Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

Genealogy Websites


Using Internet Directories to Research Genealogies

Directories offer a different view of the Internet. A directory on the Internet is like an index to a book. A book index tells you the pages on which to find a specific person or subject; an Internet directory tells you the Web sites for a given subject. Whereas general search engines look for terms found either on the Web page or in the coding (which you don't see but your Internet browser software can interpret), a directory is based on information found on the Web site's home page and is organized with human intervention. Directories are arranged by subject headings, with the list of sites generally organized alphabetically under the subject heading.

Directories can be great time-savers. It's always a good feeling to put the name of an ancestor into a directory and have the name come up. When that happens, viewing the original record is as easy as clicking on the name.

Because of the human involvement, directories may actually give you a better chance of finding pages with genealogical information. There are a number of directories on the Web devoted solely to genealogy Web sites.

Try these genealogy directories:

Each directory is arranged differently. The largest is Cyndi's List, with more than two hundred thousand links. She has organized the list into headings and subheadings. For instance, you may select the Newspaper heading, then the History subheading, which contains a number of links to sites on the Internet pertaining to this subject. The organization of the links is up to the people who have compiled the directory. As such, links may not always be under the heading you expect. Some directory sites offer a search function so you can be sure you don't miss any links.

When looking for specific types of data, use general search engines and directories. They help you find databases based on locality, ethnic or religious beliefs, surname, and record type. They may give you an idea of what is out there on the Internet and help you find transcribed records and compiled family history pages.

Sometimes all you need to complete your family history is raw information, like a name, date, or place. Complied genealogy databases that store this data are becoming more popular, and some of them are free.  Learn more about these databases next.

To learn more about building a genealogy, see How Genealogy Works.


More to Explore