One of the greatest improvements to family genealogy is FamilySearch.org, the official genealogical Web site of the LDS Church. You can begin by searching for the location of your nearest Family History Center. But if you want to search through the files and articles on the site, you'll first have to create a user account. Just click "Sign In," then click "Create New Account." As with other sites, you'll have to provide a valid E-mail address which you must verify through an E-mail message immediately sent to you. Once you've done that, you're all set.
After you verify your account, you'll be taken to the Discover Your Family History Search Page. Here, you can search for records for your ancestor by life events (birth, marriage, residence, death) or by relationship (spouse, parents). You can also browse by location, including major areas like the United States, Canada, the British Isles, etc. But before you start searching, scroll down the page to the general table of contents, found at the bottom of each page. You have a choice of three categories—Learn, General, and Resources. You'll find topics listed under each. If you want to search for say, articles, all you have to do is click on the Articles link, and so on. You can browse the article index by country, making it easy to search for information on just about any country in the world.
Assuming you're new to the site, you might want to click on the Getting Started link which takes you to a page where you can view step-by-step videos.
The most important page on the site is the search page for the FamilySearch Catalog. Here, you can search for an ancestor by Place Names, Last Names, Titles, Subjects, Authors, Call Numbers, Film Numbers, and Keywords. This makes ordering microfilm and microfiche from the Family History Library a synch.
You can also search for digitized books, including histories of families, county and local histories, how-to books on genealogy, genealogy magazines, periodicals (including some international), medieval books (including histories and pedigrees), and gazetteers.
Once you get used to using the site, you may want to search to see if your ancestor appears on any other family trees. Just fill out the online form and click "Search." If you have problems with any of the searches or the site, itself, you can get remote help by clicking on the link at the bottom right of any page. This will allow a technician to remotely access your computer to straighten things out. You can even try indexing your family's records right from your computer. This adds important information to the many files already accessible on FamilySearch.org.
If you're relatively new to genealogy, perhaps you'd like to learn more about it. FamilySearch.org offers free online classes in a variety of subjects related to family genealogy. Most of the 64 courses for beginners last from 5 to 30 minutes and cover a variety of subject matter, including instruction and methodology, reference materials and finding aids, birth, marriage and death records, family trees, geographic aids, etc. Each is offered in one of four formats: audio, Interactive slides, video and slides, and video.
A big advantage to using the FamilySearch.org site is to gain free access to other genealogy sites, like Ancestory.org that normally charge a fee. You must access them through the Family History Center Portal at www.fhc.familysearch.org/ to waive the fee. However, there is a catch. You must go to your local Family History Center to do so. Some of the sites you can browse for free besides www.Ancestry.com include www.newspaperarchive.com, information on Civil War soldiers at http://AlexanderStreet.com , UK ancestry records at www.FindMyPast.com, the vast collection of genealogical materials at www.heritagequestonline.com, 19th Century westward American migration documents at www.GenealogyToday.com, and many more.