Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Cyndi's List

If you have done any significant genealogy research on the internet, you already know about this website, as it is one of the oldest and most well-known genealogy sites on the web. This brief post is for those of you who are new to researching family history online or for those intermediate-level researchers who have yet to discover the power of this particular website.

This website has been online since 1996, meaning it truly was one of the first online genealogy sites out there. Basically, this site is like the Google of the online genealogy world. It is run by a gal named Cyndi Howell, who has written books about online genealogical research and does speaking engagements.

Now, this site currently boasts almost 265,000 genealogy-related links. What this means is that if you don't know how to use the site to find what you are looking for, you can easily become overwhelmed. Don't get me wrong! Cyndi has done a fabulous job of organizing the links into broad categories, which makes for much easier searching. She also has a prominent Google search box at the top of the site that allows you to search her entire page for particular things. However, beginning genealogists especially can get excited about the wealth of links on the site and spend hours of time "browsing" without ever accomplishing anything.

Here is what I recommend to get the full value from Cyndi's List. The home page defaults to her Main Category Index. Take a few minutes at your first visit to the site to quickly scan through the main categories of links available. Some of these will be much more valuable than others to you. There will be some regional or ethnic-specific categories that you will never use. Again, don't spend a ton of time looking at the category list, but do note what kinds of links are available to you. Vital records and region-specific links will be of the highest quality information in your research.

After scanning the Main Category Index, click on a category that you think you might use in the future, such as Births & Baptisms. You'll see that each main category is divided into sub-categories. These are listed at the top of the page in the left column. The right column shows related categories that you might also search if you don't find what you are looking for in the category you are currently in. Each sub-category on the page will be listed in alphabetical order. Underneath the title of each sub-category, which you can get to by scrolling down or by clicking on the sub-category name in the Category Index, you'll see the list of specific links for that sub-category. Many of the links will have short descriptions that will help you quickly see at a glance if that particular link is what you are looking for.

After familiarizing yourself with the main category and sub-category layout of the site this way, you'll know the basics of how to quickly find what you are looking for among the thousands of links on the site. I also highly recommend bookmarking Cyndi's List, as this will quickly become one of your most valuable resources in internet research if you understand what is there and how to access it.

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