How Can I Get the Most Out of Online Genealogy Sites?

Tracing Your Roots: You’d be surprised how much you can find out about your forebears without leaving home.

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The entry for this couple shows that they were married on June 20, 1825, in Tyrrell County. If you scroll to the bottom of the page for this record on FamilySearch, you will see that it lists the source of this information as FHL Film No. 6330302. states that the source of information for the record on its database is “County Court Records – FHL # 0296809-0296811 and 0418151 item 2.” “FHL” stands for Family History Library (the group that operates FamilySearch), and the number references a reel of microfilm that can be borrowed for viewing.

After you have collected the source information, you can then search the Family History Library’s catalog for the film number by clicking the “Film/Fiche Numbers” option and typing in the number. First we typed in “6330302,” and we found that this microfilm contains just an index of marriage bonds held at the State Archives of North Carolina and does not actually show the original record.

We then typed in the other film numbers and found that 296810 holds North Carolina County Marriage bonds between 1752 and 1862 for the surnames Daley to Russell, alphabetically. We see that these records are in the process of being digitized online, but the records for Tyrrell County are not yet available. A copy of the microfilm of the index can be borrowed for a fee of $7.50 and sent to your local Family History Center, where you can borrow the microfilm for three months. You can find your nearest Family History Center here.

Although most of the indexes and transcriptions you find online are usually accurate, if you are stuck on a certain person, finding original records just might give you the extra information you need to help get back to the next generation.

The site FamilySearch also has images of records available online that are not yet transcribed or indexed. This means that any matches for your ancestors won’t appear in a search of the site, but the original documents can still be viewed online. To find these records, click on the Search button at the top of the main page and then click on the Records button. From this page, scroll to the bottom and click on “United States.” You will then see a list of collections available by state.

If the collection has a number of records, you know that it is indexed and it will show up in a text search. If you see the words “Browse Images,” that means there is no index and the images must be searched manually. To do this, click on the Browse Image option and then find the records of the county you are researching. In your case this would be Tyrrell County. Then see if there is an image of the index.

Occasionally, for records like probate documents, the index is at the front of each original book, or maybe the records are in alphabetical order. It does take some time to browse through these records, but they can have a wealth of information. Here is a list of all records that are available for North Carolina.

In addition to the general genealogy websites, there are other specialized sites that you may find useful in your research. The paid site Fold3 specializes in military records and has digitized versions of military service and pension records for the United States. It has some census records, city directories and naturalization records. is another paid site that has many different birth, marriage and death records. As you do your research, also look for additional specialized websites that might have additional documents about your ancestors.

Other Online Sources

Once you have found as much information as possible about your ancestors using the major genealogy websites, you can then begin to search for other sources of information online. Many local genealogy groups have websites with transcriptions of records available for research. You will want to search for North Carolina websites as well as sites specific to Tyrrell County.