Science Fiction
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Genealogy Resources

Product & Website Evaluations

By Molly Kalafut

Free Sites By State

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California Kentucky North Carolina Wisconsin
Colorado Maine South Dakota Canada


To find living relatives and family members, a great value of the Internet is that many people put their own information online through directories and profiles. Decades ago, genealogists had to sleuth through dusty church records and boxes of census data to find information about births, marriages and deaths. Now people put their wedding and baby pictures online!

MSN Member Directory- Search by name and interests.

ICQ Whitepages - Search by name, email, age, gender, location, interests, etc.

Yahoo Profiles - Search by name.

Orkut - Search by many different types of information.

Amazon - A lot of people don't think of this, but you can search for people on Amazon by their email address and name. It can give details like birthday, city/state and other contact information.

Edgar Online - Search names.

Forbes Business Search - Search company executives.

Find Law - Search by name for lawyers.

Domain Whois - Look up the registered owner of an internet domain.

Classmates - In 2007 Classmates made a change to their searching making it easier to search by surname (without needing to search by first name). It provides helpful education details as well as a clue about where people likely grew up. Extended details are available for a fee, but the free details are still helpful.

Tools & Calculators

County Lookup - This is useful for finding the county that a town or city belongs to. In searching for records you often have to look at a county level.

Census Birth Year Calculator - Neat tool where you input the family's census year and ages, and it provides the estimated year of birth.

Calendar Tool - Provides easy calendar lookup for dates/weeks/years, between 1753-2010. This is especially helpful when obituaries state "Burial will be Wednesday", and you have to calculate Wednesday's date from the newspaper's publish date.

Generic White Pages

There are a ton of resources online for searching basic phone book information. You can tell if a site is running off of public phone book records if people you know are "unlisted" do not have search results. (If someone you know is unlisted is returned as a result, it is likely to be a site that also search public records, not just the phone book. These sites usually require payment.)

WhoWhere/Lycos - The Lycos search by name, city/state/zip and returns address, middle initial and phone number.

WhitePages.com - Search by name with city/state/zip. Returns address, phone number and time zone. May offer middle initial. There is also an option to find neighbors, but returns results alphabetically rather than proximity. The top of the screen also offers reverse phone number and reverse address searches.

Addresses.com - The usual standard phone book search results, with a higher level of inaccuracy. It mangled a few of the addresses I looked at. For example a 6-digit address only had 3 digits. Also offers reverse phone and reverse email. For more results, it directs to Intelius.com results. Weirdly, the site also offers a section for celebrity addresses and birthdates.

Netscape Search - Search by name and location. Returns address and phone number.

Switchboard - Standard phone book search, by name and location.

Deaths & Obituaries

Rootsweb Social Security Death Records: Free searching and results by name, location, birth and death dates, social security number, and more. Many of the "pay" people searching sites that offer death information just package up this free information, so it's valuable to access it here directly for free.

FindAGrave: Free searching of millions of graves throughout the world. A great resource! One of my favorites.

Interment.net: Search cemetery records.

Obituary Central: You can search by surname and location.

ObitsArchive: This isn't TOTALLY free, as you have to pay $2.95 per article - but the search results are free, and can provide the person's name, date and newspaper.

Obituary Daily Times: This search is done through Rootsweb, and is useful for finding the names, locations and newspaper of the obituary.

Legacy Obituaries: Again, this is quasi-free: some results are free, some must be purchased.  I've found some great free results here that weren't on other obit sites.

Ship & Passenger Records

Canadian Immigration 1925-1935: Search by name, year, port and ship.

Castle Garden 1820-1913: Search 10 million records of New York arrivals before Ellis Island data is available. I've had hit-or-miss results with this resource, but it's still worth a try.

Ellis Island Records 1892-1924 : Huge, free collection for Port of New York passenger records.

Ellis Island Gold Search Form : The best searching form for Ellis Island records. Amazingly flexible; can search by name, companion name, town, ship, port, year of arrival, age at arrival, year of birth, arrival month, ethnicity, etc.

Family Trees

Rootsweb WorldConnect: This WorldConnect site is a free family tree searching site with reportedly over 400 million names. These results are also reported in Ancestry.com, but on Rootsweb here it is free! The searching is flexible, allowing by name, birth/marriage/death places and years, parent names and allows filtering for notes, sources and whether or not the people have descendants.

Family Search - The extensive Mormon directory to genealogy information, with extensive international records stretching back hundreds of years.

GeneaNet: This site has a significant amount of information available for free, though some advanced searching can only be done by subscription. It's useful for searching unusual surnames, or surnames in specific places or time ranges. It's primarily a French website though, so the majority of results (I've found, anyway) are European rather than American. I've found it most useful for French and Belgium searches.

GenCircles: This can be a useful site to search, but has a bad combination of less content than the WorldConnect project, plus overlap with WorldConnect.

General Genealogy

I hate to sound so cynical in this section, but there are a lot of 'free' genealogy websites that offer little more than redirects to all the major genealogy sites - ancestry, rootsweb, USGenWeb, etc. To evaluate a site I poke around doing what I consider a number of reasonable searches (for places, surnames, etc) and see if I can find anything unique or if it's all just redirecting me.

Distant Cousins : This site allows you to search by surname, and offers a mix of direct content and redirected content to other pages. I find it frustrating overall because so many of the results take me to other websites (like Rootsweb or Ancestry), but there are some useful bits scattered in between. My suggestion is to look at / hover over the URL of search results to see if it starts with "distantcousin" or not, in order to determine if the link is direct or redirects you elsewhere.

Family Tree Legends : This collection's data is mostly available for free elsewhere, or through Ancestry.com. The most annoying part is that their California birth index collection does not include the mother's maiden name, which is easily available elsewhere.

Genealogy Today : This collection has some small, unique and weird data. It might be worth poking around, particularly for older information.

Census Online: Aggregates links to websites providing census information. It does have nice summary maps of each state by county. But I tried searching 3 countries and 5 states, and didn't find any real helpful links - mostly just directs to USGenWeb, Rootsweb, etc. Oh and it wants you to buy CDs and other merchandise from ancestry.com. I do, however, enjoy their Census Birth Year Calculator and Calendar Tool.

D'Addezio: Another frustrating and unimpressive collection. But I searched 10 surnames (including their so-called specialty of Italian) and found zero results - but of course, it wanted to refer me to ancestry.com paid results.

Kindred Trails : I'm very unimpressed. This site is free and claims to have some local content --but I couldn't find any. It mostly tries to redirect to ancestry.com or familysearch.org. I tried looking in their 'locality' list but the results were links to the usual suspects: ancestry, genealogy.com, USGenWeb (pages that hadn't been updated since the 1990s), etc. Yawn. I tried their 'surname' section but couldn't find anything for anything other than the most common of surnames. Nothing for my maiden name, husband's surname, mother-in-law's maiden name, etc.


Amazon Wedding Registry : Can search by names and dates (only last name is required, not first name)

Bed, Bath and Beyond Wedding Registry : Can search by last name and at least 1 letter of the first name.

Crate & Barrel Wedding Registry: Must search by last name and at least 1-3 letters of the first name.

Macy's Wedding Registry : Search by name.

Pottery Barn Wedding Registry : Must search by both first and last name, but it does provide results to similar names (not just exact matches).

Target Baby & Wedding Registries : Search by last name and at least 2 letters of the first name.

Tiffany's Wedding Registry : Can search by name and dates (first name not required)

Walmart Baby & Wedding Gift Registries : Can search by last name and at least 2 letters of the first name.

Williams-Sonoma Wedding Registry : Must search by both first and last name.

Unhelpful Resources

Okay, there are fifty billion zillion genealogy websites online. This is my list of pages I found useless, frustrating and painful to use - mostly so I don't waste time on them again in the future. If it has helpful links for you, good.

All-Genealogy.com : Only redirects to Ancestry.

YourFamily.com : Message board and family finder. Small. Redirects to pay sites.


Alabama State Inmate Search: Search by first and last name.

Mobile County Probate Court: Search real property, estate, marriages and elections.

Tuscaloosa County Records: Search land records and marriages.


Alaska Business & Licensing Records: Search by entity or officer name.

Alaska Trial Court Records: Search by name, ticket or case number for Anchorage, Fairbanks and Palmer.

Anchorage Property Appraisal: Search by name or address.


Arizona Public Access to Court Information: Search by name, court and case number.

Arizona Inmate Data (1972+): Search by last name and first initial, male or female, active or inactive.

Arizona Inmate Registers (prior to 1972): Inmate admissions listed alphabetically.

Arizona Birth Certificates (1887-1929): Search by name, county and year.

Arizona Death Certificates (1878-1954): Search by name, county and year.

Arizona Parcel Search: Search by name, address or ID.

Arizona UCC Debtor Filings (prior to 2001): Search by debtor name, secured party or file number.

Arizona UCC Lien Search (current): Search by debtor name, secured party or file number and a variety of options (effective, terminated, records lapsed within past year, inactive records).

Coconino County Recorded Documents (1983-current): Search by name, date, parcel,  document number, etc.

Maricopa County Superior Court: Search by name or case.

Maricopa County Recorded Documents (1982-current): Search by name, business, date and document codes.

Maricopa County Recorded Documents Index (1968-1982): Search by name

Mohave County Court Recorded Documents: May require a login and payment.

Pinal County Recorded Documents: Search by grantor, grantee, name, business or document type.

Pinal County Treasurer's Office: Search by name or parcel ID.


Arkansas State Prison Search:


California State Deaths andFTL CA State Deaths : Search death records from 1940-1997

Santa Clara Superior Court: Search court cases by name.

Shasta County Civil & Criminal Court: Search by name


Colorado Department of Corrections: Search by DOC number, name, DOB and gender.

Arapahoe County Recorded Documents: Search by name and others.

Boulder County iCRIS Online Document Search: Marriages, Divorces, Property, Deeds, Complaints, Liens, Mortgages, Taxes, etc.

Boulder Voter Registration: Search by last name and birth date for voter registration information.

Denver County Court Cases: Search court cases (civil, criminal, general sessions, traffic) by case number, last/first name, birth date, sex, business, docket, court date, etc.

Douglas County Recorded Documents: Search by name

Douglas County Marriage Records: Search by groom and bride names

Alachua County Property Appraiser: Name, Subdivision, Address, Parcel Number, etc.

Placer County Documents : Search recorded documents, marriages and businesses.


Florida Inmate Offenders : Search by name, ages and descriptions.

Florida Recorded Documents : Search by name, location age, etc.

Charlotte County Circuit Court Records : Search by name.

Dade Property Information : Search by owner, address or folio.

Hillsborough County Arrest Inquiry: Search by name, sex, birth, etc.

Miami-Dade County Clerk Records : Search by name, date and document.

Sarasota County Circuit Court Records : Search by name, company, case or date.

Seminole County Records : Search by name, date and document.


Illinois County Court Records: Search court cases from manycounties.

Illinois State Marriages: Search marriages 1763-1900.

Illinois State Deaths Pre–1916: Search deaths before 1916.

Illinois State Deaths (1916–1950): Search deaths 1916-1950


Kentucky State Vital Records: Search deaths (1911-1992), marriages (1973-1993) and divorces (1973-1993).

Kentucky State Online Databases: Dozens of types of searches.


Maine State Deaths: Deaths from 1960 to 1996 searchable by name, town and date.

Maine State Marriages: Marriages from 1892 to 1996 searchable by name, town and date.


Massachusetts Vital Records: Search birth and death certificates from 1830 to 1947.

Massachusetts Passenger Manifests: Search passenger manifests for 1848-1891.



Michigan State Offenders: Search by name for anyone imprisoned currently or in the past.

Michigan State Voter Registrants : Search by name and city.


Barry County Marriages: Search marriages.

Barry County Deaths: Search deaths.

Barry County Births: Search births prior to 1904.

Branch County Deaths: Search deaths by name and death year.

Grand Traverse County Deaths: Search deaths by name.

Grand Traverse County Marriages: Search marriages by names.

Ingham County Marriages: Search marriages.

Ingham County Deaths: Search deaths.

Macomb County Deaths: Search deaths.

Oakland County Courts : Search by name and more.

Saginaw County Marriages : Search by name only.

Saginaw County Deaths : Interestingly, this lets you search not just the deceased person's name, but also their mother and father.

Washtenaw County Marriages & Divorces: Search deaths (1960+) and marriages (1965+) by names and/or dates.

Washtenaw County Obituaries, Marriages & Notices: Search by name.

Washtenaw County Recorded Documents : Search by name, type of document, dates and tax id.

Wayne County Probate Records: Search probate court records by name, company and dates.

Wayne County Property Tax Listing : Search by address.

Wayne County Register of Deeds : Search by name, type of document.

Property Records

County Place Type Login
Lenawee County Adrian City Login Anonymously
Kalamazoo County Alamo Township Township Login Anonymously
Calhoun County Albion City Login Anonymously
Kent County Algoma Township Township Login Anonymously
St Clair County Algonac City Login Anonymously
Allegan County Allegan County County Login Anonymously
Wayne County Allen Park City Login Anonymously
Benzie County Almira Township Township Login Anonymously
Lapeer County Almont Township Township Login Anonymously
Kent County Alpine Township Township Login Anonymously
Washtenaw County Ann Arbor City Login Anonymously
Washtenaw County Ann Arbor Charter Township Township Login Anonymously