Tuesday, January 26, 2010


What are your favourite genealogy resources? Are there any that you find particularly rewarding for your own research which would more than likely prove fruitless for the rest of us? Here’s the first part of my list of what I consider to be the best and worst resources for the past year; hopefully there might be a reasonably useful find or two amongst them for you.

I’d imagine that for the majority of people in the English speaking world, Ancestry.com is a goldmine for research data. For me, it’s probably the least financially reasonable site I’ve come across (although I did take the plunge this year regardless). The majority of my European ancestors came to Australia before the 1841 census, and a large percentage of them resided in parishes that aren’t as well documented as others. My Aboriginal Australian research receives almost no benefit from the site, save for the rare mention of family in electoral rolls and in the few Australian cemetery records. Despite my personally negative experience with the site, I still see great value in the site for the majority of those of us with American, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, British or Irish roots.

A useful site and especially to those who are just starting out in their discovery of their ancestral roots. The site allows a user to match their uploaded tree to that of other members, of which there are almost always bound to be a large number who share at least some of your ancestors. So basically, the site model is one that does little to discourage laziness and a reliance on the hard work of others in researching your family.
The drawback clearly for this particular site is that many people fall prey to those who are simply collecting names, and are intent on building huge meaningless databases of loosely related individuals. Your hard work, in tracking down an elusive ancestor may help you to gain contact with a distant cousin, but you also run the risk that your data will be entered incorrectly into that person’s database, and if they are a particularly active member, many other members may naively look to their database as a root source, helping to pollute both genesreunited.com, and other websites with reams of false data.

The risks are the same on most major genealogy websites, however if you are confident in your own research, and don’t mind it being bastardised across the world wide web, those risks may be worth taking for the potential to break down the occasional brick wall and meet relatives you never knew you had.

If ever there were a genealogy website worthy of greater recognition then lostcousins.com is it. Whilst the majority of genealogy websites are a hit and miss affair in matching research data, lostcousins results are almost 100% foolproof. Members results are matched via census returns, ensuring that almost no false-positive returns are made. If the site has a downside it’s that not enough people are aware of its existence, thus the number of matches made are far from what may be gained via the endless weeding through mountains of results at genesreunited.com and ancestry.com

The primary research hub for Aboriginal Australian genealogy and history, AIATSIS has a web presence which is slowly but surely growing, but for the moment their primary use is in first hand visits to their base of operations in Canberra, to see their extensive holdings across all media forms. Online, AIATSIS provides a name index as a handy but inconsistent tool that has a long way to go before it can claim to be of any significant use to the average researcher. Spelling mistakes and inaccurate logging of data are common.  Another important tool of use is their index to Dawn and the New Dawn magazines.

I cannot recommend this website enough. It is an absolute treasure trove for the Australian genealogist. Newspapers are logged from 1804 (Australia was first colonised by Europeans in 1788), and the records stretch toward the limit of copyright allowances, with the upper end being 1954. The site includes such treasures as the Melbourne Argus and the Sydney Morning Herald, which is supplemented by further indexing at Google News. If your Australian based ancestors did anything of note, you stand more than a fair chance of finding the details here.

The only drawback, if it can be called that, is that it can be exceptionally hard to wait impatiently for the next batch of newspaper records to be digitised and then given the all clear for viewing.


Shelley said...

Great post!
I get a bit of use from Ancestry, but not enough for an ongoing subscription. The electoral rolls on Ancestry are a goldmine for me when I do decide to pay for a month or two! But for census research I've found that the indexing of the UK census transcriptions on Find My Past are much more accurate.

yplocalhistory said...

I also love Australian Newspapers Beta and now "The Age" for Victoria is slowly coming on board although I notice it is also searchable via Google News Archive. Keep up the great blog John and congrats on the new baby.