Genealogy Links for Y!A Users

Beginning Genealogy:

How to Start

Links to 11 great sites

Good Queries

Grandfathers in Queries


Geezer Skills

Beginning Internet Skills

Off the web

People after 1900


Mailing Lists

The LDS 1880

Googling your Ancestors

Related Sections:
Main Genealogy Page
Intermediate Genealogy
Essays on Genealogy
Biography questions

Other Sections:
Christmas Letters
Misc. Essays
Peace Corps
Web Design


This page is for people on Yahoo! Answers who asked about tracing their family tree. It has links to large, free genealogy sites. It is a "Blind" (no links to it) page on Ted Pack's Web Site.
(The Navigation bar will take you to the regular parts of my site. This page is based on, but not the same as, Links to 11 great sites.)

Notes and Warnings:
  • You will have to get to someone born before 1930 on your own. Parents, grandparents, obituaries, birth certificates, marriage licenses, death certificates, Social Security applications can all help there.

  • If you are outside of the USA, most of the sites won't help. Go back to Y!A, post again and mention a country.

  • The really good stuff is in your parents' and grandparents' memories. No web site is going to tell you how they decorated the Christmas tree with ornaments cut from tin foil during the depression, how Great Uncle Elmer wooed his wife with a banjo, or how Uncle John paid his way through college in the 1960's by smuggling herbs. Talk to your living relatives before it is too late.

  • Only 80% of the data in the Internet is true.

Huge Free Sites

These links will all open a new window on your browser. Close the new window when you finish.

Cyndi's List has over 250,000 sites. I give you tips on how to use the sites I list, one site at a time. She doesn't.

Family Search, the LDS Mega-site:
This has historical records, census records, and other records. Play with it. Just for instance, you can click on "Advanced", then "Relationship", select parents, and leave the given and surname at the top blank. You may find a whole family.

these are genealogies people (mostly Mormons) sent to Salt lake as much as 40 years ago. Some are accurate. Some are not. To start:
Enter the person's name only, not mother or father.
Select to "Birth".
Give a state.
Give a 10-year range of years.
If that gets you no hits, try it with "Marriage", fill in the spouse and wipe out the year. If either gets too many hits, try to narrow it down.
WARNING: My LDS friends tell me the AF is about 75% accurate. I suspect the PRF is, too. Be careful.

RootsWeb World Connect:

WARNING: The ads at the top rotate. Some ask for a name and take you to a pay site. They mislead beginners. Ignore them and scroll down to the input form.

Enter the person's name only, not mother or father. Enter birth year. Change the year range from "Exact" to (+/-) 5. If that gets you no hits, change "Exact" next to "Surname" to "Soundex". Try surname, given name, NO birth year and a spouse's surname or given name, not both.

WARNING (again): Not everything in RWWC is accurate.
Want an example? The first European settlement in Ohio was Marietta, founded in 1788. Leave surname and given name blank, enter "OH" in the birth place, enter 1767 in the birth year, set the range to (+/-) 20, to get 1747 - 1787, and look at how many entries you get. Some are Native Americans. The rest are entries from people who didn't know their history.

Finding people on Family Search and RWWC is a little like fly-fishing. Different things work at different times, you don't always catch something and the more you practice, the better you become. Women will be under their maiden name.

RootsWeb Home:
This is the biggest free (genealogy) site in the world. Poke around. RWWC (above) is their most popular sub-site, but they have tons of other data bases.
Ancestry is to Genealogy what HBO is to movies; they sell premium services to people who are willing to pay. They have some free data and some you have to pay for. Enter your ancestor's name and see what comes up. It will tell you if the data is free or you have to pay for it. Sometimes they give you a snippet for free in hopes you'll subscribe. I think the subscription is worthwhile, but I like hunting dead ancestors better than watching first-run movies. Your tastes may differ.

US Gen Web:
Click on a state. Find a link that says "County". Most state sites have a list of counties and a map of the state with clickable counties. Use whichever one you like best. Each county has a volunteer coordinator. Some are better than others. A good US Gen Web site will have queries, cemetery listings, census transcriptions and lots more. A poor one will not. Different counties have different numbers of people willing to contribute data.

Surname meanings and origins:
Not exactly genealogy, but free and fun.

Social Security Death Index. Steve Morse has a neat form that lets you select one of five free SSDIs. If you find the person, you can write for a copy of their Social Security Application. It costs $27 and takes 6 to 8 weeks. That will get you the person's mother's maiden name, which always helps. It will also have the father's name, and the person's birth date, birth place, address and employer at the time.

USA Phone book:
For looking up distant cousins. If your last name is Smith, don't bother. If you do call perfect strangers, start out with "Hello, my name is Malinda McCorkle. We have never met. I'm not selling anything. I am calling all of the McCorkles in {Idaho} to see if we might be related."

California Death Index, 1940 - 1997:
Just in case. If you find your John Smiths whose Mother's Maiden Name (MMN) was McCorkle, try two more searches:
Surname Smith, given name blank, MMN McCorkle.
Surname and given name blank, MMN McCorkle, Father's surname Smith.
The first finds possible brothers, the second possible sisters. Do the same if you find a woman with both father's surname and MMN.

They have millions of entries and a reasonable search engine. Don't overlook the box that says "Include maiden names in the search". Most of the entries are relatively recent (1950 or later). Some, of 8-year olds who died of disease or mishap, will break your heart.

Google Books:
Google Books has digitized a huge number of old books. There are lots of genealogical ones. In particular, the ones titled something like "Biographical History of {-----} County" are pure gold. How they worked is salesmen collected biographies from everyone who was willing to buy a copy. The biographies are 25% - 75% fluff, but the meat will sometimes give you three generations. The men in them, according to their biographies, are all hospitable, kind, clean, honest, hard-working, thrifty, brave and reverent; but after you wade through that part, they will usually give their parents, sometimes their siblings, almost always their children and childrrn's spouses. If they served in the Civil War, 95% of the time they give their regiment, rank and battles. The county histories flourished from about 1870 - 1910; if you have someone (male) who was at least 40 in that time period, it is worth a try. Find where he was living and search Google Books for the county, state and the word "biographical". Try "History", too.

Query Boards

These are the real Genealogy boards. There are boards for surnames and boards for counties. If you find one ancestor in a county before 1880, there's a good chance you'll find lots more. Read a couple of dozen queries BEFORE you post one. Look at what works. Half the posts are below average. Half are above average. Search the site (See below). Your question may have already been answered.

If you have never posted a query before, please read Posting a Good Query before you post.

They have both surname and state boards. Each state board has a link, "Counties for this state", in the upper right-hand corner. In my experience, county boards are better than state boards. Their search is for the specific board only.

Ancestry Query Boards:
This section of Ancestry is free. You can click down through the categories:
(Regions -> North America -> United States -> West Virginia -> Monroe County)
(Surnames -> S -> Sm -> Smith)
or enter "Monroe" ("Smith") in the "Find a board" and pick the one you want. Their search is across all boards. When you search, click "This Board only", if appropriate, or you may get 2,000 hits.

Some of the Ancestry query boards are "gatewayed" to the corresponding Roots Web Mailing list. (See below.) That means if you post on the board, a copy of your post will go to everyone who is subscribed to the list. This causes a problem pretty constantly:

If you subscribe to the mailing list and someone who does not subscribe posts a query, they may not see your answer. For instance, Jason McCorkle posts this query on the McCorkle surname board:

Does anyone know about Hezekiah McCorkle, 1840 - 1922, born in Logan County, Ohio?
He died in Fresno, California when he was shot by a jealous husband.

You subscribe to the McCorkle mailing list. You see Jason's post in your e-mail. Hezekiah was your 2nd great grandfather. You reply to the mailing list

Hi Jason!
I have his diary, the sword he wore as a captain in the 43rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry and seventeen pictures.
Write to me.

Jason doesn't subscribe to the list. He waits and waits. No one posts a reply on the board. Jason cries bitter tears into his pillow every night and eventually gives up genealogy for stamp collecting. That's a pity, because Jason bought Microsoft at $14 a share, so he is rich. He would have taken you to dinner in gratitude, to a restaurant with real flowers, cloth napkins, a 20-page wine list and a dessert cart so heavy the wheels groan. Then he would have paid to have the diary transcribed. I must have known 30 people that happened to. (Snork)

Searching Query Boards:
Don't search for "Smith" on the "Smith" Board. Every message there is about the Smith family. If your ancestor John Smith married Malinda McCorkle in Monroe County, search the Smith board for "Monroe", then for "McCorkle". Search the McCorkle board for "Smith", then for "Monroe". Search the Monroe County board for "Smith" and "McCorkle".

Roots Web Mailing Lists

RootsWeb has lists for surnames, counties, regions and some special interests. I look for people in the mailing list archives for the surname and county in question, if possible. If I'm desperate I join the mailing list and ask about him or her. If you are so new to all this that you haven't heard about mailing lists, you can read my introduction:

What is a Mailing List?

Search the Archives.

Subscribe to a Mailing List.

Special Greetings to:
Mrs. Lowe and her class

[This page gets 20 - 30 visits a day. Every once in a while someone writes to thank me. I appreciate the message.]

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This page updated: June 21, 2014