Lesson: Other internet research tools

Lesson: Other internet research tools


Students will use other internet research tools, including Findagrave, Ancestry.com, Goggle


  • Computer with internet connection. If you have a Smartboard, the class could work on the same projected screen, but ideally students could work individually or in teams of two on laptops or desktop computers.
  • “Storykeepers” notebooks for recording information







Researching is much easier today than it was before the days of the internet. Before the internet, if you wanted to research old records, you usually had to go to the town you were interested in, or hire someone to go there for you. Today, because of the internet, we can research all over the world without ever leaving home.  Instead of searching through file drawers of index cards looking for a person’s name, now the computer does the searching for you.

However, even though the searching is so much easier than it used to be when you had to travel to view records, it still takes patience and careful studying to make sure you are looking at a record that tells about the person you are researching and not just someone with the same name. And careful notetaking is a must. (By the time students are working on their personal family story research, they will have been introduced to Timeliner and Notetaker and will know how to cut and paste information to a document they are saving, but at this stage they will be using paper and pencil to record their research.)

What happens when you find conflicting data? (It will turn up!) Just like when we were exploring census records, you may find conflicting dates, spellings, ages, etc. You will have to record what you find, and later study all your research and evaluate what seems to be the most accurate.


  1. Search on Google:

A google search is a great place to start your internet search. With googlebooks scanning in more old books and historical documents daily, it really is an expanding goldmine. Many students already are familiar with searching on google, and probably do not need much instruction, but you may decide to do the first search together, showing them how to put the person’s name in the search box, along with a key date or key word, and then together evaluate the “hits” google returns to you. As a group, look at each “hit”, and determine if this site might be related to the person you are researching. Assign each group of students a different “hit” to click on to read and evaluate, and record information if it is pertinent.

  1. Search on Ancestry.com,  FamilySearch.org and usgenweb.org

There are other genealogy research websites available; these three are among the most widely used. FamilySearch.org is a free genealogy search website maintained by the Mormon church. Ancestry.com is a commercial site, but there are classroom subscriptions available, or you could use an adult’s subscription, or use a free limited time trial subscription.

Point out to the students that there are different types of information these sites will search: census records, birth/marriage/death records, military records, passenger lists, immigration records, genealogies, old historic books, photographs, and old maps. They may be connected to family trees that others have created, and photos and stories relatives/researchers of the person have posted.

After they have a short overview of the site, let them start researching on their own, stressing that they need to record what they find in their notebooks.

  1. Search on Find a Grave:  A cemetery gravestone may give you information you didn’t know about your research person. Besides a name, often engraved on the stone are: birth date, death date, place of birth/death, spouse’s name, other family members’ names, symbols or pictures of organizations the person belonged to, or hobbies, religious affiliations. There may even be an etching or photo. But if the cemetery is too far away to visit, the website “findagrave” might be able to help. If the person you are searching for does not yet have a photo of his or her gravestone on the website, you may request that a volunteer in that area take one for you. (www.findagrave.com)
  2. Share your findings!

Save time for students to share highlights of their research finds. They may have come to some brick walls or false leads; those journeys will be good to share along with the real finds.



  • How do all the records when we do a computer search get from town and state offices to the computer? As an example, contact a member of your local Mormon church to see if someone could come it to talk about how records are scanned/microfilmed and indexed.
  • As a class, you might like to become a Findagrave volunteer. It would mean that when your teacher gets an email requesting a photo of a gravestone in your area, someone from the class would volunteer to go search for the stone, photograph it and write down all the information. Back at school, the class could help upload the photo and type in the information.