Family History On The Internet: Basics, Tips and Tricks

by Gerhard Ruf

© copyright 1995 - 2005
updated 14 August 2005

      This lecture and demonstration provides an overview to effectively use the Internet in your family history endeavors. It introduces you to the concepts of protecting your computer from viruses, gives examples of the major databases and other resources to search, suggests ways to effectively use message boards and mailing lists, and how to allow others to find you in their searching.

  1. Protect your PC form Viruses
    1. Use windows update to keep up to date
      - Start/Windows Update, or
      - Internet Explorer/Tools/Windows Update
      - WindowsXP automates this process.
    2. Install virus scanning programs
      - Norton Antivirus -
      - McAfee VirusScan -
      - or use Free Online Virus Scanner -
    3. Protect yourself against adware and spyware
      - Adaware SE Personal by Lavasoft -
      - Spybot Search & Destroy -
  2. Major web sites to use
    1. Cyndi's List of Genealogy Sites (a card catalog of Internet genealogy web sites - more than 240,000 sites)
    2. FamilySearch Internet Genealogy Service (LDS) (your personal mini-Family History Center) (over 1 billion searchable records)
    3. RootsWeb (oldest free genealogy site, includes RSL, SSDI, WorldConnect, USGENWEB, etc.)
    4. (largest genealogy site - over 3 billion records - access by subscription)
  3. Types of records at these sites
    1. User-contributed data collections (collaborate with contributors on common lines)
      1. WorldConnect (at RootsWeb - more than 395 million records) - (same as Ancestry World Tree at
      2. Pedigree Resource File and AncestralFile (at FamilySearch - more than 105 million records) (Click on the Search tab to access)
      3. Family History Library Catalog (at FamilySearch - more than 3 billion microfilms/fiche/books) (Click on the Library tab to access)
    2. Data sold by the government
      1. Social Security Death Index (SSDI) (more than 75 million records since 1937 - most since 1962) (updated monthly)
    3. Data extracted by Volunteers
      1. USGENWEB - web site for all states and all 3,000+ US counties)
    4. Other resources for connecting with researchers on your lines
      1. RootsWeb Surname List (RSL) at RootsWeb (more than 1,140,000 surnames entries)
      2. Message Boards and Mailing lists (surname, location, ethnic, software, etc. - over 220,000 lists)
        - share information with others on common topics of interest
        - free message boards are available at
        - (200,000+ lists)
        - (29,300+ lists)
      3.    Making an effective querry
        - Use name, date(s), location in subject line
        - be specific in what you have and what you're looking for
  4. Other Helps
    1. Lessons and Research Guides
      1. Guide to Tracing Your Family Tree (31 lessons at RootsWeb)
      2. Research Helps and Research Guidance at Search tab, then Research Helps or Research Guidance
      3. Newsletters - RootsWeb Review (weekly updates with success stories and new acquisitions) (more than 1,000,000 subscribers)
    2. Other Useful Web Sites
      1. Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter (keep up to date with technology in family history)
    3. Using to Find Genealogical Information -
      1. Basic Searching
        Use + attached to the front of words or phrases to indicate they MUST be present
        Use - attached to the front of words or phrases to DISALLOW them in the search results
                - example: +george +kodak -film -camera
        Use ~ (tilde) attached to the front of a word to find synonyms of that word
                - example: ~genealogy
        Use OR between words or phrases to allow for variations in names
                - example: Dorothea Daeublin OR Taeublin
        Use ..between numbers to find any number in the range
                - example: 1820..1830
        Use quotation marks to offset a phrase that must be exact
                - example: "George Kodak" or "George J. Kodak" or "Kodak, George"
        Google does not care if you use upper and/or lower case letters in search terms. The site does not allow the use of asterisks (*).
      2. These techniques can also be used on the Advanced Search screen.

    If you have questions or comments please contact me at

    Return to list of classes page.

    Return to Gerhard and Deon's Home Page.

    This page was last updated 14 Aug 05.
    It has been accessed () times.