Thursday, March 19, 2015

Five Free Websites I Can't Research Without

Michael LeClerc, who writes for the Mocavo blog, recently post a piece entitled Five Free Websites I Can't Research Without.  I thought it was informative enough to re-post it here.  You can read Michael's original post by clicking on the post title above.

While there are many pay website that we use for our research, there are also a great number of free websites (like Mocavo) to help you. Here, in no particular order, are five websites that I find invaluable in my research, and each and every one of them is free to use. And if you’ve used these before, perhaps you’ll take this as a good reminder of the resources you should be using more frequently.

1. WorldCat

As much as we would like it to be, not everything we need to conduct our research is available online. WorldCat is the best way to identify published and unpublished materials. The search engine at contains information on more than 2 billion published works in repositories around the world. The ArchiveGrid section has information on more than 2 million manuscript resources around the world. You can build a bibliography to bring with you to a repository to save time there.

2. WorldGenWeb

USGenWeb started in 1996. Over the course of the last almost twenty years it has spread around the world. Armies of volunteers have transcribed records, compiled reference information, and keep the web pages running. It is a wonderful place to start, and to find information that may not be easily available elsewhere. Many of these pages are run by (or are contributed to by) local residents who are tremendous experts on that particular area, and may know of specialized resources not available elsewhere. Start at WorldGenWeb and navigate to the area of the world you are interested in.

3. American Memory

The Library of Congress is one of the largest repositories in the world. Twenty years ago they started the American Memory program to digitize materials from the collection. While these collections may not directly have genealogically valuable information, but they can add a tremendous amount to understanding your family. Local histories, oral histories, music, sports, recreation, and more are all represented. LOC is in the process of moving collections to a new system, so be certain to check both areas to find what you are looking for.

4. Cyndi's List

Cyndi Ingle is one of my personal heroes (don’t tell her, it will just go to her head). For almost two decades she has been publishing a list of websites of interest to genealogists. From a simple one-page handout for her local group, Cyndi’s List has grown to a website with more than 330,000 links. And all of it is done by Cyndi herself (despite what people may think about her large staff of paid employees). You can browse through categories listed alphabetically, or search for what you seeking.

5. Boston Public Library

Now, in reality, you should insert the name of your local public library. As a Bostonian, I’m lucky to have the BPL as mine. Your local library likely provides access to a wide variety of subscription databases. Some of these will be restricted to onsite use, but others you will be able to access remotely. BPL, for example, provides me access to databases like 19th Century British Newspapers, 19th Century U.S. Newspapers, American Historical Newspapers, Early American Imprints, JSTOR, Index to Early American Periodicals, and more. Visit your local library and get your library card.

-- submitted by Denise Doyon

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