Have you discovered Rootsweb yet?
Rootsweb is one of the best free genealogy resources on the internet. You can find their home page at www.rootsweb.com, a place where thousands of volunteer genealogists work together to make information available to all researchers.
On Rootsweb, you will find the USGenWeb Project. USGenWeb sponsors web sites for every county in the United States.
Each of these web sites is a clearinghouse of available information for that particular county.
Many of the county volunteers live in the county that they manage (as I do). At the very least they do research in that county and are familiar with the history and the families of that county. USGenWeb is at http://usgenweb.org.
The USGenWeb Project also includes a searchable database of all files submitted. This includes cemetery surveys, census records, vitals records, land records, tax rolls and many others.
Rootsweb also houses mailing lists and message boards. There are lists and boards for every surname. If there is a surname you do not see, you can request that Rootsweb add it.
There are also lists and boards for every county, ethnic group, military inquiries and many other topics.
Rootsweb also holds the largest collection of GEDCOM files. GEDCOM files are lineages submitted by genealogists. For example, my entire file is available on Rootsweb. You can see all the research that I have done on my own family. This database is searchable.
You can use the information you find to hook up with other researchers who are working on the same family lines as you are.
However, when you find information on one of your ancestors, do not accept that information as correct. You do not know how accurate the information is since you did not do the research yourself.
You need to contact the contributor and discuss their research methods and their sources for the information. This will allow you to determine the validity of the information.
You need to site the contributor as your source or go back and look up the information yourself. This database is located at http://worldconnect.rootsweb.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi.
One of my favorite resources at Rootsweb is Books We Own. Volunteer genealogists will do free lookups in any of the books they have at home.
Many books are out of print and you just can't get your hands on them. There are also researchers that make their FTM CDs available for lookups. Books We Own is at http://www.rootsweb.com/~bwo.
Rootsweb is also the home of the Rootsweb Surname List (RSL). You can post all of the surnames you are researching including the geographical area, time period and migration pattern.
For example, you might have Simmons 1764-1870 SC>MS which means you are looking for the Simmons family in that time period that migrated from South Carolina to Mississippi. This database is searchable.
If you do not have computer access at home, go to your local library and use one of their computers.
This free information is too good to pass up.