Before the days of the Internet, genealogists may have started a family tree by interviewing older members of their family and asking for copies of family documents and old photos. This may include phone calls or letter writing. They most likely spent time traveling to local historical societies and browsing page after page of historical documents for clues to their ancestry. Local libraries may have microfilm copies of old newspapers and census records for researchers to analyze. Don’t forget about the long walks through cemeteries looking for an ancestor’s headstone.
Starting a family tree today may involve some of these tasks as well. Fortunately, previous genealogists took the time to catalog and index information including church records, newspaper obituaries, and cemetery headstones. Census records, vital records, military records, and other documents are now digitized and searchable. Because of the popularity of the Internet, many of these documents are available to view at research sites online. Although it may be easier to research one’s family tree, it still can be an overwhelming amount of information.
More Helpful Research Sites
- US National Archives - Search over one million electronic records from the Electronic Records Archives (ERA), all of the web pages from Archives.gov, and all of the web pages from the Presidential Libraries.
- Rootsweb.com - a sister site of ancestry.com.
- usgenweb.org - Volunteers provide websites for genealogical research in every county and state of the United States. Everyone is granted free access.
- PAGenWeb.org - The state site that’s part of the US and WorldGenWeb projects.
- GenPA.org - Website for Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania.
- berks.pa-roots.com - the Berks County project of the usgenweb.org volunteers.
- Olive Tree Genealogy - Search more than 1,900 pages of FREE genealogy records to help you find your brick-wall ancestors and build your family tree.
- HeritageQuestonline.com - A library service with several interesting databases.
- GenealogyBank.com - The premier newspaper subscription site.