30 May 2007
I've been working in a family history library for a couple of months. We have lots of local books to help people find their ancestors, microfiche and microfilm of marriage, birth and death records, and computer software and internet access.
What websites are out there to help me find my ancestors?
FamilySearch.org is entirely free to use and includes tips on how to get started and databases for searching. Other websites such as Ancestry.com and RootsWeb.com also allow you to search genealogical databases, but not always for free.
What computer programs are out there to help me?
There are computer programs available to help you organize your data electronically. FamilySearch.org offers a free download of PAF, Personal Ancestral File, which allows you to enter family information and create a pedigree chart. (Here's a link to a pedigree chart if you want to print one out or take a sneak peek. You would enter yourself as person number 1 and work backwards from there. I suggest doing everything digitally, though. And try to get maiden names instead of married names. It will allow you to search backwards easier.) PAF will allow you to import or save your genealogy in the "gedcom" file format, which is compatible with many other programs.
Ancestral Quest is also very useful. They offer a service you can pay for that allows you to collaborate with other family members to create and expand your family tree. You can "check out" the file, update it, then "check it in" so that others can edit it later. That way you do not need to continuously email charts and information back and forth.
It's important to keep digital or hard copies of records proving birth dates and the like. You will probably want to figure out how to share those records with other family members. One way is through email. Gmail now allows email attachments up to 20 Megabytes, but if the person you're sending them to is still using hotmail or yahoo, they may not be able to receive them. You could also check out a service called "X Drive", which allows you to share much larger files.
Play around with these links, ask your family for all the info they've got, and have some fun finding out about your ancestors!