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Video: Discover your family tree

TODAY
updated 8/29/2008 11:55:26 AM ET 2008-08-29T15:55:26

All week long, Matt Lauer, Meredith Vieira, Al Roker and Ann Curry have been sharing the stories of how they traced their family's roots. Now it's your turn. Maureen Taylor, a genealogist and a contributing editor of Family Tree magazine, shares tips and resources to help you get started creating your own family tree and discovering your roots.

The first step is to gather all the information you can: relatives' names, death information, locations, etc. Start with your oldest living relatives and their stories. From that point you can use various online resources — some free and some require a monthly or annual subscriptions. Here are a few:

Ancestry.com
This is the big player in field: 3 million active users, 850,000 subscribers and 6 million family trees. It allows you to build your own family tree (adding pictures, stories, etc.) and then share that information with other subscribers. Along the way, your tree is built using the vast amount of online records, including:

  • Census records
  • Passenger lists from 1820 to 1960
  • Birth, marriage and death records
  • Military records
  • African-American records (U.S. colored troops service records, labor records, narratives from former slaves)
  • International records
  • Photos and maps
  • Historical newspaper collection

Cost: $155/year (domestic access), $19.95/month (domestic access), $299/year (international access), $29.95/month (international access)

Footnote.com
Last year, this genealogy Web site partnered with the National Archives to digitize and make its records available to the public. As with Ancestry.com, you can share your search finding with others, and upload photos. They have over 40 million records digitized, and add about 2 million more records each month. Some of their records include:

  • Census records
  • City directories
  • Listings of Confederate soldiers
  • Pension files
  • Naturalization records
  • Turn of the century newspapers
  • Passport applications
  • Photos
  • State department records
  • Death certificates
  • Land records

They also just launched an interactive Vietnam Memorial, where folks can upload pictures and share stories about those men.

Cost: $11.95/month or $69.95/year. (These new prices go into effect Sept. 1, 2008.)

Familysearch.org
This free site (and non-profit organization) created by the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-Day Saints has one of the most extensive online collections.  There are over 1 billion searchable names in the database, and the site gets over 50,000 visitors each day. Last year, the site entered into an agreement with the National Archives and will be digitizing records including court, military, land and other government documents that date as early as 1754 to as late as the 1990s. Other records include:

  • Census records
  • War pensions
  • Birth, marriage and death certificates
  • International records

Cost: Free

Genealogybank.com
Genealogy Bank has more than 300 years of U.S. newspapers, government documents and other historical records from all 50 states, totaling over 227 million family history records. (It has more newspapers available than any other site designed to research family history.) With its focus on newspapers, Geneaology Bank hopes to provide people with information about their ancestors they might not otherwise find. The site includes:

  • 28 million obituaries (the most of any other source)
  • Birth, marriage and death notices
  • Historical newspapes
  • Historial books
  • Pension records
  • Widow's records
  • Land claims
  • Orphanage records
  • Social security death index

Cost: $11.95/month or $69.95/year

Deadfred.com
Created by Joe Bott, this free site allows you to post old photos and seek help identifying people from others' pictures. If you know the names of your ancestors you can perhaps connect with other people interested in those photos.

Additional Internet resources: National Library of Congress, WorldVitalRecords.com, GenealogyBank.com and CyndisList.com.

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