Ferret Out Family Trees
You probably wouldn't believe the number of people who think that genealogy is nothing more than a hunt for an already completed family tree. Since you're reading this book, you probably already realize that it doesn't work that way. But with millions of people becoming involved in researching their family history, large numbers of family trees are available on the Internet, and your chances of locating at least a portion of your family tree online are better than you might think.
Find Family Trees at FamilySearch
The FamilySearch website currently offers a single family tree search engine that draws from more than 4.1 billion names contained in three different family tree databases of information culled from pedigree charts and family trees submitted to the Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The International Genealogical Index (IGI) is a database of more than 285 million baptisms and marriages from around the world, along with a few births and burials. Many of these events were extracted from original records, while others were submitted by members of the LDS Church. Click on the Source Call No. link from the IGI individual record page to learn the source of any data you find.
Ancestral File is a lineage-linked database that includes family trees submitted by family historians worldwide, created primarily from submissions gathered since 1979. Duplicate individuals from various contributors have been merged (not always correctly) and the only source information generally available for these trees, if any, is the name of the submitter.
Pedigree Resource File was created to overcome some of the deficiencies of Ancestral File, and includes notes and sources when provided by the contributor. These family trees are generally more recent, submitted by users to the FamilySearch Internet service. Only the index to the Pedigree Resource File can be searched online, however. For full access to a particular GEDCOM file, including source citations, you'll need to purchase the CD on which the GEDCOM is published. These are sold at cost, generally in sets of five, and can be purchased online.
The new FamilySearch Family Tree (expected to debut to the public on
How reliable is the information found in online family trees?
Many of the family trees submitted online are works in progress, and most probably contain at least an error or two. For this reason, you should never just download a family file you find online and add it directly to your own research without first taking some time to assess the accuracy of the information.
Member Trees at
From the Ancestry home page (
GenCircles Global Tree
This is another popular database of lineage-linked family trees, contributed by users to the site (
Take Your Search Global at
This pedigree database boasts more international family trees than most, and can be accessed in many languages as well. Because it was founded in France, GeneaNet (
Search the Social Networks
Social networking sites offer yet another opportunity for connecting with others who may also be researching your ancestors. Facebook is one of the biggest these days, with several genealogy applications such as FamilyLink's We're Related (
Find Family Trees by Subscription
Genealogy is big business, and many companies make money by collecting and distributing family trees submitted by users.
In order to read and follow many of the family trees you'll find published online, it will help to have a basic understanding of the conventional numbering systems used by genealogists. Three of the most common include the Ahnentafel, a numbering system for ascending genealogies, and the Register System and NGS Quarterly System, used for descending genealogies. Examples and explanations of each system can be found online through a Google search.
In addition to the sites discussed here, there are dozens of other lineage-linked family tree databases to be found online, as well as thousands of individually created family trees published on personal websites across the Internet. Many can be found by entering a search such as bumgardner family tree in your favorite search engine.