Question of the Week: What's in your genealogy toolbox?

+13 votes

500px-WikiTree_Image_Library-124.pngWhat genealogy tools do you use regularly? 

Please tell us about it with an answer below. You could also use the question image to share your answer with friends and family on social media.

in The Tree House by Eowyn Walker G2G Astronaut (1.8m points)
Great question Eowyn. Hopefully helpful too. I know these sites and others are listed in the Wikitree Help pages too.

23 Answers

+14 votes
  • Wikitree
  • DAR records 
  • Familysearch
  • Findagrave
  • SAR records
  • Wikipedia 
  • Muskogee, Oklahoma Library
by Alexis Nelson G2G6 Pilot (444k points)
+11 votes

Victoria's (Australia) BDM registry. (Births, Deaths, & Marriages)

Trove Newspaper and other archives at National Library of Australia. Real wealth of information, with almost all newspapers before 1956 (in Australia) online.

Public Records Office of Victoria, great for Wills, Coronial Inquests, and Passenger Lists in and out of Victoria.

National Archives of Australia, for Australian War Records, and some other archives.

Then other state BDM's. Each state here have their own, which isn't so bad with only 6 to look through most of the time.

FindAGrave, and I find to a lesser extent, Billiongraves.

Locally, most of Melbourne's Cemeteries are either online at Southern Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust, or Greater Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust. Bendigo Cemeteries cover a fair area too, and Kew Cemetery has a great site.

Australian Cemeteries is great for little country cemeteries all over the country.

What's more, all of these sites, are completely free, unless you want to order a certificate. Also, I've found most major cemeteries are willing to either answer questions by email, or even look things up while on the phone. Almost always very willing to help.

I guess this is why we hesitate to want to pay for sites overseas, when we have it so great here.

by Ben Molesworth G2G6 Pilot (131k points)
+13 votes


Website Calculator Tools:

Website Charts:

Website DNA Tools:

Website Maps:

Website Miscellaneous:

Mac Desktop/Laptop Apps:

  • Reunion 13
  • Notes (mac desktop app)
  • Stickies (mac desktop app)

Mac iPad Apps:

  • Ancestry - Family History
  • AncestryDNA
  • BillionGraves
  • FamilySearch Tree
  • FindAGrave
  • MyHeritage - Family tree
  • Notes (mac iPad app)
  • ReunionTouch (iPad app to Reunion 13)

YouTube Channels:

  • Ancestry
  • DNA Family Trees
  • Family History Fanatics
  • Findmypast
  • Genealogy TV (This is how I heard about
  • MyHeritage
  • The DIY Genealogist

Public Places

by Tommy Buch G2G6 Pilot (410k points)
edited by Tommy Buch
+12 votes
My WikiTree community. This is the best tool out there, and it’s free. All other genealogy tools pale in comparison.
by Pip Sheppard G2G Astronaut (2.2m points)
edited by Pip Sheppard
Thanks, Mags!
+10 votes
I am new at this, work full time and have a very full house right now.  My tool box is lacking!!  I use wikitree, family search and my family.
by Rhonda Kraatz G2G Crew (500 points)
Family is a great starting place, and I encourage everyone to interview their oldest relatives while there is still time.
+9 votes

Almost all of these sites are free, except as noted below, an often overlooked tactic is to Google the place for which you want to find records or information. Example; Place name, Anytown, Ontario, Canada, historical records, results often include information for local historical societies or groups who have records or are willing to provide advice or information.  

Great Britain

Find my Past U.K. Pay site  Birth, marriage, death and burial records, census, for most of Great Britain

Many counties have Online Parish Clerks, such as 

This site has links to most of the OPC websites,   Genuki is a virtual reference library of genealogical information, I find it very helpful as a resource for other places to look.

Scotland Pay site

Kent, Surrey and Sussex 




Canada Library and Archives Canada (LAC), Free has censuses, from the early 1800s to the 20th century, military records, land records, immigration, government records. The Héritage project is a 10-year initiative to digitize and make accessible online some of Canada’s most popular archival collections encompassing roughly 40 million pages of primary-source documents. Chronicling the country and its people from the 1600s to the mid-1900s, this collection represents a vast and unique resource for Canadian historians, students, and genealogists.

Our Roots / Nos Racines; collections of digitized Canadian local history publications, in English and French. Search or browse by author, title or subject. Hosted by various Canadian universities, you may need to search with a location. ,  United Empire Loyalists obituary daily Times Censuses 

Ontario ontario community newspaper portal, has 200 years of Ontario newspapers, online  Land records Wesleyan Methodist Baptismal Registers, 1825-1910

Historical maps with settlers' names, 

Canadian county atlas digital project, 

Specific places Ontario counties, Peel, Wellington and Dufferin; Births, marriages, engagements, deaths, burials, other social announcements from many local newspapers.   Historic Westmeath Project; This website is a marvellous example of a One Place Study with contributions from descendants of the early settlers in this area, plus maps, photos and many historical facts. The township is located in the Upper Ottawa River Valley in Eastern Ontario, Canada, approximately 90 minutes west of Ottawa. 

This site is being updated November 2021, it is online, with all information except family histories which will be back by the end of the year. Innisfil Ontario 

by M Ross G2G6 Pilot (212k points)
edited by M Ross
Google is great!  Just today (after a few tries) I found a source that had eluded me.  I'm surprised no one mentioned it earlier.
A very long time ago, when I was a complete novice at family history research and all I had was the name of my 2 x GGF, I googled descendants and I think ancestors of Patrick Rogers, Staffordshire, England.

I found very accurate records on if I remember correctly Tribal Pages. This led me to various second cousins who had previously researched the family. The information was correct.

I am still in frequent contact with these cousins and have found many other relatives because of those connections. We shouldn't dismiss a Google search as a possible source of information.
+7 votes

Family Search


Find a Grave

Wiki Tree


I use the above sites mostly, but also there a few other sites that people have that I use for references and post the links on the profiles that they pertain to like online trees, online books, etc.. also use facebook genealogy groups to help get info from other researchers, to see if they more info or insight on families that i may not have enough info on etc,, 

by Janine Isleman G2G6 Mach 4 (43.0k points)
+9 votes

The websites that I use for researching my Irish ancestors are: 

Irish Newspaper Archives -

Roots Ireland

Irish Genealogy.i.e

Irish Ancestors, John Grenham

Irish Genealogy Toolkit  This is a great site which explains all the different sources that can aid with your research. 

Find my Past 

For my English ancestors I use these websites:


My Heritage

Family Search

Find a Grave

Billion Graves

DNA - Gedmatch


by Cheryl Grogan G2G2 (2.7k points)
+7 votes
People have given a lot of great links in the answers above. Here are three I use that don't seem to have been mentioned yet:

England and Wales General Register Office (requires login and payment for images, but search is free):

Ryerson Index to Australian death notices and obituaries (free):

Isle of Man imuseum search (free):
by Jim Richardson G2G6 Pilot (245k points)
Many of the British archives and  GRO are currently free because physical building access is not available due to Covid.
+7 votes
I use mostly

Family Search

MyHeritage as pay site

Library and Archives Canada for Canada research


Google Maps to get a clue where a location is. Then I can start to figure out where it belonged to at a certain time.
by Jelena Eckstädt G2G6 Pilot (796k points)
+7 votes
In addition to Find My Past and Family Search:

For Kent

- Mid Kent Marraiges

- Romney Marsh Baptisms

- Faded Genes

For early Australia

- Monaro Pioneers
by Janet Gunn G2G6 Pilot (104k points)
+5 votes
For years, I searched records on Family Search and Google, almost exclusively.  Recently, I have learned to search the images, books, and catalogue, on Family Search, with productive results., Hathitrust and Google Books have also been helpful.  I have made use of Library and Archives of Canada, for Canadian records.   I've spent some time exploring French departmental archives,  I'm still learning, every day.
by Mark Weinheimer G2G6 Pilot (452k points)
edited by Mark Weinheimer
+10 votes
I'm a bit disappointed with the responses to this question.  All these answers say that the only tool anybody uses any more is the computer!  What would grandma think about nobody visiting the historical society, or the genealogy room, or the court house, or hoofing it through the cemetery, or doing anything creative to find things that aren't on the web, or getting off his/her butt to try to find new info?  Has anyone found any good tools for finding records that don't show up in web searches these days?
by Dennis Barton G2G6 Pilot (437k points)
I understand all that, and I agree.  I don't mean to discount the value the computer and the web bring to the hobby.  They make us all much more efficient and productive, and they open up the hobby to people who might otherwise be unable to participate.  All good.  The point I was trying to introduce regarding the question "What's in your toolbox ...?" is that perhaps we don't have toolboxes any more.  We have become totally dependent on a single tool, and we're not going back.  At least that's what these answers seem to say.

You might convince me that that's not necessarily a bad thing, but I still have these nagging suspicions that using other tools or resources no longer crosses our minds at all. If we fail to find what we're looking for in a web search, or hit a brick wall, the problem goes on the back burner until more data shows up on the web.  Isn't that where we are?

I did note a couple other ideas (more or less) in my own answer on this thread.

But if I think there's a record of my ancestor in an archive in Pennsylvania that hasn't been put on-line, I either have to go there or hire a genealogist from the area to do it.  I don't mind spending money on genealogy, but I really don't want to pay someone to do my hobby for me.  (Or, I could ask you smiley .)

You could!  You'd probably use your computer for that! laugh

It all depends on where your ancestors are, every ancestor of mine except my parents was born, married and died 5500 +/- 50 km from where I live.

I have neither the money or the time needed to do original research in England.
There are a lot of profiles based in my local area that need offline research to establish connections with other profiles and places of origin. Periodically I look up information about them in offline repositories so that their bios can be developed and family can be connected. These are not my relatives and the profiles have been sitting here on WT for several years with very little information on them.

How many people know that Ancestry's hints are based on the content of personal trees, so if the tree is wrong, so too is the hint?

There was a ton of complaining here only weeks ago when Family Search changed its search function. Most of the records at FS are not indexed. I'm not having any problems with the site. I'm still finding records and building bios in the same way that I used to. The complaints highlighted how dependent people have become on typing in a name and having all the answers handed to them.

Certainly the internet has allowed us to advance our research in far away places, but there is a wealth of information not available online. Learning how to research offline makes us better researchers and helps to break down brick walls.
Amen Leandra, thank you!  You have eloquently made the point I've been trying to articulate in my own inept way!
Well Dennis, I've been guilty of the "exhaust the internet first" approach, but it's working ok for me so far. What are the tricks and tools you've used offline? What creative approaches did you come up with that we can think about using?
As I noted above, I'm guilty of the same thing, and as many others have pointed out, that's probably the most efficient way to go about this now.  My point is that when we don't find info we're looking for by means of web searches, that doesn't necessarily mean it's time to admit defeat.  I think at least Leandra would agree.

One thing I have found to be productive, if you're able, is a visit to the local historical society or library genealogy room in the area where your research subject lived.  They are full of all sorts of documents that aren't online, including old handwritten genealogies that were never published.  And I have found the attendants to be very knowledgeable and helpful as well -- give them a name of someone from a couple of hundred years ago, and they can sometimes walk right to an obscure document with info about that person.  You can sometimes find the same thing at an LDS Family History Center, if you have one nearby.  I have also found, BTW, that those "finds" typically don't meet our current sourcing standards, but they are nevertheless usually accurate and provide lots of good clues.  And some libraries will even do look-ups for you if you have sufficient data about an event, but just no record to document it.

Another problem I sometimes run into is that I see a reference to some publication that sounds as if it would provide useful data, but cannot locate a copy.  Sometimes a new or used copy is available on amazon, but I'm reluctant to buy without knowing for sure if the pub will be helpful.  That's a scenario where the inter-library loan system can be very helpful, if your library supports it.  The St. Louis County Library and the Allen County Public Library are two in particular that seem to have a wealth of publications available.

Those are two approaches that I sometimes find helpful, and I'm sure others can come up with a lot of other suggestions.  We shouldn't get into a mindset that we must live or die by whatever we can come up with on web searches.
One of the other things to think about, where you are makes a huge difference. If you don't know what records are available it is easily possible to spend inordinate amounts of time looking for records that don't exist.

In some countries such as the U.S. local courthouses and I believe some churches kept many records.

In other places such as most of Canada especially post 1840 and post 1837 in the UK, records were delivered to various branches of the government, they were not kept by courthouses or other local groups.

I do a lot of Canadian research for a group of families whose ancestors'  were some of very earliest settlers in the now Niagara area of Ontario, between 1780 and 1800 and were mostly United Empire Loyalists. Almost all birth, marriage and death records were stored in churches that were burned to the ground during the War of 1812.

It isn't possible to find censuses or BMDs locally, you either have to go to the provincial or national archives, which in many cases are anywhere from 6-20 hours drive from where you live. I have been to Library and Archives Canada, it is almost 6 hours by car, you have to request the records before you arrive and know what you want, there is no browsing amongst stacks or drawers in old cupboards or bookcases. What you get will be a pdf or jpeg of the record, on a computer in the public access reading room. The originals are in the archives.

Our local historical society has some family histories written by descendants, and they aren't always accurate, access to land records from about 1820s is through the Ontario government, prior to that up to I'm not sure when all land grants etc were administered by the British government. Those records are in the British archives, digitized copies are available through Library and Archives Canada.
Dennis, for Serbian research I have to use other things. Mum bought a book years ago that names people in the church of my grandpa's town. I told my removed cousin to buy and send me a book about the town's history. So yes, there are other remedies, but it is possible to see records while sitting on the sofa.
+16 votes
As many records as possible, both online and offline, to cross check and verify information.

Questioning of the who, what, when, where and why to better understand my ancestors and place their lives in the context of the society in which they lived.

Research of extended family, not just direct lines, to discover more about my ancestors and prevent errors in my research. Adding friends, associates and neighbours to the research to break down brick walls.

Logic and an understanding of reproductive biology; my 90 year old grandmother did not give birth, my 2 year old great-grandpa did not father a child, my lower class ancestors did not dart back and forth between England and Australia every two years having children.

Use of maps.

Checking coverage of records in repositories. I may not have found my ancestor if only half of the total records in existence are present, or only some of the parishes are represented.

Researching the places where my ancestors lived, history applicable to their time, and the laws that impacted upon their lives.

Patience and a desire to be as thorough as possible. Good quality research takes time.

Good documentation of sources. In the long run it saves a lot of time.
by Leandra Ford G2G6 Pilot (128k points)
edited by Leandra Ford
+6 votes
One thing I haven't seen mentioned (specifically) is the FamilySearch Research Wiki.  It is the last item on their "Search" dropdown menu.  For any location, one can find an informative page with maps, basic information about the place, web links and other resources, and a summary of the records available on FS.  In particular I use it when searching for unindexed probate records.

Another type of resource that can often be useful, both on-line and off, is books.  Browsing in a college library or a used book sale has sometimes turned up information I would never have found with a focused search.

And people...It only takes a few minutes to send an inquiry to a DNA match or someone who has posted information on Ancestry (for example).  Sometimes my inquiries are ignored, or answered months or years later, but I have also made contacts who have sent me all kinds of valuable information including photographs of my ancestors.
by Julie Kelts G2G6 Pilot (456k points)
I'd also like to add that if people don't respond to emails they could be missing out on a lot. A few years ago I received an email from someone in Canada, whose father shared DNA with my mother, asking if we had ancestors in Ireland. My mother's DNA matches revealed Irish ancestry which was previously unknown to us, but I thought it was behind our Scottish ancestors, not the line where this DNA match occured. My Scottish 5g-grandparents had emigrated to Canada. Their grandson, my 3g-grandfather, emigrated to Australia. This man looked at my tree and said my ancestors were a well known family where he lived and he promised to visit the local archive for me. Two weeks later I received a photo of a family tree that was compiled in the 1930s and sitting in an archive in Fredericton. It showed other members of that family had emigrated to the US and my 5g-grandfather was born in Country Antrim. It also had his parents' names. I would never have found this information on my own and it has given me several leads to find various ancestors in their new countries.

I've also found it helpful to develop friendships with good researchers in different locations. We're not researching the same family but we do offline research for each other, which helps to keep the cost down.
+5 votes
by Joyce Vander Bogart G2G6 Pilot (118k points)
Expand on that one Joyce, please? Are you tracking individual facts for a person on one card? Using the index cards to organize as a reference system to the other files you keep? Something else?
Linnaeus found that if he entered each piece of information on a separate card, that he could then reorganize them into meaningful groups, as often as he chose.  I use this method often, though I use slips of paper rather than index cards. For example:

Family Search showed me 2 brothers, both named John
Tucker. Same parents, different birthdays. Is this correct?

1) This is correct.

2) There is only one person. One of the birthdays is wrong.

3) There are two brothers with different birthdays, but one of them wasn't named John.

4) There are two people named John Tucker, but one of them has the wrong parents.

As I checked each source, I wrote each piece of information on a  separate slip of paper. Then I moved the papers around--comparing, for example, the birth records, or then the death records. I was found that one of the birth records was wrong and that there was only one John Tucker in this family. After I had entered the correct information into the computer, I threw away all the little slips of paper.

I use a lot of slips of paper. I always look at my junk mail to see if I can use any of it to make slips of paper. But I am happy to know I am using Linnaeus' discovery.

Thanks for your comment, Jonathan.

    I am laughing out load.   I don't think that I have used index cards since college, but they were (and are) a wonderful way to organize information.


P.S.  I still occasionally use separate yellow legal pads for the same purpose.
Thank you, Roger, for your answer. I thought the article about Linnaeus was very interesting. I was surprised that someone would not know how to use index cards!

I  remember "cut and paste" when it was literally "cut and tape."

     It wasn't an endorsement, but it works well for me.  I can collect things on one family one place.

    I also remember the cut and tape approach.  I still use it from time to the time, much to the chagrin on my younger colleagues.

+6 votes

Tree building:

  • FamilySearch
  • WikiTree

General Record Searching

  • FamilySearch
  • Ancestry (iOS App)
  • Find a Grave
  • MyHeritage (Library Edition)



Surname Distribution
by Heather Kushion G2G6 Mach 1 (10.7k points)
+4 votes
Local libraries, all the time. The one I've used most often is the Ohio County Public Library in Wheeling, WV, with their extensive newspaper archives.

A lot of my usual resources have been listed already, but for Nordic countries:

Norwegian DigitalArkivet:

Norwegian DigitaltMuseum (Photo archive in particular):

Sweden RiksArkivet:

Icelandic church books:

Iceland census database:

I also like to communicate with Norwegian historielager (local historical societies) whenever I'm struggling to find or interpret documentation.

Beyond the Nordic nations, I recommend Steve Morse's site to everyone, with its many resources. I usually use it for transliteration work:

Most of my other selections have been listed
by Thomas Koehnline G2G6 Mach 5 (50.1k points)
+2 votes
I am quickly making a list of all of the good sources that people have named for my future reference.

In addition to the ones used above, many of which are also favorites for me, I also use the older Gotha books, which are very helpful on German nobility, as well as some of the family genealogies and document collections published on those families.
by Roger Stong G2G6 Pilot (182k points)

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