Get a group of genealogists together and it won't take them long to start sharing their latest finds and favorite Web sites.
Anyone who has been researching for more than five minutes knows about Ancestry.com. Close behind in popularity are Footnote .com, WorldVitalRecord.com and FamilySearch.org.
Here are some of my favorites that you might not already use:
•The Avalon Project, avalon .law.yale.edu/default.asp, has law, history and diplomacy documents. To learn why ancestors did certain things, we often have to turn to laws that may have directed their activities (or lack of).
To search, choose the century of interest or search by topic by clicking "Document Collections."
•British advice. Researchers just beginning colonial British research can hone their skills at www.not tingham.ac.uk/mss/learning/skills/index.phtml. It offers help in using and understanding old documents and explains and gives examples of various records.
•Bureau of Land Management. At www.glorecords.blm.gov, the government provides access to land patents and surveys. It is an excellent place to learn about land records in general. Be sure to follow the various links, and don't be afraid to explore the patents.
•Documenting the American South, docsouth.unc.edu, is hosted by the University of North Carolina. Those with Southern roots can find information on plantations, raising cotton, living in a mill town, slavery, sermons delivered in 1800s churches, and the legal status of women.
•50states.com. A sure bet for every genealogist's "favorites" folder. Researchers can find links to weather, topography, history, laws and courts, vital records and all kinds of other nifty knowledge about any given state.
•Harvard University Library has an impressive "Immigration to the United States" collection at ocp.hul.harvard.edu/immigration/subject.html. Researchers who want to dig for an understanding of what life was like for an immigrant ancestor likely will be richly rewarded.
•Library of Congress American Memory. Visitors to memory .loc.gov/ammem/index.html might want to leave a trail of crumbs to find their way home. The site is massive, and each click reveals more links. Learn about different places at various points in time in order to place ancestors in historical context.
•Life in Colonial America. Sometimes it's hard to shed our 21st century mantle and really feel what life was like for our ancestors. At the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation's Web site, www.history.org/history, learn about family life, children's games, clothing, tools and trades in the pre-Revolutionary years.
•Understanding female ancestors. Researchers often have a hard time finding records for women because men created most records; the law did not recognize women's abilities to participate in public activities. There are several good sites to explore, starting with the Archives for Research on Women and Gender at the University of Texas at San Antonio Library, at www.lib.utsa.edu/Archives/Women Gender/links.html. Other worthwhile sites include American Women's History: A Research Guide at frank.mtsu.edu/~kmiddlet/history/women.html and Discovering American Women's History Online at library.mtsu.edu/digitalprojects/womenshistory.php.
•Weights and measures. If an ancestor's property line ran 80 chains long, how long was it? Find out on English Weights and Measures at home.clara.net/brianp/volumes.html.
•What ailed them? When reading old diaries, court cases, estate records and local histories, we often find reference to illnesses. Ever find an ancestor who suffered from the horrors or the vapors? Read about these and other medical terms at Ruby's List of Archaic Medical Terms, www.antiquusmorbus.com/English/EnglishV.htm.