Tracing Your Family Tree

on the Internet

by Barbara Renick ©Copyright 2001

[email protected]


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The Internet provides many different types of tools to help genealogists trace their family trees. Different tools are needed in different phases of research. Genealogical research has classically been defined in four phases: the survey phase, the research phase, the evaluation phase, and the publication phase. Each time you add a new generation, surname, or location to your family tree, you go back and do a new survey phase of research.

GOAL OF THE SURVEY PHASE: To seek out and find research done by others so that a duplication of effort is avoided. This often means searching for secondary or compiled sources, rather than the more primary types of sources sought in the research phase.


Survey Phase Resources:

1.    FamilySearch available online at

2.    Finding family members and also contacting them via E-fax and e-mail.

Yahoo! People Search


Switchboard Searchable Telephone Directory

Zip Code Lookup and Address Information at

3.    Search library catalogs online before going on location.

      Library of Congress – LC Online Catalog

 Los Angeles Main Public Library

      Library of Virginia

 BYU Library

4.    Search databases and genealogical resources without having to leave home.

      GenSearcher – The All-in-One Genealogy Search Page

Cyndi’s List of Databases, Search Sites, Surname Lists 

(some databases are free, some are not)

5.    Commercial database services (these online services allow you to search for free but charge you a membership fee to see most of the results/matches from your searches).

6.    Look for Web pages about your surnames.

Cyndi's List of Surnames, Family Associations and Newsletters Index

FEEFHS Search Engine Index, item #2

Rafael Prinke's Searching the List for Surnames

7.    Place free queries and/or register your research interests online

USGenWeb Project

World GenWeb Project

RootsWeb Surname List (RSL)

GenForum at

8.    More family history books are being published than ever before thanks to computer software (with fewer excuses for producing a “fairy tale” genealogy without documentation). Much research is even being published on the World Wide Web. A search using an Internet search engine today finds nothing on the surname ZUCKNICK, but next month may turn up eleven matches.



Yahoo! (site specific search engine)

Infoseek Express (browser utility)

9.    Find out about local, regional, county, state, national, ethnic, and religious historical and genealogical societies.

10. Subscribe to free Mail Lists on the Internet.

      Genealogy Listservers, Newsgroups & Special Homepages

Liszt, the mailing list directory

Cyndi's List

John Fuller's site


11. Follow Usenet newsgroups via software like NewsRover 

        The following Web sites tell about newsgroups.

Liszt Usenet Newsgroups Directory

MIWorld Usenet Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Princeton University's USENET Newsgroups


GOAL OF THE EVALUATION PHASE: To evaluate what you
have found, set new goals, plan your next survey and research phases.

 Evaluation Phase Resources:

1.    Free mail lists from FamilySearch Internet.

2.    Genealogy and/or Internet classes online.
Spectrum Virtual University

3.    Dictionaries.

Genealogy Dictionary
OneLook Dictionaries

4.    Translation services.

travlang's Translating Dictionaries

5.    Citing Sources from Cyndi's List

6.    Tutorials online.

7.    Chat areas and online newsletters.

8.    Do not believe everything you read on the Internet. 








GOAL OF THE PUBLICATION PHASE: To preserve and disseminate information about your family tree. Secondarily, to prevent floods, fires, tornadoes, hurricanes, or earthquakes from destroying your years of genealogical research.


Publication Phase Resources A. D.:

Today's genealogy software makes publishing your data on the Web quick and easy. Web publishing disseminates your work around the world for all to see (so long as you pay the rental fee for that Web space). "Cousins" can find, check, add to, or correct your research efforts. Update your Web pages as often as you like at no additional cost and with very little effort. 

See Richard Wilson’s Home Page for examples of what Web pages generated by different genealogy software programs can look like.

For free publishing space in a protected environment, go to


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