records in person.
There are so many genealogy websites out there right now, though, knowing which ones to use to get started can be confusing. Here is a list of the top ten best genealogy websites for beginners to get you started in the right direction. With these websites, you can get the information you need to put more branches on your family tree, increase your skills and go deeper with your genealogy research.
This is a free website that has dozens upon dozens of articles on genealogy and how to do it, where to find records, how to share information with other genealogists and preserving historical artifacts. This is more of an informational website than a records-finding website, but do spend some time looking at the articles and reading them. You will learn a lot about genealogy and how to get started with your search the proper way.
This, of course, is the most popular genealogy website on the internet, and with good reason. It has literally millions of genealogy records on the site from all over the world for you to peruse, as well as millions of other members with whom you may share ancestry who you can contact. It if a paid subscription site, but offers a free trial, so you can decide if it is a useful site for you. However, it will be useful for just about anyone. Most records are indexed, but you can browse the ones that aren’t, and records are mostly digitized, as well. You can even find old photos of your ancestors on this site. There is something here for everyone, no matter from where your family hails.
This free website is a hub for those who are doing African-American genealogy. It includes educational articles and resources, beginner guides and how-to’s, as well as access to send messages to other users. You will also find birth, death, surname, and slave databases here, all perfect for tracing your African-American ancestry.
- Atlas of Historical County Boundaries
The boundaries of counties within the United States have changed over the centuries, sometimes many times. This can make tracing your ancestors a challenge when you think the record you need will be in one county, but it is actually in another because of changing boundaries. This website shows you how and when county boundaries changed, so you will always know the correct place to look for the genealogical records you need to conduct your research.
This is a free website with a huge database of tombstone images, each of which is GPS tagged. You can upload images from your phone and add personal information on the people behind the stones, or use the database to search for the stones and information of your own ancestors.
- Chronicling America
This is another free website which is owned by the Library of Congress. It is a portal to digitized historic newspapers from twenty-five different states and Washington, D.C., dating from 1836 to 1922. There is also an index to every known newspaper published right now, and where to find them. New content is added all the time and is a terrific place for finding interesting information on your ancestors that you might not find anywhere else.
This famous, free website is owned by the Church of Latter Day Saints (aka the Mormons), famous for its devotion to genealogy. You will find millions of free digitized records from all over the world right here. In fact, the site is like a free version of Ancestry.com, without the DNA and easy ability to contact other members. Ancestry.com may have more records, but FamilySearch has some that Ancestry does not have, and vice-versa. Using the two sites together can really fill in those gaps in your genealogy research.
Another free website, this one has a plethora of genealogical tools geared toward beginners. There are free forms, cheat sheets, how-to articles, and past issues of the magazine. This is a real family magazine, too, with projects designed for adults to do with kids to get kids interested in genealogy.
This is a famous free website similar to BillionGraves.com. It just has better name recognition. You can upload tombstone photos and biographical information on ancestors, and look up the same information on ancestors you may not know as much about as other genealogists.
- US GenWeb Project
This free website is a cornucopia of genealogical information from around the world. With different sections for countries, states, and counties, users contribute information to the site. Some sections of the site are sponsored by a “caretaker,” while others are not, so the quality of each section varies. However, since it is user-submitted content, you will find plenty of unique things here that will be of use to your genealogy research that you won’t find anywhere else on the internet.