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Online Research

"Computers are useless. They can only give you answers." – Stage 2

Pablo Picasso (1881 - 1973) (Pablo, Quotations)

(Please note all the forms discussed on this page can be found in the complete listing on the Forms link at the left.)

Online research was custom made for genealogy! Online research takes you places you could never afford to go not to mention the time involved in physically going to every courthouse or cemetery where you need information.

Using the Internet for research has both advantages and disadvantages. First and for most remember the information found on the Internet is not infallible! During the transcription of records mistakes occur. For example, you are looking for your relatives in a census index in an area and time you know they were, but you do not find them. This does not mean they were not there, if could mean that the person typing the index misspelled the names.

Online research does not mean easy, but it can mean easier. There are far too many Web sites for me to go into individually but I have listed a few in the Useful Links section you can search the Internet and find many more than you will ever be able to visit. Many Web sites are free to join and search, however there are some for which you must pay a membership fee, I would not start by paying for a membership at the beginning of the research. Research online only after you have gotten all the information you can from your family, any family records, and family histories. Remember to get stories from your older relatives; family history is much more than just a collection of names and dates.

Exact records are rarely on the free sites; these sites mostly contain the indexes or transcriptions of records. For the actual image of the original, you usually have to have a paid membership to a Web site, or you must send off for a photocopy of the records. Having said this, there is a great deal of information from other people who have posted Web sites with a great deal of information they have transcribed themselves.

Stage 2
Here is a list of the types of records you can find online:
  • Census 1790 – 1930
  • Birth, Marriage, and Death records
  • Family Trees
  • Immigration Records
  • Military Records
  • Newspapers and Periodicals
Most, if not all, genealogy sites allow searching within the site. The subjects vary here is a partial list:
  • State
  • Surname (Last Name)
  • Year Ranges
  • Country
  • Message Board entries

Forms and Research

As I'm sure you were expecting we now get to the paperwork, unless, of course, you enjoy repeating research over and over again. Let's see where was it we found Great Aunt Bertha's employment history with the circus? With the millions and millions of records you really do not want to have to do the same search over, for one thing you may never find it again, and for another you are wasting valuable time you could be looking for other information.

There are various forms you can use to record what and where you find your information. Two such forms are:
Census Forms 1790 – 1930
Research Log (Ancestors Charts, PBS.org)

The census started in 1790 and has continued every ten years since. There are some special censuses for individual states that cover other information. These special censuses were not widespread and by no means uniform. Each state conducted them according to that states needs. The federal census forms are different for each census since every census asked different questions. The census results are released 70 years after the year taken.

The research log is an essential form needed to help not only record which records you searched, but also for whom. For example, you know you have searched the newest census released (1930), how could you forget, but you can't remember who it was you were looking for at the time. The research log can be keep for individual record searches, such as the 1930 census and everyone you looked for while searching that record. Or, the log can be kept on each individual and every record you have searched for that individual.

The best things about online searching are that you can do it from your home, it can save you not only time, but also money, and you can contact others who are interested in the same family, and hobby you are. The problem with the Internet is that errors occur and transcriptions are not as good as a copy of the actual record. Online research is a great tool, and will give you hours of fun and frustration.


That's the problem with the gene pool: No lifeguard.

Ever find an ancestor hanging from the family tree?

Who am I?
I started out calmly, tracing my tree,
To see if I could find the makings of me.
And all that I had was Great Grandfather's name,
Not knowing his wife or from whence he came.
I chased him across a long line of states,
And came up with pages and pages of dates.
When all put together, it made me forlorn,
Poor old Great-Grandpa had never been born.
One day I was sure the truth I had found,
Determined to turn this whole thing upside down.
I looked up the record of one Uncle John,
But then found the old man to be younger than his son.
Then when my hopes were fast growing dim,
I came across records that must have been him.
The facts I collected made me quite sad,
Dear Old Great-Grandfather was never a Dad.
It seems that someone is pulling my leg,
I'm not at all sure I wasn't hatched from an egg.
After hundreds of dollars I've spent on my tree,
I can't help but wonder if I'm really me.

If you find a well-documented, illustrious ancestor, you've probably made a mistake.

More Definitions of a Genealogy Addict:

You have more pictures of tombstones than of the kids.

"I need to spend just a little more time at the courthouse" means forget the cleaning, washing, dinner, chores; the day is shot.

The mailman can't believe that you got this much mail from someone you don't even know.

You explain to mother why you can't go 25 miles for Sunday dinner, but can go 100 miles to check out another cemetery.

"As soon as I check out this census record, I'll fix dinner" means "call the local pizza parlor."