Friday, November 5

A Good Freebie from

You're all familiar with, no doubt, the biggest, baddest online source of family history information in the universe.

It's a subscription service, and we don't do fee-based sources here at Free Genealogy Tools. But there's a good deal of free content that has made available.

One of my favs is Ancestry Magazine, a print magazine that ran for 25 years before it ceased publication in 2009. A lot of the content is available online, and there's some awfully good material here, like the list of the Top 300 Genealogy Sources at home, in public records and online.

Here's part of  the Top 300 list:  things you ought not overlook in your family papers:
  • Address books
  • Adoption papers
  • Application copies (for jobs, schools, organizations)
  • Autobiographies
  • Autograph albums
  • Awards
  • Baby books
  • Baptism/christening records
  • Bibles
  • Biographies and biographical sketches
  • Birth certificates
  • Birthday books
  • Cassette tapes, DVDs, and videos of family members
  • Cemetery deeds
  • Christmas letters
  • Citizenship/naturalization papers
  • Contracts
  • Death certificates
  • Deeds
  • Diaries
  • Diplomas
  • Embroidery
  • Employment records
  • Family e-mails
  • Family histories
  • Family newsletters
  • Family tree charts
  • Funeral books and records
  • GEDCOMs/family trees
  • Journals
  • Heirlooms
  • Home computers
  • Hospital records
  • Insurance papers
  • Jewelry with engravings, insignias, or photos
  • Leases
  • Letters (old and recent)
  • Letters of administration
  • Licenses
  • Marriage certificates (civil and religious)
  • Marriage licenses
  • Medals and trophies
  • Membership cards, papers, pins, insignias
  • Memorial cards
  • Military records and certificates
  • Missionary records
  • Newspaper clippings
  • Obituaries
  • Online sources including message boards
  • Passports
  • Pension records
  • Photographs
  • Postcards
  • Resumes
  • School records
  • Scrapbooks
  • Service medals
  • Social Security cards
  • Tax returns
  • Telegrams
  • Titles to homes, cars, etc.
  • Traditions/family stories
  • Wedding invitations
  • Wills
I'm sure there's at least ONE item on there that you hadn't thought about, eh?

The wonderful magazine collection at Google Books also has old issues of Ancestry Magazine going back to 1994.

Worth a look.

Don't forget to also check for your family history at and  NewspaperArchive. These are subscription databases, but they are among the most powerful research tools available for looking into family roots..

Saturday, October 16

Cyndi's List

Cyndi's List covers pretty much the whole planet.

I've written about hundreds of free genealogy resources on the internet, but somehow never got around to mentioning Cyndi's List before today. Time to rectify that oversight.

Cyndi Howells started up Cyndi's List in 1996 with (if memory serves) a few hundred links to genealogy sites. Her site has now grown to more than a quarter of a million links, with dozens added every week.

Of course, a site with hundreds of thousands of links has all the makings of a genealogical nightmare, but Cyndi does an excellent job of categorizing and sub-categorizing the links in a way that makes it an easy resource to use.

You can browse Cyndi's List by country or region, such as the 3,149 links for Cymru aka Wales.  You can also browse by:

There's even a category for Outer Space genealogy...really!

Cyndi's List is a not-to-be-missed site for family history research. I'm especially fond of the What's New section, where I always come across something that I just didn't know about, even though I'm one of those types who thinks he knows everything.

Thanks, Cyndi, for a terrific resource.

Visit the main page of Free Genealogy Tools for more, umm, free genealogical tools. And don't forget to also check for your family history at and These are subscription databases, but they are among the most powerful research tools available for looking into family roots.

Wednesday, March 31

May I Introduce Mr. and Mrs. Fools, and Their Daughter, April

Someone, either a poet or a tax protester, once said that April is the cruelest month, and so it may be (though I'm rather fond of it myself).

But could anyone have really been so cruel as to name their daughter April, when their family name is Fool?

Ms. April Fool, are you out there?

Apparently so.

The family name of Fool or Fools, while not terribly common, is not unheard of, either. It may be a variant spelling of Fowles, and names of that ilk, but whatever its origins, there is no shortage of Fools out there in the world.

But really now...April Fools?

According to Intelius, one of the most comprehensive public record lookups, there are three April Fools in the US (in Ohio, Illinois and Minnesota), along with two women named April Fool, one in New York and one in Nebraska (I'm assuming April is a girl's one would be so cruel as to name their son April!).

The Nebraska Ms. Fool has a relative by the name of Ima Fool, indicating a family with a sense of humor, or (more likely) someone filed a phoney form down at the local DMV.

The sounds-like search at offers up a few variations on the name, including April Fewell, April Foil, and April Foyil.

From FamilySearch and other data bases come other variations: April Fauls, April Fowles, April Falls, April Foiles, April Fulce, and April Fales. And let us not overlook Miss May Foole.

There are many other families in history who could have given rise to an April Fool, but apparently chose not to (or at least, didn't leave a record behind), including:

  • Charles Fool-Bear, and other assorted foolish animals: Foolbull, Foolscrow, and Fool Hawk, among them.
  • According to CWSS, Dick Fool wore the Grey, and James Fool the Blue in the Civil War.
  • Bepiah B. Foolchand once walked the earth, as did Mohssen Fooladjoush, Charles Foolkroynik and Edith Fooler.
  • There's someone named Gold Fool and another named Fishin Fools
  • And according to Forces Reunited, there was once a British Soldier with the unlikely name of Tycloldicafoolo.

 However, according to the Canadian Genealogy Centre, there are no Fools in Canada.

 And no...I'm not fooling!

Don't forget to also check for your family history at and  NewspaperArchive. These are subscription databases, but they are among the most powerful research tools available for looking into family roots.

Sunday, March 21

Is Frank Sinatra in Your Family Tree?

Today's Free Genealogy Tool is an unusual one.  Your mirror. 

Go on, take a look.  Do you see a pair of blue eyes looking back at you?  If you do, then you're related to Frank Sinatra -- Ol' Blue Eyes himself. 

Genetic researchers, back in 2008, published a ground-breaking paper showing that all blue-eyed people are descendants of a blue-eyed common ancestor.  What's more, the blue-eyed branch of the human family is a fairly new development, from a genetic point of view, arising perhaps as recently as 6,000 years ago.

The blue-eyed mutation arose in Europe, possibly in the area of Afghanistan.  Prior to that time, scientists theorize that all humans had brown eyes.

Of course, six millennia is a good stretch of time, so your relation to someone else with blue eyes is likely to be many, many times removed.  Still...there's some sort of family connection there.  If you see a fellow blue-eyed person, feel free to call him or her cousin.

You can read more about it in this nice write-up in USA Today on blue-eyed genealogy

Or if you prefer, you can dive into the original paper itself, though it's really only for hard core geneticists. Just look for the one with the title:  Blue eye color in humans may be caused by a perfectly associated founder mutation in a regulatory element located within the HERC2 gene inhibiting OCA2 expression

Sinatra not your type?  If you prefer, you blue-eyed types are also related to Brad Pitt.  And Marie Curie.  And Paul Newman.  And...

Don't forget to also check for your family history at and  NewspaperArchive. These are subscription databases, but they are among the most powerful research tools available for looking into family roots.

Intelius - Public Records Information

Monday, March 15

Historical Phone Books from East Europe

The good old phone book can be a genealogist's best friend. Telephone directories provide a detailed name and address listing (and phone number, of course).  But beyond that, collections of phone books can bracket how long a person lived at a particular address, showing when their listing first appears, when it changes to a new address, and when it eventually disappears, as an ancestor moves out of town, or out of country, or passes on.

The Library of Congress has a wonderful hard-copy collection of European directories, largely focused on the decades just before and after WWII.

A few of their phone books from Eastern Europe have been digitized, and are fully available online:

  • Bulgaria:  Directories for 1917, 1919, 1945 and 1947 are available. These include various combinations of individual and business listings, as well as government officials. There are also sections with maps, photographs, information on royal families, and so on. Text is in Bulgarian and German.
  • Poland:  The Library has a 1923 business directory, as well as a 1939 directory of residential and business listings for Warsaw and the surrounding areas.
  • Romania: This is the largest online collection of phone books, with intermittent coverage from 1923-1970. The books chiefly focus on the area around Bucharest, though there are listings for the rest of Romania as well.

Telephone books being what they are, these tend to be very large files if you try to download the entire directory. However, the LoC makes the directories available in a page viewer that allows you to flip through the content without having to download the entire volume. Very handy.

Looking for more historical directories? Check out the online collection at the Genealogy Indexer, which covers mostly Eastern Europe, but has a bit of material from the UK, France, and South America as well.

Don't forget to also check for your family history at and  NewspaperArchive. These are subscription databases, but they are among the most powerful research tools available for looking into family roots.