Researching Your Ancestry in the U.S. Using Linkpendium, Family Tree Magazine, and Cyndi's List
by Jeannine Berroteran
For anyone interested in doing genealogical research, there are many free, valuable web resources to help with your quest. This web review covers three helpful websites.
Linkpendium: The Definitive Directory is just that – on online directory of links to genealogical resources founded by the creators of the extremely popular RootsWeb genealogical website (now a part of Ancestry.com), Karen Isaacson and Brian (Wolf) Leverich. While a work in progress, it is a good starting point for the amateur genealogist or the more experienced researcher tracking down information pertaining to ancestral lineage. The content is divided into three main sections:
- Genealogy Links
- Outdoor Activities Links
- What’s Happening at Linkpendium
While the last two categories do not specifically contain information relevant to genealogical research, they do provide some insight into the background of the website’s creators. For example, the Outdoors Activities Links section is an indication of the creators’ avid interest in hiking and What’s Happening at Linkpendium is a log of the latest updates made to the Linkpendium website. The core of the website is the first category, Genealogy Links, which contains links leading to web pages listing links to other sources. This is further divided into three subgroups:
- Localities: USA – listings of links arranged by state (one can either go to this page to find state genealogical websites or s/he can click one of the state genealogical links listed)
- Localities: United Kingdom (UK) and Ireland – eleven links leading to a wealth of information for the user to locate ancestral information by country, as well as any related information in reference to the history of the UK and generalized (how-to) genealogical research
- Surnames: Worldwide – an extensive list of links leading to resources for more detailed research on a plethora of surnames around the world (I was pleasantly surprised to find my surname listed, the unusual name that it is)
There is a new link listed on the left side of the main page for state-by-state search engines where the user can track down an abundance of information merely by entering a single query.
While this is a work in progress, Linkpendium provides a solid foundation upon which the researcher or amateur genealogist can begin his/her ancestral research through tracking down organizations for further assistance, by surname, or by location (for those looking for ancestral information by U.S. state or the UK and Ireland). It is a very user friendly website and beneficial for tracking down ancestry in the U.S. and the UK, but it is not helpful for those looking for ancestry anywhere else. What I find very unique about this website that I have not found with many others, is the detailed listing of surnames with links to resources about those surnames. It is a helpful resource for anyone tracking down background information on his/her ancestry in the U.S., the UK, Ireland, or locations with historical connections to these nations.
Family Tree Magazine compiles a yearly listing of state websites for researching ancestry in the U.S. For 2011, its website lists links to seventy-five sites, at least one per state. This website is a very detailed information resource for those who have a lengthy ancestry in the U.S. While I would give a high mark to Family Tree Magazine for its detailed research in compiling an abundance of information for locating genealogical information (especially databases with last names), I find the main page overly detailed and it requires too much scrolling to access all of the links listed. The user interface needs to be less cluttered; one suggestion would be to place state listings (A – G; H – N; O – S; T – Z) on separate pages.
Some other features on this website include an eNewsletter (sent to the subscriber’s email address each month once s/he subscribes by email) and a link to a Free Decorative Family Tree Chart. At the top of the website are a series of links that, once the user places his/her cursor over any one of these categories, lead to multiple links for tracking down more information pertaining to genealogical research:
- How To
- International Research (Heritage)
- Getting Started
- Research Toolkit
- University (e.g. online courses, webinars)
For the more hardcore researcher who is willing to pay for the services Family Tree Magazine offers, there are informational links to special offers from the magazine, information about classes and webinars, and information For Plus Members (e.g. Family Tree Sourcebook state listings, Best and Worst States for Genealogy, and Using State Libraries and Archives). The user can also search ShopFamilyTree.com, containing links leading to a guide to state censuses and state-by-state genealogy crash course webinars.
For the user/researcher on a tight budget, there is a Free Web Content section, containing information leading to a State-by-state Vital Records Download, Best Sites for U.S. Researchers, and a Family Tree Magazine Podcast: state research. Those using this site may also find the recent blog posts and recent articles section helpful to them for their genealogical research.
The U.S. page of Cyndi’s List is a category listing of all fifty U.S. states and Washington, D.C., along with related categories to track down ancestral information in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico (links to such websites as Ancestry.com and FamilySearch can be found under these categories). Related categories of interest to those living in the U.S. looking for information on relatives include links to websites based on ethnicities, cultures, and ancestries (e.g. Native American, African-American, and the United Kingdom & Ireland), as well as U.S. History, U.S. Library of Congress, U.S. Military, and related categories. First live in March 1996, Cyndi’s List – U.S. has only grown a great deal and it has become a very popular website for conducting ancestral research. Another feature is a link to Cyndi’s blog, where she chronicles her thoughts, offers advice and tips on doing genealogical research, and categories leading to previous blog posts (by topic and by date).
Under each state are a detailed number of categories ranging from birth, marriage, and death records to wills and probate information, which leads the user to a page listing links to resources containing copies of documents pertaining to one’s ancestry. While Cyndi’s List – U.S. is also very lengthy (a lot of scrolling is necessary to access all of the information on this page) there is a lot less clutter on this site, primary because there are not as many ads as on the Family Tree Magazine website. I would encourage users to explore other areas of this website, especially the Categories link, which leads to a plethora of categories that may prove useful for users at all levels of research, from the amateur genealogist to the experienced researcher. There is something here for everyone interested in either beginning his/her genealogical research or for those who are interested in tracing their ancestry beyond the U.S.
Jeannine Berroteran, a research analyst for The Berroteran Group, LLC, attended The Ohio State University and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in French and Italian. She has also earned a master of Library Science degree from Indiana University. She is fluent in French and Italian and enjoys reading French and Italian literature, as well as reading books pertaining to both foreign and domestic sociopolitics. In her spare time, she researches her genealogical background and topics pertaining to foreign languages and both foreign and domestic politics.