I've been engaged in smatterings of random research on relatives lately, as I attempt to organize and tame my research files. I realized that often we are blessed with a great resource in one research location--great newspaper coverage, fabulous online records, that sort of thing--that we wish we had for EVERY location we're researching.
I thought I would share with you some of my absolute FAVORITE online resources for research, whether because of their usability, potential, or content. Each resource is particular to a certain geographic area, but each gives us an idea of what is possible when it comes to the future of online research. Only in my dreams would a single place I am researching have all of these kinds of resources online!
Pennsylvania Civil War Newspapers. Impressively searchable (wildcard, phrase and exemption searching) as well as an easy interface. I wish Ancestry could get something this usable working on their newspaper collection.
Vital Records Indices:
Louisiana Secretary of State. All death records that can be ordered are found on this index. No more shots in the dark when ordering a record! As a runner up I would vote for the Illinois State Archives and their myriad databases, although I find their site a little more confusing to navigate; I suppose that could be because they are presenting so much more information on so many more people from so many more places!
Vital Records Online:
South Carolina Death Records, 1821-1955, from Ancestry. I may be biased in this, since my husband has roots in South Carolina on both his mother's and father's sides, therefore I do a lot of research there. I do find this database (along with the Delayed State Births and Charleston Births database) to be very very useful to me as they provide images of the original certificates! This saves me about $15 per record I would have had to order from the state (and their turn around time was in the MONTHS)! Well worth the cost of the Ancestry membership just right there. I imagine that as data storage costs continue to drop, and broadband access increases, we'll see more and more primary documents going up on the web, as opposed to the index focus of previous years.
Various online indexes and transcriptions:
sfgenealogy.com. Hands down one of the best. A mind-boggling assortment of information bound to help anyone researching in the Bay Area. I have found reference to many people that I've researched in the Bay Area. That's pretty impressive.
For this category, I also really like the Illinois Genealogy Trails sites. The Genealogy Trails sites started in Illinois in 2000, and they recently started expanding to cover the entire United States. They don't say it directly, but I get the feeling they're trying to take another crack at what GenWeb has tried to do, but has failed in some regards: provide updated, data-heavy sites that are user-friendly and contain pertinent information. I would imagine as Genealogy Trails expands it will have the same "hit or miss" character to the individual county sites (some better than others, as is the case with GenWeb), but for right now their emphasis on DATA DATA DATA seems to be working.
Cheers to the Milwaukee Archdiocese for their Catholic Cemeteries Burial Records database. While some other diocesan records are incongruously protected from the light of day (*COUGHCOUGH ORLEANS PARISH I'M TALKING ABOUT YOU COUGHCOUGH*), the Milwaukee Archdiocese seems to understand that genealogical research connects people to their Catholic heritage. Seems like a no-brainer, but, well. As a Catholic myself I can admit that the Catholic church can stymie all reason sometimes.
The Jewish Records Indexing-Poland project. Talk about a dream online resource for overseas research! Unfortunately, the project was axed by the Polish government a few years ago, which saddens me greatly.
These are just some of the resources that come to mind when I think of sites that I visit again and again. What are some of your favorites?