Online Subscription Databases: Goldmines of Genealogy?

By April Leigh Helm, Matthew L. Helm

Online subscription databases are repositories of information that you can retrieve by paying a monthly, quarterly, or yearly fee. Most online subscription databases are searchable and allow you to type your ancestor’s name and execute a search to determine whether any information stored in the database relates to that particular name.

Some of your ancestors may have been prospectors. You know the type — they roamed from place to place in search of the mother lode. Often, they may have found a small nugget here or there, but they never seemed to locate that one mine that provided a lifetime supply of gold.

When searching on the Internet, you become the prospector. You pan through results from search engines only to find small nuggets of information here and there. However, don’t lose hope. There may be some gold mines waiting for you if you can only stumble upon the right site to dig — and the right site may be in the form of an online subscription database.

Databases can be large or small; they can focus on a small geographic area or have a broad scope that encompasses many different areas. Each database may also have its own unique search method and present information in its own format.

The online subscription database sites vary in the types of content they offer and the amounts and quality of background or historical information they provide about each of the databases within their collections.

You can find online subscription databases in many ways. You can locate references to them through search engines, comprehensive genealogical indexes, and links that appear on personal and geographic-specific websites.