Saturday, August 20, 2016

My Top 10 Genealogy Programs

Gold Top 10 Winner by Sam Churchill / flickr

Randy Seaver in his blog Genea-Musing recently posted about his favorite genealogy programs. It started me thinking about those programs and web sites I most frequently use in my genealogy research. After compiling my list, I realized that my research strategies would be vastly different without my Top Ten. Some are free, some fee, some are web sites, others are software that I see as essential for my research. They are listed below in alphabetical order (after all,, I was a teacher and librarian forever).

  • Ancestry - This fee site continues to provide online access to a growing database of records that would be beyond my means to physically locate on my own. Their shaky leaf hints provide suggestions of resources, events, or individuals for me to fully research myself.
  • Digital Archives of Norway - For those of us with Norwegian ancestors, this free site is a must. In addition to census records and information on Norwegian genealogy resources, the web site contains online images of church records from across the entire country. Yes, the text is written in Norwegian, but by keeping Google Translate on and some Norwegian vocabulary cheat sheets I found on Family Search, I have been able to learn so much about the Norwegian side of my family.
  • Family Search - This free web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints provides online access to genealogy records from around the world. Some are similar to those records available through Ancestry. Other records are available only on Family Search. Some records are indexed, others must be browsed to locate information. The Family Search Research Wiki is filled with helpful hints, history and geographical information, and links to external web sites on specific counties or geographical areas.
  • Family Tree Maker - Bottom line, I would be lost without a genealogy software program, and Family Tree Maker remains my choice. It is my primary place to record everything that I learn about my family through my research. I like that I can develop new trees as I research a possible family relationship, then easily merge it into my primary tree if it is clearly a branch of my family tree. And, thanks to some new practices I started after my Genealogy Do-Over, I maintain much of my research log in the software itself.
  • Find A Grave / Billion Graves - These two, free web sites are helpful for locating cemeteries, burial locations, and photos of headstones or grave markers. Although the two sites are similar, each site maintains its own unique database. There is some duplication of names between the two sites, but using both sites greatly expands the scope of my research. I also appreciate the opportunity to gain access to Billion Graves' premium ($) resources by submitting new photos of grave markers or by transcribing information from photos of markers.
  • Fold3 - I maintain a fee subscription to Fold3 and use if frequently to search for military records, pension records, and, as a real bonus for one with many Georgia ancestors, access to old issues of The Atlanta Constitution. It has also proved helpful in locating information about the military units in which various family members have served.
  • Georgia's Virtual Vault - If you have ancestors who lived in Georgia, this is a fabulous web site. The Vault is a prime example of a state providing free access to certain digitized state records, i.e. marriage records, land purchases, confederate enlistment and pension records, maps, photos, the list goes on.
  • Google Drive - The free suite of programs has turned out to have many genealogical applications for me. I've found so many uses for Google Sheets, their spreadsheet app. Sheets lets me keep lists of materials to request for interlibrary loan, newspaper articles to locate, books to browse when I visit area university or genealogical libraries, timelines. Using Google maps, I have developed maps of family residences, ancestor farms in Norway, family migration routes, etc., all saved and accessible on Google Drive. The beauty is that all this information is available to me whenever and where I have internet access, on my smartphone, my laptop, or a library computer.
  • Hathi Trust Digital Library - HathiTrust is a partnership of academic and research libraries that provides both indexing and some full-view documents on its web site. It is similar to Google Books in providing access to numerous books that are out of copyright as well as access to a wide variety of research texts. The big plus for me is being able to have a guest account. This allows me to maintain my personal collection of go-to resources. I have a Georgia collection, a military records collection, and several others.
  • Transcript freeware - This free (for personal use) software was developed by Jacob Boerema. Basically, the software allows you to open a document pdf file or a photo into the top half of a split screen for viewing then to key your transcription of the document in the bottom half of the split screen. A previous post explains more about how you can adjust the light, font size, or contrast of the image to make the image easier to view. This is no autocorrect in Transcript, so your transcription can show the grammar, spelling, and punctuation of the document's writer. I've also found that transcribing a document often helps me pay closer attention to details that I might have overlooked were I just reading the document.
That is my list, for now, Already I can think of 10 more sites that have earned favored status for me. Now, it is your turn. What are your Top 10 sites or programs?


  1. I've used Transcript by Jacob Boerema and it is wonderful for transcribing records. I love the text on top and the space right below to type. I don't think all that many researchers are using Transcript and they are missing out on a great product.

    1. I agree, and I'm so appreciative of whoever first mentioned it in their blog post years ago. It is definitely a great freeware program.

  2. I love both FamilySearch and Find-a-Grave. They're two of the first sites I tend to hit when I sit down to work on research for the day! One day in the near future, I do want to subscribe to Fold3. Do they have complete Civil War pension files or just the cards?

    1. Fold3 seems to have the complete Civil War pension files. Some that I have read are 40-50 pages or longer, especially if there are appeals, problems finding people to verify information on the application, etc. This is one of the places where I frequently use Transcript to transcribe a screen shot of specific pages.

    2. Hm, I'll have to see if they have finished indexing and scanning yet. Thanks!