Free Genealogy Websites I Love: Part II

Back in March 2013 I posted my top favorite free websites.  Now it is time for an update six years later!  About seven months ago I returned to being a local history librarian while continuing my online teaching. It has been a good experience to reacquaint myself with new resources.  My research tactics have changed over the past six years. DNA testing was not an option, and I used many web sources to find information.

Here is my list of great websites to help you along with your research.

Access Genealogy

I highly recommend adding this website to your favorites bar right now!  It contains over 240,000 links to free resources.  The top menu bar is easily arranged by category and there is also a state search as well.  Its star attraction is the massive Native America census database linked with the Free US Indian Census roll from 1885-1940.  It also has an impressive selection of African American resources as well uploaded by individuals.  

It is easy to get lost moving through the categories and searches.  Anyone can subscribe by e-mail to be notified of when new resources are posted. 

Mississippi and Louisiana Digital Library

Both of these sites operate under the principal of offering open source pictures and documents to the public.  They have partnered with several librarians, universities, and museum collections in order to digitize their images for public use.  All items have citations and searchable descriptions.  

Some of my favorite items found on Mississippi Digital Library are the papers of the Dantzler Lumber Company that had a log book of the Cedar Lake grocery story.  I found three different great grandfather’s names posted in their accounts! Take time to check out the Mardi Gras illustrations available to Louisiana Digital Library.  They are worthy to hang as wall art!  

Open Library

I have used this website for over eight years.  It is different from the popular WordCat.  It has taken and uploaded digital books that are open source.  Some are easily accessible by clicking their pdf link.  No log in or password required.  Open Library has a free log in for anyone very interested in the resources available here. 

Here is a small list of things you can use this website to find in your genealogy and historical research:

  • Obscure and out-of-print genealogy books.
  • History books of counties, passenger ships, and people.
  • Books of maps.
  • Antique reports of industry and commerce.
  • Bibliographical and citation information for your librarian to search for hard to find books.
  • Vintage cookbooks!  (You know I am a fan of these.)

Here is my favorite book I have found for my research…

Castle Garden and Ellis Island 

The significance of Ellis Island is no secret in the word of genealogy.  Over 12 million immigrants passed through Ellis Island on their way to a new life in the United States.  It was active from the years 1892 through 1954!  The only requirement to complete the passenger search is to create a free account.  

Before Ellis Island, the main immigrant port was Castle Garden at Battery Park also in New York City. Castle Garden was active from 1820 until 1892.  The website states, “Today more than 100 million Americans can trace their ancestry to this early period of immigration.”  The database is open and does not require a log in.  It contains useful information such as age, date of birth, country of origin, and ship name.  

Both of these are great sources if you are unsure where you family entered the country.  

Old Biloxi Cemetery
Autumn View of the Old Biloxi Cemetery during the Annual Cemetery Tour!

City of Biloxi-Biloxi Cemetery Search 

This is a very specific, but useful database.  The portal was released in October of 2018 by the City of Biloxi.  It is a searchable database for the Old Biloxi also known as The Old French Cemetery on Highway 90 in Biloxi, Mississippi.  Follow this link or check out the homepage of The City of Biloxi “Cemetery” link to access it.  Search the records using last name first.  Once you choose a name on the right, you can see who else is interred in the plot.  

I would use this with another free website called Find a Grave.  Some of the sections (like addition 6 across Irish Hill Drive) have not been completed. Some of the records are incomplete as well and only give name.  Still, it is a great map if you are looking to visit the cemetery on a clear day and visit ancestors under the moss covered oaks.   

If you want further help without paying a dime you can checkout this fantastic 50 website list by Family History Daily.  

How have websites help you in your genealogy and historical research?  

My DNA Results are in!

My DNA Kit

After years of wanting to give it a try, I jumped at the chance to have my DNA tested when my mother offered to order a kit for me as a Christmas present.  I chose Ancestry DNA because it is the service used by my in-laws as well as a great uncle.  Ancestry is currently running a deal where the kits are 79 dollars instead of 99.  Please be aware there is around a 8 dollar shipping cost.  Bonus:  If you are a member of Ebates you can also receive 7.5% cash back on any Ancestry product!

Anyway, I was curious to see how my genealogy research has stacked up to the realty of my own DNA.  So I would like to take this moment to walk you through the process from beginning to the reveal!

My predictions:

Before ordering the DNA kit, I thought about all my previous research.  I predicted based on my physical features and my own family research.  I predicted the following results:

  • 40% Spanish
  • 15% Croatian, German (Bavarian), and Swiss
  • 10% French
  • Less than 10% British
  • Maybe 1% Native American

I thought about this considering the distance between generations of my family story.  The Croatian, German, and Swiss all come from great great grandparents.  While I know there is French on both sides of my family they came to the US in the early 1700s.  The Spanish was consistent through generations of my father’s family.  Plus I have very Spanish features.  (It has made my travels in Spain an easy going experience because I am never mistaken as a tourist!)

The PRocess:

Ordering a kit is a simple process where you create an Ancestry account, and place the order with payment.  It took less than a week or a small box to arrive. (Photographed above.)  It is the size of a small VHS box, and fits easily into the mailbox.  The kit includes two tubes, a prepaid mailer box, and clear instructions on how to complete the test.

You cannot eat, drink, or chew gum up to thirty minutes before collecting saliva.  You have to spit into the clear tube.  (They claim its only 1/4 of a teaspoon, but I had difficulty getting the tube filled!)  You then place the blue tube on top and shake in the blue stabilizing fluid. This step preserves the DNA.  Make sure to register your kit before sending in your results!

There is no need to go to the post office desk.  You can drop it in the mailbox since it is pre-paid.  I ordered the kit on November 5th, received my kit on November 10th, sent it out the next day.   My results arrived on November 23rd.  The whole process took 19 days!  Ancestry does say give 4-6 weeks for processing.  

My Results:

I was very surprised with my results.  I did not anticipate so much of my DNA to be from Great Britain!  It also showed way less Spanish ancestry than I expected.  There was also very little western Europe countries like France, Germany, and Switzerland.  It was amazing to see how my research has been off.  However, on further thought some makes sense when considering migration patterns and the history of these countries.

About 16% of my DNA is a prediction.  These are markers that are further in m family’s past.  Therefore, it is less accurate or trackable.  The amount of Middle Eastern, and central Asian is expected when considering that both Croatian and Spain have been under control of eastern countries.

My main DNA results!

Estimated DNA results!


My Thoughts:

Although my results were surprising for me, it was such a easy and interesting experience.  I would recommend the Ancestry DNA tests due to how easy it is to complete and receive results.  The whole process is sent through e-mail, and updates come in frequently from Ancestry.  You also have the option to link your DNA with other people in order to see possible matches.  (This can be waived if you would like your results to remain private.)  My great uncle showed as my first match, and I see this as a good sign of consistency within the test.

Ancestry uses genetic markers collected all over the world in order to predict your DNA.  Some of these are guesses depending.  Keep in mind that your family may be from other places, and migrated around.  (For example: think of the Irish who left Ireland during the potato famine.)  Also, other relatives are only part of your story.  A uncle only gives you a small portion of possible DNA results.

I look forward to using these results to guide further research by looking more carefully at last names and further into records.