Genealogy was transformed by the internet. Information that once took cross-country trips to record offices or churches to find can now be accessed with a few clicks. It’s probably why genealogy is now one of the most popular online activities. If you want to give it a go, where can you start?
If later you find you want to either share your tree or have extra functionality, you can export your tree from this to an online or a paid package.
Start building your tree by talking to family and recording their information. Once you’ve got the bare bones, you’ll want to fact-check and add to it. I suggest starting with familysearch.org. While some of its finds are locked behind the paywall of its sister site findmypast.com, its collection is comprehensive and transcriptions of many records can be viewed for free. Then there’s ancestry.co.uk; from 1970s phone books to Tudor probate records, you’ll find something about your ancestors here. For details that are behind the paywall, take advantage of the occasional times they offer free access or login for free at the library.
There are also sites where genealogy is done for passion not profit. Run by volunteers, they focus either on making records available free or on amalgamating information to move you forward in your research. A few to check out:
“Some family trees have beautiful leaves, and some have just a bunch of nuts. Remember, it is the nuts that make the tree worth shaking.”
In 2009, when my Dad forwarded this chain email to me I replied, “Thanks for the heads up, but actually, this is a hoax ... see www.snopes.com/computer/internet/hackermail.asp. It's always worth checking on snopes - a site which exists to debunk urban myths and other such things - before forwarding them on.” But that was eight years ago, so why am I raising it now?
There has always been misinformation flying around the internet, but it has never seemed more prevalent than it is today. From hoaxes through dubious sites luring you with click-bait to increase their advertising revenue to “fake news” designed to sway your opinion it’s undeniable that we live in a world where we need to fact-check more than ever.
While the internet can be an outlet for widespread misinformation, it also inspires a community developing tools to fight back. Tools like:
The advice I gave to my Dad all those years ago still holds true. As Abraham Lincoln once said, “Don’t trust everything you read on the internet.”