Is there a Yelp for Genealogy Resources?

The always helpful and amazing Renee did it again.  I asked her for help finding Nathan and Gertrude Mintz and their daughter Susanne, and within hours she had located an obituary for Gertrude, naming her daughter Susan and granddaughters and great-grandchild.  A second obituary for Susan’s husband revealed another great-grandchild.  So now I have some living descendants to track down and contact.  I’ve already reached out to one, but have not yet heard back.  Perhaps we will be able to learn what happened to Harry, Zusi and Nathan after Hyman died and the family seems to have split apart or disappeared.

I would like to be able to find this kind of information myself.  I asked Renee how she had found these materials, and once again it was two resources to which I do not subscribe or have access: Geni.com and PeopleFinders.  It’s all quite overwhelming.  There are so many different sources and websites. There are an amazing number of free resources: Familysearch.org, FindAGrave.com, fultonhistory.com, JRI-Poland, stevemorse.org, italiangen.org, Google, Facebook, the White Pages, for example. JewishGen.org and Gesher Galicia are free, but if you want full access, you need to pay or make a contribution. All of these sites are tremendously helpful, especially for finding people before 1940, but to find people after that date requires access to other resources since the census reports and vital records dated after 1940 are not publicly available.  To find someone after 1940 or so requires access to obituaries, phone books, newspaper articles, marriage announcements, and other more modern databases.

There are also a very large number of paid sites.  Each time I’ve asked Renee how she found a source, usually a wedding announcement or an obituary, I’ve checked out that database or website and subscribed to a few.  For example, newspapers.com and genealogybank.com are two sites to which I have subscribed but that have been almost useless to me.  I don’t know whether I am using them incorrectly or just unlucky, but I’ve found almost nothing of value on those sites.   So I’ve become a little reluctant to plop down my credit card for more sites without figuring out whether they are worth the investment.

Some of the sites are not that expensive—$25 a year; others are far more expensive.  For example, Geni.com, the site Renee used this time, costs $125 a year.  They do offer a free 14-day trial, however, so I might at least try that.  There are also so many other sites—Intelius, PeopleFinders—the list goes on and on.  I am confused and overwhelmed.  Do I really need any of these? Do I need all of them?  Where do I draw the line?

Maybe somewhere there is a source that rates these sources for genealogy research value.  Maybe some of the genealogists who are reading this post can point me to that source or provide me with some guidance.  What are the best sources for locating obituaries, wedding announcements and other information relating to people living after 1940? Why have both newspapers.com and genealogybank.com proven to be so useless to me?  Is Geni.com worth the price?

Let me know what you think.  Thanks!

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6 thoughts on “Is there a Yelp for Genealogy Resources?

  1. I don’t use genealogybank.com or newspapers.com. I use Newspaper Archives instead. I chose Newspaper Archives because they had newspapers for locations my family lived in. They have a good selection of papers from Indiana. I find that between what Ancestry has in their historical newspaper collection and newspaper archives, there is enough overlap that I don’t have to subscribe to all of them. The search engine for Newspaper archive is decent and when that hasn’t worked, I have been about to browse through individual papers to find what I want.

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    • Thank you—I will check out their collection. It seems my family, although originally from New York, has spread all over—Florida, Georgia, New England, Arizona, California, etc. So I need a fairly broad-based database. Thanks again!

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      • I am still waiting for some decent Massachusetts papers. None of the companies offer much and even Chronicling America (Library of Congress) does not have anything of value to me. 😦

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      • Does the Globe not have decent archives online? There are so many local papers in Massachusetts (or there once were—most are out of business.) It’s too bad there isn’t more online. I wonder if our local library has much on microfilm. If you ever want me to try and find something, let me know, and I can find out what is available.

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      • What I would really love is to get my hands on is the Brockton papers from the 19th century. My family lived all over that area. For me, it would be more the little things I could find on a daily basis, just like what I am doing with W. B. Schwartz. There are some Boston papers available and some from the Lynn/Lowell area. I appreciate the offer and I will let you know if I think of anything specific!

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      • OK, let me know. We’re out in western MA, as you know, but you never know what our university might have available or the Springfield library.

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