What's New in Family History Online

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This lecture is about new genealogy data on the Internet, new ways of using the Internet in your family history research, and promising new ideas for future products and services offered on the web. These pages will be expanded both before and after the conference, so check the URL for the up-to-date version above.

Person Pages

Perhaps the most significant new thing in online family history is the added option of “person pages” on commercial web sites which allow site users to save information about individuals and to link documents on the site to those person pages. Some allow for relationships to be noted, or for the individual to be tied into a genealogical pedigree or tree. This is definitely an area where the genealogical community benefits greatly as further options are developed. What is really needed, however, is the ability to link the person pages on one commercial site to another. Why should my great-grandfather have a person page of Footnote, another on Ancestry, and individual record and pedigree position on new FamilySearch, and be on a variety of other web pages. Why not tie all such pages together and at least link them if not come up with a combined view of some kind? As these tools continue to develop, there will be continued improvement in the amount and ease of information shared and links to relatives made because of such pages. Shown here is a sample from Footnote.com’s Vietnam Wall interactive page.

Another valuable service on sites which host records and historical documents is the ability to add notes and comments to a record. Ancestry has long offered this, and Footnote incorporated the idea in their new design. I encourage those who use these commercial services to add notes to online records they find. I am sure those notes will be preserved and become part of “Person pages” when everything is eventually brought together.

Perhaps one way which might be used to link pages together is through Facebook. Footnote has already experimented by creating the I Remember Facebook application, which is essentially Facebook “person pages” associated with the records on Footnote. Facebook is now the most visited web site (surpassing Google for the first time the week this syllabus was written).

Commercial Websites

Any discussion of what’s new on the Internet would be incomplete without mentioning Ancestry.com, Footnote, WorldVitalRecords, FindMyPast , Genealogy Bank, HeritageQuestOnline and other commercial websites. While this sites themselves are not new, the collections of data available on these sites continue to grow significantly. Here are some collections I chose to highlight:

  • Civil War Widows Pensions 1861-1910 (incomplete; all new) at footnote.com
  • Vermont Birth. Marriage, and Death Records, 1909-2008 at Ancestry.com
  • Quinton collection of rare books (95 million names) at worldvitalrecords.com
  • Ontario, Canada Marriages, 1801-1926 at Ancestry.com
  • The Alien Arrivals Collection, documenting arrival of more than 610,000 immigrants into the UK between the late 18th and early 20th centuries at Ancestry.co.uk.
  • All birth, marriage and death records from The UK’s National Archives (TNA) collection of Non-Parochial, Foreign and Maritime Registers at BMDRegisters.co.uk
  • Chelsea Pensioners' service records from 1883 to 1900 (Catalogue series WO 97) at findmypast.co.uk.
  • Hamburg Passenger Lists, 1850-1934 at Ancestry.com
  • Netherland Civil Registration 1811-1950 (Gelderland & Zuid-Holland) at familysearch.org
  • Index of Irish Wills, 1484-1858 at worldvitalrecords.com.

The online version of this syllabus will contain links for the above collections.


There are several new products and services from FamilySearch being showcased at the NGS Conference. You can learn more about new FamilySearch items at their labs site at http://labs.familysearch.org. Some of the newer items include:

Community Trees offer societies, groups, and individuals the opportunity to share information compiled from various records. For years, many organizations have sought to publish genealogies compiled from the records of a town or county. The Germans call them Ortsippenbuch. Now, FamilySearch extends the ability to publish these collections for free and make them available at no charge. The site already offers numerous databases from around the world where volunteers have compiled information from various records for a place into family groups. See http://histfam.familysearch.org/learnmore.php to see a list of databases included.

England Jurisdictions is an attempt to give researchers information on all jurisdictions that apply to genealogical records for England in 1851. One can see parish maps, as well as maps for all other pertinent jurisdictions, including civil registration, probate, poor law unions, and more. This is an effort to simplify finding records and pull information from several reference works into a single place, readily available to anyone. It is particularly valuable for locating English probate records. Even if you aren’t researching in England, check it out and make suggestions on how this could work for your country of interest (Germany, US, or ???).