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.


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.


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.

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