Devon Noel Lee
10 Little-Known Genealogy Websites Professional Genealogists Use
Have you reached a genealogy plateau? Meaning, have you reached the pinnacle of using MyHeritage, FamilySearch, Ancestry, and Findmypast, but you feel like you can't find anything else?
I asked several colleagues to share their favorite, little-known genealogy websites for finding family history gold mines. So here's a list of websites in no particular order.
Why Google is not a little-known website, what you search for might need to change to find hidden gems.
"If I'm researching in a new place, I "Google" local historical societies, genealogy societies, and libraries to see what possible databases might be available through their site," says Ellen Thompson-Jennings, the Family History Hound.
We've covered a lot of services for Google. Check out these articles:
Using Google to Hack Your Way to Genealogy Gold - Lisa Louise Cooke (Video)
Using Google Sheets to Quickly Map Family Relationships (Video)
Watch this video.
"Any State Archives website! My favorite is the Tennessee State Library and Archives website. State Archives has a treasure trove of indexes, finding aids, and digitized records free to the public about that particular state and all of its counties. "- Melissa Barker, The Archive Lady.
While state archives are useful, the website ArchiveGrid helps bring those archive catalogs to you. In addition, this website allows researchers to search special collections throughout the world. To learn how to use ArchiveGrid in your research, read this blog post written by Lisa Lisson.
"When researching my Dutch ancestors, I struggled to find them until stumbling upon WieWasWie," says Eric Wells of Legacy Left Right. He brings up a good point. While a 'one-stop' website for genealogy resources and tree building has many advantages. Sometimes we need to explore national and regional-specific websites to have more success.
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US Library of Congress
Speaking of National Websites, the researchers at Trace.com said the Library of Congress is a great website to explore.
"Although perhaps not a little-known website, many people don’t know that the Library of Congress has many digital collections which can add rich details to genealogical research, including historical photographs and maps, letters and personal papers, newspapers, and audio recordings.
A favorite collection is the Sanborn Maps, which the Sanborn Fire Insurance Company created for 3000 cities across 30 states, Canada, and Mexico. These maps are well known for providing useful details on buildings and structures at specific addresses, so you may be able to find your ancestor’s home or business on a Sanborn map.
Another favorite collection is American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936-1940, which includes nearly 3,000 interviews with people across the country and from all walks of life, which were typically 2-15 thousand words in length telling about living through interesting historical events or sharing part of their life story."
If you need help hunting down your ancestors in little-known websites, use the Trace professional genealogists team. They work with talented researchers worldwide to help you with all aspects of your genealogy research. Use this link to get a $50 discount off your initial deposit when you set up a project with one of our professional researchers!
The Ancestor Hunt
As much as I love the FamilySearch Wiki, some websites have curated similar helpful resources.
"I really like The Ancestor Hunt site. They have links to a large number of newspapers and other resources. This site makes it easy to find other sites that you may not know about." - Miles Meyer.
If you want to find a potpourri of transcriptions, resources, and other reference material, consider this totally free genealogy website managed by volunteer contributors.
"I check the counties I'm researching in quite often on USGenWeb as new information is being added" - Peggy Clemens Lauritzen.
Sometimes a great genealogy website is one that's not designed specifically for genealogists. Thomas MacEntee, of Genealogy Bargains, likes Wolfram Alpha "because it ISN'T a genealogy site. It is a computational database that allows you to look up the different nicknames for a given name OR what the value of $1USD in 1910 would be in today's dollars."
USGS Geographic Names Information System
Another website that isn't genealogy specific comes helps us understand place names.
According to Drew Smith of the GenealogyGuys.com podcast, "The USGS Geographic Names Information System because it can provide locations for places that no longer exist."
Century of Lawmaking
Since genealogy research depends on time and location, we need to know the legal restrictions and statutes that impacted our ancestor's lives.
This is a new-to-me website recommended by Amie Bowser Tennant, The Genealogy Reporter. She uses the Century of Lawmaking website when she need help "learning the laws behind owning lands, immigration, naturalization, race, etc. It helps you understand and assess the records available for your timeframe."
She says this website is handy for the years 1789 - 1875. There are some ways to search the Congression statues for individual ancestors as well. Definitely worth checking out.
Amie even has a tutorial to show you how to use the website.
More Lists of Little-Known Websites
The UK Based Family Tree website did something similar, and 3 professional genealogists shared resources I haven't heard of. Read about the 1881 Crew Lists Database, Contributions to the rebuilding of St Paul's, and the Placenames Database of Ireland.
A special shout-out goes to the US Family Tree Magzine for their list of 23 Unexpected Websites You Can Use for Genealogy Research because they included one that we're particularly partial to - YOUTUBE! We like this suggestion so much that we have video training for FHF Xtra Members available here.
More Online Genealogy Resources
Keep the learning going:
10 Hidden Websites to Help Write Your Family History (Webinar)
5 Quick Tips For Finding Genealogy Records in Online Collections
Change Your Online Search Strategies to Find New Ancestors (Video)