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A labor of love

More than 20 years ago, a woman named Cyndi Howells decided that she needed a set of links to her favorite genealogy sites. As with most genealogists who start a simple project, it got out of hand and became much larger and more time-consuming than originally intended. (I can speak with experience on this as well!) She ended up creating her own site called “Cyndi’s List” www.cyndislist.com, which connects to over 300,000 links to genealogy web sites all over the world. What started as a small personal project has become 8-12 hours a day, seven days a week! For free!

There are very few genealogy tools that last for two decades, so it is worth some time talking about Cyndi’s List and a similar site for Chicago genealogy links as well.

Cyndi’s List breaks down the sites by category – there would be no way to just open a web page and start searching for the site you need among over 300,000 of them. Categories can be localities (cities, states, provinces, nations etc.), types of records (birth, marriage, death, wills, cemeteries etc), training (blogs, help sites, podcasts, genealogy methods etc.) and technology (scanners, cameras, computers, file organization etc.) among others.

When you get into Cyndi’s list, you can search the site for the type of information you want, and it will take you to the category that contains that content. You might need to use your browser to search the category page for the site you wanted. You can also click a tab on the left to browse new links or report broken links. Sadly, every week, Cyndi has to remove web sites from the List because they were not maintained and they no longer appear on the internet.

If you have created your own genealogy web site, and you want Cyndi’s List to link to it, send her a link by clicking the “Submit a new link” tab on the left. Cyndi checks the site to make sure it is legit before she adds the link to the appropriate categories. Many sites appear in multiple categories, so you may find the link in several places on her site.

Another site with tons of links is the link page on the Chicago Genealogical Society site. This one is http://www.chicagogenealogy.org/online-research-chicago-genealogical-society/index-of-online-sources-chicago-genealogical-society/ (Good thing you can just click above! That’s a long URL!)

This is a single page that focuses on Chicago and Cook County genealogy sites. It also takes you to places on major sites such as Ancestry and Familysearch that focus on our metro area.

Many of the sites I have referred to in past years appear on this link page. Some that I have not mentioned before (I think) are links to Chicago city directories (the precursor to phone books), some pages for a few local cemeteries, links to various religious groups that have records of interest, City Council and Cook County Clerk pages, some history pages, street guides and maps from various periods in Chicago history, and neighborhood names and boundaries. There are also links to newspaper archives, Illinois statewide resources, and many genealogy groups and societies. The CGS web site also has archives of its own meetings, including a calendar of upcoming meetings and info on joining their group.

Neither site attempts to rate the validity of the sites they link to. They just point you there and it’s up to you to decide if it’s worthwhile or not. For example, Cyndi’s List links to my “Pointer in Person Chicago North Chapter” page. The group has been defunct for several years, but the link still works because I changed the site to be a general Chicago-Italian resource site. So her title is a misnomer but since the link was not broken, it continues to appear. It’s just an example, but be prepared for excitement and disappointment, and sometimes both!

Write to Dan at italianroots@comcast.net and please put “Fra Noi” in the subject.

About Dan Niemiec

Dan Niemiec has been the genealogy columnist for Fra Noi since 2004. For the past 25 years, he has researched his genealogy back 17 generations, plus tracing descendants of his ancestors, yielding 74,000 relatives. His major focus is on civil and church records in Italy, Chicago vital records, Chicago Catholic records and most major genealogy web sites. He has given dozens of presentations to many local and some national genealogy societies on topics such as cemetery research, Catholic records, Italian records, Ellis Island and newspaper research, among others.