Thursday, July 8, 2010

Follow Friday: Review of 5 of Family Tree Magazine's Best FREE web sites

 I love doing my genealogy research on line. I love reading about genealogy online. But I also look forward with anticipation to my print copy of Family Tree Magazine in the mail each month. And this month's issue has some real treasures. And where do the treasures lead me? Online, of course!

Family Tree Magazine published its list of 101 Best FREE Genealogy Web sites. Yep, browse and search to your heart's content and don't shell out a penny. Many are ones you already know about, but there are still some I haven't seen before.

I decided to select five of the sites I'd never visited before to see what they have to offer.

Being a newspaper junkie, the first site I visited was It is organized differently than I would expect. A search on abstracts from Lancaster county, Nebraska yielded 11 hits, none of which were from Nebraska newspapers. The subjects of the articles refer to Nebraska place names or people from Nebraska. In that regard, the organization of the site allows one to think outside the box and not restrict oneself to newspapers of a specific locale. The site has a search feature, but a surname search gives results that only list the newspaper name. I had better luck using a standard Google site search string "kelly site: http//" Seeing the results in Google allowed me to see summaries of the article. The site has a yahoo discussion group where you can sign up for their e-newsletter. Overall rating: C.

Toot, toot, Tootsie! : Goo’ by... Digital ID: g98c136_001. New York Public LibraryNext up was the New York Public Library digital collection. The site states that it is partnering with Google to have a portion of its pre-1923 books scanned for Google books. I found that some manuscripts that relate to some of my Bellinger line from the Mohawk Valley are in the collection, but I could not review a digital copy. Now, once you visit the Digital Library, you will find much more interesting and accessible fare. In the History and Geography section, I found some of George Catlin's beautiful images of Native Americans. I found a collection of cabinet card photographs. Once I found the collection of old sheet music, I knew that I would have to make a return trip to this web site!

The site also includes a collection of Ellis Island photographs, postcards, cartoons. I know that my return trip to this site will undoubtedly last an hour or two. Overall rating: A+.

I collect cookbooks. I don't actually use them, I just read them. So my next site was Feeding America: The Historic American Cookbook Project. There are cookbooks featuring French cuisine, Creole cooking; another called The Frugal Housewife (some things never change), a manual for Army cooks, and a White House cookbook from 1897. It's a very interesting site which I hope to return to - even though I'm not quite sure how it made a list of the top 101 genealogy sites. The Library of Congress has chosen to include this site in its collection. Interest Rating: A; Genealogy Rating: D; Overall Rating for Genealogists: C+.

Next stop was a techie product site called This allows you to make notes, do screen captures, and organize various bits and pieces of information and store it all on the web. Rather than tell you any more about this site, I'll let you watch this video:

As I'm already sold on Microsoft OneNote and use it almost daily, I'm probably not going to switch, but for those looking for a free product that does something similar, this might meet your needs. Overall use for a genealogist: B+

My last stop on the tour was the Danish Demographic Database. I wondered if I could find anything on my Danish ancestors. WOW! Within seconds of initiating a search on Danish immigrants, I discovered this record on my great grandfather, Jens Petersen, then using the surname Jeremiasen. He was from Terndrup, Denmark, and with his parents and siblings, on their way to Waterloo, Iowa. His parents and siblings also showed up in the search results. Jens' father's occupation was Arbejder, which I guess means he was a laborer. Jens' occupation was a Barn? Say what? Thanks to my friend, Google Translate, I discovered that is Danish for Child. Whew!

One more search while I'm on this site - let's see what the Census search comes up with. I entered great-great grandfather's name, Peder Jeremiasen:

It just doesn't get any better than this! There's my family! My great-great grandparents: Peder and Else. The Larsen surname is new information. Other family members had given me her last name as Polsdatter. And here, the children have the surname Pedersen, as with Danish naming tradition. They did change the spelling to Petersen once settled in the U.S. "Hans Hustru" by Else's name is translated as "His Wife." Peder's occupation of husfader jordbruger og pottemager translates as "The father a farmer and potter." And from this record, I now have birthplaces for these members of the family.

Was it sheer luck or divine intervention that I saved this web site until last? Based on ease of use and my personal discoveries, I've got to give this one an Overall Rating of A++ !

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