This page is a potpourri of free genealogical tools that help people find what they are looking for more easily than if they searched for information without a tool. The tools themselves are free, but sometimes may take you to sites that require payment to get full access to the information you are seeking.
If your favorite search engine, or a link you click on, takes you to a long webpage, with lots of links or information, and you do not know how to have your browser eliminate the tedium of reading the whole page to find the information or links you need, then click here to read about how to easily find a word on a page with the help of your browser.
And, if you have other truly free, useful finding aids you want to see added to this page, or find any errors or broken links, then please do contact me.
If you want to learn about various truly free genealogy resources which you can access from home, see our resources page.
I have tried to find and list sites that will make your search easier, but this is not a complete list. So, if you find something good that I have not listed, be sure to email that information to me so I can add it to this page.
What do you do if you are having problems with pages that were incorrectly or incompletely indexed by sites such as http://Ancestry.com, and want to make your research easier? You report the error to them, but they might take a long time to fix the database. So, you also create a tool to help yourself and others locate the proper records without having to view every image in the entire database, and then you post it on the Internet.
One such tool has been created by Steve Morse, for cities with populations of over 25,000 people, to determine the likely Enumeration District or Districts, if you know the name of the street your ancestors lived on. After identifying the Enumeration District, you then can browse the pages for that particular Enumeration District, instead of the pages for the entire city. We have found it helpful to simultaneously have another browser window or tab open to a map site such as http://maps.google.com, to help in using the ED tool.
If you need to find Enumeration District boundaries for an area not available in the preceding, less tedious tool, you may still be able to find the likely Enumeration District by using the older tool, which includes more areas, because it is not limited to larger cities and towns. The data comes from information at NARA and Ancestry.com.
Another tool which is in the process of being created for major cities in the USA is at http://census.donslist.net, where censuses are basically "browse only" right now. The plan is to make it possible to search the Federal censuses for 1900-1930 for these cities by street name rather than by people's names, and view the pages for free. Volunteers are needed to work on the project, for more information, check out either of the following posts at Rootsweb about the Address Project:
Another such great tool was created for the searching the 1881 Census of Wales for people who resided in the Lower Merthyr Tydfil Sub-registration District. The images for this subdistrict were incorrectly loaded at Ancestry.com, causing much trouble for people needing to find ancestors in the area, as clicking never brings up the right image. But the following tool shows you what you need to find the right images.
If you want to find out how to create such a tool, or know of others that should be posted here, please do email me.
Have you had trouble finding someone you are looking for on the Internet, because there are too many search results? San Francisco Genealogy has a search page which may improve your ability to search the Internet for a specific person, called "youFocus". And you get to decide which search engine you want to use for the search, choosing between Google, Altavista, AlltheWeb, Ask.com, and MSN.
But remember that you may also be able find information about someone you are looking for, by using the free search information at commercial Person Search and Public Records Information sites, as well as through internet Phone Directories. As long as you do not click on "View Details", "More Information," or people's names, you often can find significant information as well, for free, by combining information from the various sites. You can find more, but some of the most well known sites are:
Public Records and Person Search
http://veromi.net (United States)
http://www.192.com (United Kingdom)
http://www.411.com (United States)
http://www.thephonebook.bt.com/publisha.content/en/search/residential/search.publisha (United Kingdom and Wales)
And, if you are looking for old school friends, don't forget to check the various classmate search sites, many of which are listed on Cyndi's List's Finding People page.
If the above sites and tips do not meet your needs, you may also want to check out About.com's series of living people locator resources, starting with the About.com Top People Search Sites page.
NOTE: This section about LDS batch numbers was written for advanced researchers. If all this talk about batch numbers doesn't make sense to you, then just skip to the next section below, about genealogical meta search engines. You can always come back later when you reach a point of needing the information.
If you want to purchases copies of vital records which have been filmed by the Latter Day Saints Church, to order films that may contain records of interest to you, or to narrow your search at https://familysearch.org, identifying film numbers or batch numbers is essential, and using using one of the sites recommended later in this section can be quite helpful.
Note that if you want to view films or order photocopies of records which you have already identified from search results at the FamilySearch or FamilySearch Pilot site, you will not need to use the resources below. Your search results screens give you all the information you need to order films and photocopies. If you are still not sure how to fill out the form, you can email email@example.com, or search the archives or ask for help from members of online genealogy forums and boards such as Rootsweb, RootsChat, or GenForum, and on Rootsweb mailing lists.
What difference does it make whether you know anything about these batch numbers? If you know the batch number for the time frame and location where a vital event took place, you can use that to order copies of vital records which they are likely to have filmed. You can obtain a copy of the form, from the LDS site, for ordering photocopies from them on the following page. If the link does not work, then email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out where they have moved the form. They have changed it's location often, and we are not always able to update the link quickly when that happens.
For more information about ordering vital record copies, see our ordering page, but also be sure to read the explanations by the sites listed below.
You also can use the batch number as a means of quickly narrowing your search results at https://familysearch.org to the exact time and place, if you know them. And, if you want to order films for viewing at a Family History Library (FHL), the batch number is what you need to place your order. Note that, unless the local FHL has that film on file, you will need to pay a processing fee to place your order, which was $6 as of June 2009. To locate the FHL nearest you, you can search the following page:
There are quite a few webpages geared towards helping people find the information they need for using the LDS site and order services. If you do not find the first one you visit from the list below to be helpful, then do try another one of the websites mentioned below, as which site is the most helpful and user friendly seems to be a matter of personal taste.
But don't forget that you also have the option of looking for the film numbers yourself on the FamilySearch site. Instead of having to go through multiple screens to find it, you can use the following link to their search page to find listings of all films for any given location.
If you are having trouble getting a link to work that you have saved to your favorites or have bookmarked, which is for an old vital records database at Family Search, you might try hunting for it's replacement using our pages listing outmoded and defunct family search links.
Hugh Wallis has a highly respected site, which can help you find batch numbers for Canada, the United States, and the British Isles. Again, this excellent site may not necessarily list all films available. Be sure to also check other resources if you do not find what you are looking for on Hugh's site.
The following two websites have information about using International Genealogical Index batch numbers, and also include links to batch number help pages for many countries.
The LDS has also filmed many Jewish Records, and the renowned JewishGen site has two pages devoted to finding film numbers for Lithuania and Belarus. There are other films of records for the general population which also list Jewish residents, but these particular films are specifically Jewish BMD records.
Belarus - approx. 1839-1926
Jewish Database Records in the Family History Library Catalog as of February 1, 2001
The OpenGen site has excellent explanations of how to use the FamilySearch site and batch numbers. If you know where and approximately when an event, took place, clicking on the links provided will actually will open up search windows at the LDS site, with the batch number already filled in for you, if you are looking for batch numbers for the United States. However, the site is apparently a work in progress, and may not list all films available. Be sure to check other resources if you do not find what your are looking for at OpenGen.
The following page can help you find the LDS film numbers for births which took place in Brooklyn between 1866 and 1897.
The following page at JewishGen provides extremely helpful information and links to lists of the LDS Family History Library's microfilms of New York City vital records and indexes.
I personally prefer searching databases one by one, but many people like using genealogy sites that search genealogy databases for them. You go to the site, enter your search parameters, and up pops a list of hits at a variety of databases, including paid (i.e., subscription) sites, which would not necessarily turn up in a standard Internet search.
These genealogical meta search engines have their good points and their bad points. They can make your research easier for you, but they can also take away the control you may want to have in directing your searches.
If you are dealing with a tough or tedious search, they can help by mechanizing the process. But in some cases, you may be able to find the data you are looking for faster and easier on your own, without using a genealogical meta search engine site, so you may want to experiment and try your searches both with and without the assistance of genealogical meta search engines, to learn when these different search strategies are the most appropriate.
One of the oldest such sites, which might even be the oldest, and which is very widely used and respected, is http://stevemorse.org. I personally do not use it because it is difficult to learn at first, and not all of the site works in my favorite browsers. But it probably provides the very best genealogical meta search engine tools around.
There may be more, but the only other genealogical meta search engine I personally have found useful is at Rootsweb. If you perform a basic search for a person or a surname, you get lists of various rootsweb sites to click on, but you also have the option of viewing the results of the same search at Ancestry.com and one or two other sites.
The finding aids above are certainly an incomplete list. If you find any errors or broken links, or have suggestions for sites or tools to add to this page, please email me.
Page Revised October 07, 2012
This page is http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~thecohens/findingaids.html
NOTE: The links below will take you off of our personal family site, to various articles at the Learning Center at http://www.ancestry.com