Thursday, July 08, 2004

101 Best Web Sites for 2004--Family Tree Magazine: "
The Strongest Links
By David A. Fryxell
These 101 mighty roots resources will give you the power to bust through research brick walls and find answers about your ancestors - all from your home computer.

Let's admit it: We've been spoiled by the Internet. These days, if we can't get the answers to our family history riddles with just a few mouse clicks, it seems like such a bother to trudge to a library - the nonvirtual kind, that is - or schlep to the nearest Family History Center and squint at microfilm. Can't we simply download everything? Aren't our ancestors someplace on the Web?

Genealogy hasn't gone completely digital yet, but it's remarkable to reflect how far we've come down that path. Half a decade ago - when we published our first 101 Best Web Sites roundup - we were impressed by just lists of links, collections of queries, family tree files, and Web sites about places our ancestors might have lived. Back then, we focused on photography, scrapbooking and historic- preservation sites because few 'hard-core' genealogy sites existed. After all, that was before Ellis Island went online, before various state and foreign archives began digitizing their records and before you could see actual US census pages from the comfort of your own home. Before we got, well, yes, spoiled. Yesterday we were thrilled just to know we weren't alone in our genealogical quests; today we want answers.

Our 101 Web-site selections this year unabashedly tilt toward the trend of actually being able to 'do genealogy' - that is, locate ancestors - on the Web. This best-sites list zeroes in on digital destinations directly relevant to genealogy and essential tools for taking the next steps in finding your ancestors: maps, gazetteers, historical references. But don't worry: Those of you who love family history how-to pages and links-loaded portals will still find a handful of such sites that were just too good to omit.

For our fifth 101 Best Web Sites, we've narrowed the list to five core categories:

Collaboration: Sites to share research, download GEDCOM family tree files or find friendly folks in far-off places to lend you a hand with your research.

History and reference: Places to bone up on the past, plus portals for finding libraries and links.

International and immigration: Web sites for tracing your ancestors' journeys to the New World and exploring their origins back in the "old country."

Records resources: Wide-ranging sites for research in the United States and Canada; many of these include databases of actual ancestral data.

Regional and ethnic: More narrowly focused American sites, including state archives with online databases, as well as essential starting points for African-American, American Indian and Hispanic research.

As in the past, we're biased toward free sites. But some subscription or partly fee-based sites you won't want to pass up. Where we've included these, we've flagged them with a dollar sign. And as always, you can point and click to all 101 honorees from our Web site. C'mon now—that trip to the library can wait. Give your microfilm-bleary eyes a rest. Make yourself a nice cup of tea and settle down in front of your computer. Go ahead, we won't tell. Let the wonderful World Wide Web spoil you a little—starting with these 101 superlative sites. "

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