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The Live Roots Primer

Live Roots has been around for several years now, long enough to win Family Tree Magazine's "101 Best WebSites" award in 2009. So what's all this Live Roots about?


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Type: Article
Resource: GenWeekly
Prepared by:
Word Count: 950 (approx.)
Labels: Beginner's Guide 
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Illya D'Addezio, founder of Genealogy Today, created Live Roots with the goal of creating purer research results, with minimal degradation of data as it is replicated. "While I cannot solve the problem of information degradation, with the Live Roots project, I hope to level the playing field some by orienting results displayed in searches around the original sources involved," D'Addezio explains.

In other words, the goal is to document genealogical sources, not just facts. It really is not sufficient to write down Grandma's birthdate. Research is suspect without citing the source of that information, such as a birth certificate documented by the courthouse where it is archived.

Why Add Another Organizer?

First of all, Live Roots is free. That should be enough to prompt even casual searchers to dig in.

The advantage of using an online organizer is that data follows you to any computer with internet access. does an excellent job of storing data on the site. Premium memberships do provide organizing tools, but they only organize your searches for as long as you continue paying your membership. They also only organize information stored in that premium database. If you discontinue your membership, premium databases block your access to your own research organizer on their sites.

One alternative is a genealogical database program that is loaded on a computer at your house. If you have a laptop, at least you can take the database with you as you continue manual research. But, genealogical database programs do not conduct online searches on the fly. Live Roots does and keeps searching even when you are offline. But, you have to move back and forth between your genealogical database and web-based research.

The Value of Free

Live Roots incorporates both free and fee-based sources and conducts searches on its own. It creates a virtual trail of breadcrumbs that can be bookmarked and retraced, at will.

A single Live Roots search will automatically look up information across the following websites:

  • Message Board at
  • Genealogy Forum at
  • Genealogy Bank
  • World Vital Records
  • RootsWeb
  • CousinConnect
  • Flickr
  • Picasa Web Albums
The basic search box appears on every page and will search for keywords or surnames. The advanced search narrows a search by religion, dates, and online databases.

The Triple Tools

Live Roots is based around three simple tools. First is the Discover tool, which is a daily report of every new genealogical resource Live Roots discovers across the internet. The reports appear, in chronological order. It's like the internet continues working around the clock and behind the scenes.

The second tool, is the Navigate tool, a geographic search. It's useful for researchers who already know where to search for ancestors on any continent, except for Antarctica for a very simple reason: "There are no countries, and people do not live on this continent."

The best tool is the Manage tool. This is the powerhouse of Live Roots and creates the organizer tool.

Live Roots Projects

Everything in Live Roots is based on a Project. Under the Manage tool, every account has a default project. There is essentially no limit to the number of Projects per account. Each Project can be given a unique name.

For most users, a Project will be a family. Professional researchers can create a Project for each client. A dropdown box appears at the top of every Project page that makes it easy to switch from one Project to another.

Projects track resources visited, stamping each search with the date and time data is bookmarked. Within every Project is a collection of interactive and inter-related tools.

Beyond Bookmarks

While Live Roots is not a database, it does include Notecards that can be created and linked somewhat like a genealogical database. The Notecards are part of a Project. Once a Notecard is created, Live Roots intuitively continues searching across the above list of sources for the person named on the Notecard.

Notecards include a myriad of fields, similar to what is found on the FamilySearch site. There are pre-populated fields ranging from adoption to wills. There is also a miscellaneous field for anything that doesn't fit anyplace else.

Within each Project, is a Research Notepad which can be used as a To-Do List. It is also a great place to make notes about potential finds that just don't fit anyplace yet. The Research Notepad is text-based so the information you add there does not need to adhere to the structure of a database.

Bookmarking is great. But, an organizing tool that automatically conducts searches across eleven sites and forums is a huge timesaver. And the search continues to track as long as the Notecard exists.

Just about anything can be bookmarked in Live Roots, including other Notecards. The result is that bookmarks can link Notecard for individuals just like a database creates links between relatives.

Where Was I?

A unique feature of Live Roots is the "Recent Activity" section. Anyone who has ever forgotten where they already searched for information about an individual will appreciate this feature. Useful information can be bookmarked and recorded elsewhere. But, "Recent Activity" keeps tabs on what you looked at, even if it wasn't of any value.

Each Notecard also has storage space for bookmarking "Related Resources" and creating a "Personal Library" of sources, both on and offline, where information was found.


All of the Live Roots data every user organizes, bookmarks, or adds, can be shared. By default, most information is private. But, Projects and Notecards can be shared with other users who might have additional information.


Stop by and create a Live Roots account, if you haven't already. It's a real take-it-with you organizer that doesn't lock you in to a one database or service.

Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2010.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.

*Effective May 2010, GenWeekly articles that are more than five years old no longer require a subscription for full access.

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