I've recently restarted my genealogical research efforts, to find out more about my family's history.
In many cases, especially people of Jewish-European origins, not much is known by the ones who stayed alive (20th century Europe has seen a lot).
Many archives are recent, and some German/Polish/Russian archives have only recently been scanned and digitized.
I thought I'd start building a Family Tree, and once I hit a dead end, start to look for clues online.
There are quite a few services out there that provide family trees, and I've decided to use them in combination.
Online Family Tree Services
- MyHeritage - Probably one of the most known services, has a lot of different options, huge database for researching family members, and Auto Record Matches if the names on your family tree match any names on their global database.
Geni - Used to be the fastest growing competitor to MyHeritage, was recently bought by them.
Though it still works as an independent website, and the interface is quite different (lighter, cleaner, easier to work with), there is some synchronization happening between the databases.
While Geni's interface is easier, MyHeritage has a bigger database.
WikiTree - Fairly new project, not as big but it has a great ideal behind it - free for all.
I don't mean to be sceptic, but WikiTree is a Privately Held Company in New York, if you want to convince me - make it a non-profit (like Wikipedia for example).
Each service was useful in its own way, they helped me get a better perspective of what information I had,
and what I needed to find out.
I also love the aspect of connecting to other family trees of distant relatives (worked very well), as well as making the information public for future relatives that may search for the same information.
There was however, a major issue - both MyHeritage and Geni were quite expensive at $15-$20 a month!
On top of that, price plans kept changing, so I wasn't sure if a feature I bought today, will be there next year.
WikiTree was free of course, but the project was pretty small, and the interface still lacked maturity.
Gramps to the rescue
In my search for the ultimate family tree building tool, I found Gramps.
Gramps is an open source genealogy software, one of those perfect examples of Open Source done right.
It's been in development for 15 (!!) years, and is still under active development.
Gramps also lets you export your tree to a GEDCOM file, which is supported by all the services above.
Here are some of the best online resources I've seen for Genealogical Research.
FamilySearch.org - an endless amount of records and information.
It's also very rare to find so much information for Free
- Ancestry.com - another invaluable resource, they have (among others) high quality scans of 18th and 19th century birth certificates. A few countries have left a lot of the scanning process to Ancestry.com, so a lot of official archives are only in their hands (digitally, at least).
Obviously each family history is different, and it's much easier to find documents for the US, UK, Germany, and other major countries (mainly because there were more efforts to scan the archives). If you really can't find anything, I highly recommend you to contact the relative's birth country's archives via email, you'd be surprised what you could get.
So in conclusion, my strategy is to go through FamilySearch & Ancestry for research.
If I can't find any information on those websites, I try contacting the archives directly.
After getting the information, I'll be using Gramps as my main tool, so that I have control over my data, and upload the GEDCOM to a few online services so other people will have some access to it.
So what are you waiting for? Go build your Family Tree!