- Search with Skill
While it's not usually as easy as typing in a name and hitting enter, search engines provide an open door to a vast wealth of genealogy resources. Basic search engine math can help you focus your search for surnames or family history Web pages, while advanced genealogy search strategies can help you hunt out photos, living relatives and even more genealogy resources.
- Locate Previous Research
For many of you, there is a halfway decent chance that at least part of your family tree has already been climbed. Pedigree databases, including Ancestry World Tree, RootsWeb World Connect, Family Search Pedigree Resource File and others provide easy access to many previously researched family trees, and often provide contact information for the researcher. If those options fail, try using search engine strategies (see step 1) to locate family trees published on personal Web pages, online library catalogs to locate published books and PERSI to locate articles published in genealogical and historical periodicals.
- Connect with Relatives
Distant cousins and other relatives are a great resource for adding branches to your family tree, and the Internet makes it easier to locate and talk to them, especially if you have an unusual name. Thousands of genealogy mailing lists and family history forums are available for specific surnames and places, making it easy to post genealogy queries and, hopefully, receive a response. Creating your own genealogy Web site with your family information is another good way of encouraging relatives to contact you.
- Dig Into Databases
For people who don't have the resources or time to travel to archives and libraries, the Internet is quickly becoming a good source for genealogy databases and digitized records. From the complete online U.S. census to land grants, military records, passenger lists, cemetery transcriptions, and records of birth, marriage and death, both free and subscription genealogy sites offer many wonderful resources for tracing your family tree.
- Learn How They Lived
A virtual worldwide library, the Internet provides the perfect resource for putting your ancestors in context.
- Historic newspapers provide insight into local culture and customs.
- Online gazetteers and place name databases help you identify the geographic location of an ancestral village, town or cemetery.
- Published family histories can often be found online, through regional genealogy Web sites and the sites of local historical societies or reenactment groups.
- Expand Your Knowledge
Reaching the limit of your Internet genealogy skills doesn't mean that there is nothing left for you online. Turn to the Internet to expand your ancestor hunting skills, through tutorials, discussion forums, classes and research groups. Learn how to extend your search to offline resources, properly document and publish your genealogy research, and even better utilize online genealogy resources.
Spend a few hours on the Internet researching your family history, and you'll soon be hooked! Genealogy is a rewarding hobby that, if you want, can become a lifelong project.