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Getting Started  |  Research  |  Website Tools  |  Website Tips

Getting Started

  • Legacy Family Tree is my favorite genealogy software. The free version is very good and the pay version is inexpensive and it's a great program. Here is a feature comparison chart.
  • Rootsweb Guide to Tracing Family Trees is a good place to learn. Free.
  • FamilySearch.org Learning Center Videos for beginners and more advanced. Free.
  • Archive.com Expert Series Articles Series of free articles with interesting variety of topics.
  • Legacy Family Tree Webinars These webinars are on different topics, sometimes people talking about how to use their website or product for genealogy; sometimes resources in a certain area, like upcoming right now is "Researching your Roots in Rhode Island". One of my favorites is always free, and it's about organizing your research. They usually last 1.5 to 2 hours. Free if you watch it live, and free for a week after. Then you need a subscription for access, or you can buy a cd/dvd.

U. S. Research

  • United States Census Archive.org, aka Internet Archive, has United States census microfilms in pdf format so you can download and browse the census from your computer. Free.
  • United States Census Index of Questions Ever try reading a census microfilm and can't make out the title of a column? This page tells you every question on every census.
  • State Censuses This page lists states that have conducted their own census, and what years.
  • Newspapers at Library of Congress They have some newspapers online and searchable, and are adding more.
  • Search U.S. Newspaper Directory, 1690-Present Another Library of Congress gem. It tells what newspapers have been published in the U. S. since 1690, and helps you find out what still exists and where to find them.
  • Genealogy Bank This is a site that requires a subscription. They have a lot of newspapers totally searchable, and are adding more. You can find a lot of good stuff. Marriages, advertisements, news, etc.
  • Old Maps Online Select an area on the world map and see links to online historical maps of that area.
  • Geographic Names Information System Will help you find historical (no longer exist) places on a map.
  • Maps at Library of Congress Large selection of historical maps.
  • The Internet Archive has over 8,000 published genealogy texts now in the public domain available for free download. Most appear to be surname specific.
  • Ancestry.com has a lot of good databases, most particularly the Federal Census records all online and searchable. A search of your ancestor brings up everything they have on him/her. Unfortunately, this is a paid service.

Website Tools

  • This webspace is free, ad supported, from Rootsweb, and they provide a lot of other great stuff to check out.
  • CPick is a great, free color tool.
  • Screen Calipers lets you measure things on the screen. Free.
  • REL Link Checker Lite will check the links on your site and report which work and which are broken, so you can fix or delete the broken ones. It's easy to use and helps keep your website up to date. Free.
  • I write web pages with CSE HTML Validator, and I think it's awesome. Free.
  • FTP Surfer is for uploading your pages to the internet. It's small and fast and I have used it for years, works great. Free.
  • Freefind is a free, ad supported, search engine. It's pretty easy to use and allows you to upload your own page design.
  • There are plenty of online picture gallery makers. I have used Web Picture Creator to make the online photo albums because it's the only one I could find that's simple yet gives me a lot of control over the look of the pages. It allows you to use css, or even to completely make your own template. Because of that, my photo gallery pages look like the rest of my website. (see my headstones photo album.) However the program has problems. It does allow you to use html and make your image descriptions as long as you want them (for a whole page of formatted content) but it doesn't remember the image descriptions when you exit, so I put them all in a separate file to copy and paste into the program each time I may want to regenerate the same album (to add new photos). That is by far the worst problem in my opinion. Unfortunately the program is apparently orphaned so the bugs won't be getting repaired. In fact, the paypal address doesn't work, so don't send any donations. The program is free.

Website Tips

  • If you want people to be able to find your website and information through search engines (google, yahoo!, bing, etc.), you have to have the information typed out on your web pages. Some search engines also include content of pdf and other file types, but not if the content is images. Information in databases or in images will not show up in search engine results, which means people searching will not find it.
  • Visitors will enter your website on any page, so it's important to have links to the rest of your website on every page, preferably in the same place so they're easy to find. Do not assume that everyone will begin on the homepage and follow links from there, you'd be very much mistaken and you could make navigating your site anywhere from difficult to nearly impossible.
  • Try not to change page urls (addresses). Every time you change a page url, you break all links other people may have put on their websites to your webpage. If you feel you absolutely must change urls, please leave in it's place a forwarding address to help people find your page.
  • Every time you add a new link, test it by clicking on it. Do not assume it works - test it. Also, check your links occasionally to be sure they're still good. There are programs that will test links for you, I have suggested one in the Website Tools section. When a visitor finds a bunch of dead links, they generally leave.
  • Do not assume that everyone has the same monitor resolution and bandwidth as you do. Keep your images relatively small, link to larger files so you don't severely slow page loading time. Do not make your design wider than 1024px, it won't display well on smaller resolutions if it's too wide. The best option is to have it no specific width so that it will adjust to your visitor's resolution. (Make this window smaller to see my page resize itself, and notice none of the images on this site are very wide.)
  • Don't have automatic playing music on your pages, it slows loading times, and annoys the hell out of your visitors, regardless of how charming you may believe it to be. If you must offer music, make it optional. Anyone who wants to hear it will click it. Same goes for video.
Getting Started  |  Research  |  Website Tools  |  Website Tips