The most useful website used to start your family research in Canada and the U.S. is (still) FamilySearch.org. In the past few months they have redesigned their website, giving access to clearer and faster results. By signing in, you also have access to the Worldwide indexing project that anybody can participate in. The works of thousand of volunteers is readily available for free. I cannot say enough of this wonderful (underated) tool provided by the Church of Jesus-Christ and the Latter Day Saints. Although there are severe transcription issues on foreign records, they are still less afflicted by this than Ancestry.com.
The most interesting feature of the new family search website is browsing by family of records : instead of conducting a general search, try picking a group of records relevant to your search by location or types of record. Some of these record sets have images, some have not. But it’s a far cry from paying a subscription to the same records on Ancestry when these are free. Each of the images you display in your browser may be saved to your computer for filing purposes and also include a direct citation URL for managing your sources.
Family Search also includes a new feature for registered LDS members, with the Legacy genealogy software, allowing to search for matches in your tree and merge individuals. Be aware : not ALL records are online, not all of them are transcribed correctly, there may be inconsistencies. As an example : I conducted searches for my grand-uncle Louis Philippe Dulac in the 1930 american census, his family name was badly transcribed so I made sure to verify the images of the census to identify him. So, be sure to widen your search by varying the date of birth, spelling of names or by searching for other members of the household.
The website also features searches in Family Trees, millions of linked individuals available from the Pedigree Resource File (PRF) database and the Ancestral File database (AF). All of these trees were contributed by various patrons over the last decade or so.
I would like to see correcting features in the future, allowing registered members to propose a different spelling for surnames, locations, etc. But as it is, this is must-have-and-use tool to start your family history research. Oh, and if only to tempt you even more to give it a try, Family Search is releasing day-by-day images of the 1940 U.S. Census and is also asking for your help in indexing the new census with a community project.
- FamilySearch: The 1940 U.S. Census Is Now Being Indexed! (eogn.com)
- Using the FamilySearch Record Collections (cumpstonresearch.wordpress.com)
- Family Search Indexing (fanniesyouraunt.wordpress.com)