Main Page

      Course Outline



I - Getting Started

      Home Sources


      Recording Information

      Citing Resources

 II - Using Online Resources

      Online Databases

      Search Engines


      Module II Activities

III - Gathering Key Records

      Vital Records

      Federal Census Records

IV - Exploring Further

      Probate Records

      Military Records


V - Sharing Information

      Discussion Lists



Social Security Death Index

RootsWeb's WorldConnect



Cyndi's List

USGenWeb Project


Home Sources Checklist

4-Generation Ancestor Chart

Family Group Sheet

Birth Date Calculator

County Boundary Database


Using Online Resources


After successfully completing this module, you will be able to:
  • Search online databases for family history information.

  • Use the Google search engine to find web pages containing information on your ancestors.

  • Navigate directories for resources with genealogical data.


Once you have gathered some initial data on your ancestors, the next step is to visit key resources and databases available on the Internet. On the positive side, the Internet has made it much easier to find and share family history information. However, technology has also increased the potential for error as undocumented genealogies are copied and recopied over and over again. Thus, information obtained from sites such as RootsWeb's WorldConnect Project and FamilySearch must be used with CAUTION. Information obtained from these resources should be treated as clues for gathering the vital records and other documentation necessary for verifying the relationships (see Module III).

After each description below, you will find a "Demonstration" link and a "Practice" link. To review a demonstration of the web site, click DEMONSTRATION. To practice using the web site while following step-by-step instructions, click PRACTICE. To use the site without instructions, click the link to the web site within each description or in the "Links" menu on the left side of the page.



The first place to visit is the Social Security Death Index. This database contains birth and death dates for deceased individuals with Social Security numbers whose deaths were reported to the Social Security Administration. Generally, it includes men and women who died after 1962 (when the records were computerized) through early 2014.  In this database, use MARRIED names when searching for female ancestors.  

NOTE:  The Social Security Death Index site does not support frames.  Before clicking the PRACTICE link, click here to print instructions on using the site.



After checking the Social Security Death Index, try searching for your ancestors at RootsWeb's WorldConnect Project. This database consists of family files submitted by amateur and professional researchers.

Although WorldConnect can be extremely helpful, it contains many errors. Thus, all research should be verified through proper documentation. (Module III provides information on gathering records and verifying information.)



If you do not connect with any files at WorldConnect, try searching at FamilySearch. Be aware that the information here also contains many errors. Thus, it is important to gather records to validate the information found in databases and on personal home pages.

NOTE: FamilySearch does not support frames.  Before clicking the PRACTICE link, click here to print the instructions.




Once you have searched the online databases, the next place to look for family information is on the open Internet. Thousands of people have transcribed census data, recorded information from headstones in local cemeteries, and posted family history data on personal home pages. Google is the most effective tool for this research.

NOTE: Google does not support frames.  Before clicking the PRACTICE link, click here to print the instructions.




For a list of Internet sites on almost every conceivable family history topic, visit Cyndi's List. She provides over 300,000 links on resources from Adoption to Land Records to Wills and Probate.

NOTE:  Cyndi's List does not support frames. When you click the PRACTICE link, scroll down and review the topic categories. Click a topic of interest. Use your browser's Back button to return to the tutorial.



The USGenWeb Project directory provides links to state and county genealogical resources. As you encounter unfamiliar counties and states in your research, be sure to check the resources available at USGenWeb for each new location.



  1. If your parents, grandparents, and/or great-grandparents died after 1962, try to locate their entries in the Social Security Death Index (SSDI). NOTE: Remember to use the MARRIED name for female relatives in the SSDI. Record their birth and death dates. If you do not know where your ancestor died, make a note of the location listed under Last Residence. This may or may not be the death location, but it gives you a starting point for obtaining a death certificate (see Module III). 

  2. Using information and home sources gathered during your family interviews, search RootsWeb's WorldConnect Project and FamilySearch for your ancestors. NOTE: Use the MAIDEN name for female relatives in these databases. 

  3. Search Google using double quotes to narrow results to pages where the first and last names appear side-by-side. For example:

    1.    "Joseph Ludlam"

    2.    "Ludlam Joseph"

    3.    "Joseph Ludlam"  "Eliza Hamilton"

    Search once with the first name first (# 1). Search a second time with the last name first (# 2).

    If you a researching a common name, use both the husband's name and the wife's name (# 3).

  4. Identify the states and counties where your ancestors resided. Find the county web sites at the USGenWeb Project. Become familiar with the resources available at these sites.

  5. Keep a journal of your research activities and the results of those activities. As you proceed through the tutorial, use the journal to keep track of any ideas that occur to you for finding information.

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