Depending on where you live in the world, or more accurately, where your ancestors lived in the world, you might find there are other sites of greater use to you, but here in eastern North Carolina, where my family has lived for about 300 years, I find these sites have been most helpful to me.

They are grouped into two categories — national and North Carolina-specific.

Top Five National Sites (in no particular order)

  • FamilySearch.org – I don’t use the trees on FamilySearch.org, but their free records databases are top notch. If you haven’t been to this site, you’ll be amazed at the resources that are available completely free here. You may have to pore over unindexed records in old handwriting, but being able to do that from home at 2am in your pajamas is far better than having to drive across town, or across the state, to view the same records on microfilm in a family history library.
  • Ancestry.com – I am a paid member of Ancestry.com, although I only subscribe to the United States edition. Frankly, my ancestors have been here in the southeast since the early colonial era, and until I get all of those lines fleshed out, I’m not too concerned with tracing lines back to their European points of origin. In the cases of many well-documented old lines, such as the Blounts and the Carruthers, the well-documented research has already been done by others, so no need to re-invent the wheel, right?
  • Newspapers.com – Did you see the newspaper clipping I posted here about the tragic death of the 2nd (or 3rd) wife of my 3rd great-grandfather, Eli Cox? Well, I found that at Newspapers.com. They offer free trial subscriptions, and discounted full-year subscriptions for members of Ancestry.com.
  • Fold3.com – War records here. Personally, I do think their databases are somewhat lacking, but in the near future, I think this is going to be the site for researching the war records of our ancestors. I found the original War of 1812 record for my 4th great-grandfather, Laban Morris here. Like Newspapers.com, they offer free trial subscriptions, and discounted full-year subscriptions for members of Ancestry.com.
  • Genealogy.com – In my early days on the Internet doing genealogy research (way back in the late ’90s), I learned a ton from the surname, regional and topical forums at this site. I may not use it as much today, but for beginners, I’d think this is a place you’d want to visit if you’re trying to find other researchers who share your ancestors. [Please noteSince Ancestry has acquired Genealogy.com, the site has discontinued many of its web sites, databases, and family trees. The few surviving items are read-only. Thanks to A. Crenshaw for the update.]

Top Five North Carolina Sites (in no particular order)

  • Kellenberger Room – The official website and online genealogy databases of the family history room at the New Bern Public Library is at the top of my list. And it’s just not because my third cousin, Victor T. Jones, is the department head. Anyone with ancestors in Craven County, North Carolina should not miss this site. There are tax lists, apprentice records, marriage records and more!
  • North Carolina Digital Collections – Bible records, cemetery records, marriage and death notices, digitized newspapers. You’ll be surprised at this collection!
  • N.C. State Archives MARS Database – This is where you can search online for records available at the State Archives in Raleigh, North Carolina. For instance, if you are wondering if one of your ancestors had a will, but you just aren’t sure what county to check, you can search for him or her on this site.
  • NC Gen Web Archives – Many years ago, I would’ve just said NCGenWeb, but now I need to specify these archives. There was a change in the original domain name and tons of links from the old GenWeb sites were broken. Now the new GenWeb sites, though useful, don’t come close to being able to just dig in and search through these archives. Here is where you’ll find many transcribed documents submitted by regular folks, just like you and me. Wills, deeds, court records, military pension applications, etc..
  • The Internet Archive – Ok, technically this isn’t just a North Carolina site, but I use it like it is. The Internet Archive has digitized copies of all kinds of genealogical journals (like the Pitt County Genealogical Quarterly), Hathaway’s Genealogical and Historical Register, and also archived microfilm of Federal Census records — for free! Some of the things are text searchable and some aren’t, but the offerings here really are priceless.

So there! That should be enough to get you started!