50 Awesome Tools for Researching Your Family’s History

Saturday, April 30, 2011 at 5:56pm by Site Administrator

By Eliza Morgan

Researching family history used to mean spending hours pouring through archives in libraries and public records. With the growing power of the Internet, however, now you may not even have to leave your home to find the information you need about your family. There are loads of sites dedicated to helping people build their family histories, find records and even learn the origins of their family names. Here are a few sites where you can start your search to build a bigger, better family tree.

Websites

These major sites can be a great starting points for your genealogical research.

  1. Ancestry.com: Ancestry.com is one of the largest genealogy sites on the Web, with billions of names that you can search through to find your relatives as well as gain access to historical records, genealogy communities, family tree makers and much more.
  2. RootsWeb: Unlike many of the online genealogy sites, RootsWeb is free to use, and you do not need to pay a monthly or yearly fee for access. Users can browse through searchable databases of historical and genealogical information as well as create online family trees to display their findings.
  3. Geneaology.com: This membership-based site will allow you to search through information, build online family trees, subscribe to certain types of information, and even look at celebrity family trees.
  4. SurnameWeb: This online genealogy project is based solely on the history of your surname. Simply enter in your last name and you’ll get access to loads of resources that can help you trace your name’s history and find others with the same name.
  5. Family Tree Maker Online: Get access to more features online with the website for this popular software choice. Owners of Family Tree Maker can meet and talk to others with the program, read a blog about new features and learn more about genealogy.
  6. US GenWeb Project: This project is dedicated to keeping genealogy research free of charge. It compiles loads of free resources and archives by state as well as providing access to special projects the group works on.
  7. Cyndi’s List: Don’t waste your time scouring the Web looking for genealogy resources. This site organizes just about anything you could need into one large comprehensive guide to the best of genealogy on the Web.
  8. Lost Cousins: Find your long lost cousins with this site. Enter in your family history and the program will put you in touch with anyone else out there who shares the same ancestors.
  9. WeRelate: This wiki project is sponsored by the Foundation for On-Line Genealogy and has grown to become the largest genealogy wiki out there. You can add your own family history to the site and look at the information provided by millions of others.
  10. FamilySearch: This site is home to one of the largest collections of genealogical research tools available. Even better, it’s free, so you don’t have to pay to look through their records.
  11. GeneaNet: Go international with this multi-lingual genealogy site. You’ll be able to search through information, chat with others and build your own family tree online.
  12. Genealogy Today: Here, researchers will find both pay and free databases for their use as well as access to loads of informative articles, guides and helpful information.

Archives and Records

Get access to all kinds of historical records through these online archives.

  1. Library of Congress Local History and Genealogy Reading Room: Take advantage of one of the largest libraries in the United States through this website. You’ll gain access to any genealogical resources the library has and learn a little more about researching family histories.
  2. National Archives and Records Administration: While not always the easiest information to peruse, the National Archives are full of records that can be a big help in your quest for information about relatives.
  3. Social Security Death Index: If you’re looking for more recent relatives, the Social Security Death Index can be a great way to find them. Records go back to 1937 and cover any relatives who were given a Social Security number.
  4. Internment.net: Search through thousands of cemeteries nationwide for the graves of your relatives. You can find out birth and death information as well as additional information about family connections through this site.
  5. Access Genealogy: This free online resource is full of archives you can use. It covers everything from Census records to genealogical records for African Americans.
  6. Footnote: Footnote is an original and innovative site that lets users from all over the world upload original documents and photographs. You may even be able to find some that belonged to your relatives. It’s a great way to learn about your own history as well as that of others.
  7. Genealogy Bank: You’ll be able to search through the archives on this site to find information on your family history. Perhaps one of the best features, however, is the timeline creator which lets you build a timeline of important events in a family member’s life.
  8. Find a Grave: Learn where even your most distant relatives were laid to rest with this tool. If you have photographs you can upload them to the site as well as obituaries and other death information.
  9. DocumentsOnline: Those doing research on relatives from the UK can take advantage of this large archive of records that has been digitized and is available through the website for researchers.
  10. JewishGen: If you are of Jewish heritage you may be able to find information about your ancestors through this site. You can search through records from a number of countries and get in touch with others keeping records of their family history.
  11. Global Gazetteer: Find the homes and resting places of your family members using this site. It has satellite images of locations all over the world to give you an idea of where you’re from.
  12. Census Links: Census records can be tedious to go through, but this site combines many links to sites all over the world to make it just a little less painful to research.
  13. The Records Room: This site combines links to records like birth certificates, census reports, marriage and divorce papers, and much more to make finding the information you need easier.
  14. Vital Rec: Here you’ll find vital records on births, deaths and marriages across the US as well as information on how you can request copies of this information.

Crests and Coats of Arms

Find out what coat of arms represents your family name with these helpful resources.

  1. House of Names: Memorialize your family crest with merchandise from this site. You can get high quality print outs or even mouse pads with your family logo.
  2. All Family Crests: Here you’ll find a simple search tool to help you find a crest, if there is one, that matches up with your family name and you can print it out for free.
  3. Coats of Arms and Family Crests: Find simple renditions of your coat of arms with this easy-to-use site.

Charts and Forms

Keep your family tree information organized and accessible with these tools for charting relationships online and off.

  1. OurTimeLines.com: Here you’ll be able to generate interesting webpages that can give you some insight to the lives of your ancestors. It shows how your life or the lives of anyone in your family fits into major events in history.
  2. Online Family Tree Maker: This free software allows you to connect with others who may already have parts of your family tree online or to start your own. People can then search through your tree for information and you can do the same with theirs.
  3. Geni.com: This sleek and easy-to-use site gives you access to an online family tree maker. It’s private, so only people in your family will have access to the information.
  4. Genealogy Forms and Charts: Get all the charts and forms that professional genealogists use through this site. They’re free to download, print and use at your discretion.
  5. My Family Health Portrait: Chart your family’s medical history with this site. You’ll be able to see where certain risks for illnesses may have come from and create a more comprehensive family health history.
  6. SharedTree: This open source site allows users to create free online family trees and to share their information with other researchers.

Networking

Meet others looking to find out more about their family histories on these sites. Who knows, you might even find a distant relative!

  1. CousinConnect: On this site you’ll be able to submit questions about family members you’re looking for or search through other peoples’ queries to see if you can answer any of their questions.
  2. GenCircles: Here you’ll be able to upload your family tree and share it over the Web. You’ll also be able to talk with others using the program and exchange information and ask questions.
  3. Past Connect: Looking for long lost family heirlooms, photos and documents? You may be able to find them on this site, which collects and lists loads of information floating around out there and can put you in touch with the current owners.
  4. National Genealogical Society: Meet and greet thousands of people nationwide who are into researching family histories with this site.
  5. GenSwap: This feature of Family Reunion.com allows users to exchange their information for help or information from other users out there.
  6. Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness: This organization is dedicated to helping members get the information they need through exchange. One member will do work in their neck of the woods in exchange for help doing research for another member.

Web Tools

These tools can help inform you and make your research a little easier.

  1. Diigo: This Web highlighter and sticky notes app can help you keep track of all the information you’re finding on different websites all over and keep it organized and easier to reference.
  2. Roots Television: This site is entirely dedicated to genealogy and features a number of informative videos that can help educate you on how to improve your search techniques.
  3. One Step Webpages: Steve Morse has taken the work out of accessing loads of online records. Here you’ll find records like those from Ellis Island broken down and ordered so that they’re much easier to look through.
  4. WorldCat: This resource will make it easy to find books, movies, articles and more at a library near you, or let you know where the nearest location of these items is. There is a Firefox plug-in for this site as well.
  5. Family Tree DNA: Take genealogy to the next level by tracking not only records but the actual DNA of your family as well. This site provides the largest resource of DNA records to date.
  6. PAF 5.2: The Church of Latter Day Saints has put together this great research tool. It’s free to download and use, and can help you organize and find loads of information.
  7. Pedigree Soft: Organize your family history with this free software. You can also share it with the world by uploading it to the web.
  8. Clooz: This database program makes it much easier to keep track of all your genealogical information with loads of templates for storing records as well as convenient reports you can print out.
  9. Bygones: Take advantage of this freeware program which is designed to help researchers take and keep together their notes from genealogical research.

The 100 Most Useful WordPress Add-ons Available

Saturday, April 23, 2011 at 5:34pm by Site Administrator

Shuffling through the thousands of WordPress add-ons and widgets takes up way more time than most bloggers have. To give you a jump start on improving your blog on everything from understanding how to market to your readers to learning new formatting tricks, we’ve generated this list of the 100 most useful WordPress add-ons available so that you can stop searching and start blogging. Publishing and Formatting Make your blog easy to read and manage with these super smart formatting hacks.

  1. Post Thumb Revisited: Turn your posts into thumbnails for easy display and organization.
  2. Exec-PHP: This plugin adds the php code into your posts and widgets.
  3. WP Post Icon: To make designing your blog less complicated, use this add-on to pick certain topic icons and images which will be automatically inserted when you write a post.
  4. DJ E-mail Publish: This app sends your new post to all of your other blogs via e-mail.
  5. Mowser WordPress Mobile: Accommodate your iPhone and BlackBerry readers by installing this plugin, which redirects them to Mowser.com, a site that displays blogs in a mobile friendly format.
  6. WP Widget Changer: Set up different widgets for each page without having to change the anchor widget’s code.
  7. Collapsible Elements: Use Collapsible Elements to add a button to create a code for multiple collapsible elements.
  8. WP CSS Text Stroke: Make your pages easy to read even when text appears " on a non-uniform coloured background." Text will show up as black letters on a white background.
  9. Raw HTML: Bloggers wanting more control over formatting can use this plugin to any coding method, including raw HTML when writing posts.
  10. Google (XML) Sitemaps Generator: If you want a sitemap that works with Google and your WordPress blog, as well as Yahoo! and MSN Search.
  11. Advanced Excerpt: Publish excerpts without ruining HTML markup or messing up your formatting.
  12. WP-Table: Create functional tables for your WordPress blog with this app without having to manually write in plain text mode or risk messing up your formatting.

Comments and Reader Communication From feeds to comments, keep in touch with your readers by taking advantage of these applications.

  1. Get Recent Comments: Easily view your most recent comments with this app.
  2. Add to Any Subscribe Button: Readers using any feed reader will be able to subscribe to your blog easily with this plugin.
  3. DeCat: If you want to leave out a post or category from your RSS feeds, hide it with this app.
  4. DMS Guestbook: This customizable guest book lets bloggers set hidden text like IP addresses, design their own language templates, set up mandatory fields in the guest book and more.
  5. SimplePie 2.1: Manage your feeds by setting up multiple templates, accessing support for several different feeds, automatic set up of cache folders and more.
  6. RSS Image Widget: Display images from your posts in RSS feeds with this widget. The SimplePie plugin is required.
  7. Top Commentators Widget: Originally designed as the Show Top Commentators plugin at the Personal Financial Advice site, this app has been adapted for all WordPress blogs. You’ll be able to display your blog’s top commentators, which advertises archived posts, encourages readers to comment and more.
  8. Comment Sorter: More effectively manage and organize your comments with this add-on.
  9. Contact Form 7: This contact form works with AJAX and features spam security from Akismet. Bloggers can also set up multiple contact forms with this app.
  10. Vote It Up: Let users vote for or against your posts with this simple add-on.
  11. Ajax Comment Posting: This user-friendly Ajax comment app lets readers post comments without having to refresh the page. It also double checks reader’s comments to make sure they filled out the form correctly.
  12. Easy Gravatars: Give your readers the opportunity to leave a more personal impression when they comment on your blog. This app allows gravatars to be displayed when readers comment on your posts.
  13. Quick SMS: Readers can now get in touch with you via your cell phone when you install this app. Messages are sent directly to your registered mobile device via supported networks all over the world, including the UK, India, Japan, the Netherlands, South Africa, the U.S. and more.

Understanding Statistics Get to know your readers and revamp your marketing techniques when you use these apps that collect information about visitor demographics.

  1. Official StatCounter Plugin: Features that come with this plugin include an invisible counter option, a configurable counter, search engine wars, keyword analysis and statistical information found on popular entry and exit pages.
  2. Feed Master: Feed Master is another app that lets you understand your reader demographics.
  3. StatPress: Designed just for WordPress, this app displays information about your readers, so you know which kinds of Web surfers you’re attracting.
  4. FeedStats: Find out exactly who your readers are by researching their stats with this button.
  5. Googmonify: This marketing tool allows bloggers to add Google AdSense units into your posts as well as give you "accurate" information about your readers’ statistics.
  6. WassUp: This real-time plugin features a current visitors online display system and a visitor details view that lets you analyze reader data and stats.
  7. Counterize II: This statistics counting add-on has no external libraries, "and can display total hits, unique hits and other statistics in WordPress webpages."
  8. GeneralStats: This plugin "counts the number of users, categories, posts, comments, pages, links, tags, link-categories, words in posts, words in comments and words in pages," giving bloggers an inclusive look at their reader demographics and an analysis of the blog itself.

Connecting with the Outside Online Community From photo sites to Facebook, use these add-ons to connect with the outside online community via your WordPress blog.

  1. Fu4ny’s Blogroll Widget: Organize your blogroll in XHTML with this widget.
  2. Your WordPress Is In My FaceBook: Start blogging through Facebook with this app.
  3. WordPress Fotolog Widget: Fotolog users can use this unique widget to display thumbnails of recently added Fotolog photos.
  4. Amazon Showcase: Whether you’re selling items on Amazon.com or just want to highlight a particular product, use this widget to display items clearly.
  5. MyTwitter: Twitter users can show readers their recent "tweets" on their WordPress blogs with this app.
  6. Link Harvest: This smart tool "will go through all of your posts and pages and compile a list of all external links. Then it will create a live updating linkroll for you, based on your actual linking activity."
  7. Blogroll Autolinker: Turn names from your blogroll into links that appear when you write about or refer to the selected author.
  8. Sociable: This very simple tool adds links to your posts which connect readers to sites like Facebook, Digg and StumbleUpon.
  9. Slashdigglicious: Make it easy for your readers to submit their favorite posts to social bookmarking sites when you install this app.
  10. FlickrFaves: Recruit new readers by publishing your favorite Flickr photos on your WordPress blog.
  11. jPic WordPress Widget: Use this widget to link to photos you find on the Web.
  12. Facebook Comments: Sync up your Facebook comments with your WordPress blog using this plugin.
  13. Wordbook: Update your Facebook friends with your most recent WordPress posts. Bloggers can also add posts via Facebook Mini-Feed.

Marketing Add-ons Use these tools to spread the word about your blog in general or about each of your posts.

  1. Digg This: Many bloggers already have this button at the end or beginning of each of their posts. The code for adding it to your blog can be found here.
  2. Reddit for WordPress Plugin: Don’t limit your readers to just Digg-ing you; add this Reddit button to improve your ranking on other sites too.
  3. Gregarious: Gregarious lets bloggers easily add buttons for different social bookmarking sites like Digg and Reddit. Bloggers can choose to customize the buttons’ designs and play around with the Share This plugin.
  4. Del.icio.us Bookmark This!: Encourage your readers to vote for your posts on Del.icio.us by adding this app.
  5. Live Space Sync: WordPress bloggers and Live Spaces users can connect their accounts to update posts on both sites.
  6. Bookmarkify: This app is able to connect readers to over 50 social bookmarking sites where they can add your posts and improve your ranking.
  7. Email+ from Grouptivity: Get the word out about your blog by adding an "Email this" button after each post.
  8. LiveJournal Crossposter: This app automatically updates users’ LiveJournal profiles with their newest WordPress blog posts.
  9. Last.FM Events: If you’ve got a gig coming up on Last.FM, advertise to your readers with this widget.
  10. WP Tags to Technorati: If you’re tired of coming up with new tags for every bookmarking site and blog directory, use this add-on to automatically create Technorati tags from your posts.

Moneymaking Apps Monetize your blog by making the most of programs like AdSense and Kontera. These widgets and add-ons will make it easier to manage your funds.

  1. AdSense Manager: Add a flexible AdSense widget to your WordPress blog with this plugin. You can easily manage ads and show all your readers that you’re open to displaying their logos and messages…for a price.
  2. Kontera Ad Wrap: Manage which pages and parts of your blog display your Kontera ContentLink ads with this app.
  3. All in One Adsense and YPN: This open source plugin "is able to automatically insert Google AdSense ads or Yahoo Publisher Network (YPN) ads into your posts on the fly."
  4. AdSense Revenue Sharing 1.1: If your blog is run by or written by several different people, use this app to divide up revenue from AdSense profits.
  5. Are PayPal: Use PayPal to monetize your blog with this app.
  6. Who Sees Ads?: Control which readers can see your ads by using this add-on.
  7. AdServe: As WordPress’ official advertising server, AdServe lets users set up banner campaigns and easily track statistics.

Adding Style and Customizable Plugins Personalize your blog with these simple plugins and widgets that give your pages a fun but sleek look.

  1. Countdown Timer: This feature is especially attractive for bloggers tracking weight loss progress or budgeting goals. You can add several different dates to which you’re counting down.
  2. bSuite: This set of apps gives bloggers more control over designing their pages "and leverage[s] WP as an application platform."
  3. Image Caption: Titled images will be displayed as a caption when you install this application. Image Caption also supports MyCSS, custom CSS, and automatically formats captions so that they are displayed in the appropriate width and height on your blog.
  4. Add Your Own Headers: Design your own headers by background, text, image, and other options. Bloggers can also add tags to the headers with this plugin.
  5. Feed Styler: Create a different design for your feeds with this app.
  6. File Icons: This add-on displays icons by CSS before links that appear on your blog.
  7. WP Vivitiger Image Resizer: Cut and crop images so that they fit into your blog more cohesively.
  8. WP Vault: Use this tool to "upload and store any type of files" you want. The Vault also lets bloggers browse files with Ajax, resize images to make them load faster, organize files with tags and more.
  9. p2p Converter: Convert posts to pages with this simple add-on.
  10. Extension Manager: Manage your blog’s themes and add-ons with this valuable tool. Admins can also easily search their account for different plugins.

Organization Make the most of WordPress features like categories and archives by supplementing them with the following tools.

  1. Extended Live Archive: Organize your past posts with this in-the-works plugin.
  2. AddThis Sidebar Widget: Clean up your pages by adding this widget, which "adds the feed subscription and/or social bookmarking buttons from AddThis to your sidebar."
  3. Advanced Category Excluder: Implement CMS-like functionality into your WordPress blog and regain full control over your page organization and category listings.
  4. Flexi Pages Widget: This "highly configurable WordPress sidebar widget" lists pages and sub-pages, allowing for easy navigation and organization.
  5. Admin Links Widget: Add links to certain administrative functions on your sidebar.
  6. No Widget Category Cloud: Organize your categories in a cloud-like format without installing a widget.
  7. Cleaner Dashboard: Tidy up your dashboard with this tool, which removes WordPress Nws and gives your sidebar four columns.
  8. Smarter Archives: Use a template tag to organize your archives page. Bloggers will see a row for each year and then a link to each month in the above year.
  9. Flexo Archives Widget: This expandable archive display lets bloggers display the number of posts written each month and saves room on the page.

Multimedia Have fun sharing videos, songs and other multimedia favorites with your readers by implementing these add-ons.

  1. WordPress Video Plugin: This add-on makes it easy to add videos from sites like YouTube, Google Video, Yahoo! Video, SlideShare, Metacafe and more.
  2. IM Online: This add-on shows readers when you’re online so that they can reach you via instant messaging on AOL, MSN, Yahoo!, Jabber, Skype and more.
  3. 1 Bit Audio Player: 1 Bit Audio Player is touted as a "very simple and lightweight Adobe Flash MP3 player with automatic JavaScript insertion." Readers can listen to previews of music files that you link to in posts.
  4. Inline mp3 Player: Connect links to mp3 files to media players that let your readers listen to music easily.
  5. XHTML Video Embed: Add Flash content to your blog with this plugin.
  6. EasyTube: This add-on "allows WordPress users to easily embed YouTube and Google Videos using one simple tag."
  7. Viper’s Video Quicktags: This popular add-on makes adding videos from YouTube, Google Video, IFILM, Metacafe, MySpace and Vimeo extremely easy. Users just have to paste the video’s URL into a prompt box.

Security and Spam Protect your blog from copyright infringement and spammers by installing these WordPress add-ons.

  1. ©Feed: Add this plugin to your blog to protect yourself from copyright infringement. You can also search online for writers ripping off your content.
  2. Feed Footer: This app lets you add copyright to your feed, HTML to your footer and display ads under blog posts in your RSS feed.
  3. Tinfoil Hat: More effectively control how much of your information is sent over the Internet by WordPress.
  4. Math Comment Spam Protection: Require your readers to answer a simple math problem in order to ward off comment spammers.
  5. Simple Trackback Validation: This security add-on "performs a simple but very effective test on all incoming trackbacks in order to stop trackback spam."
  6. WP-Spam Free: This popular add-on is advertised as "one of the most effective anti-spam plugins for WordPress." It protects bloggers against automated spam bots without prompting readers to solve math problems or enter in keywords.
  7. Chap Secure Login: This privacy application encrypts your admin password when you work over an insecure network.

Miscellaneous From automatic updates to creative navigation systems, here are more WordPress plugins that will make managing your blog simple and improve reader usability.

  1. Plugin Updater: This plugin adds an "update now" button so that you can instantly update all of your WordPress add-ons easily.
  2. Redirection: Keep track of 404 errors and maintain "full logs for all redirected URLs."
  3. WordPress Automatic Upgrade: Automatically upgrade your WordPress installation by adding on this tool, which also backs up your database and files.
  4. Random Posts Widget: The Random Posts Widget "displays a list of random posts on your widgetized sidebar," giving your readers a fun way to "channel surf" your blog.