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 goldmines 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.
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 in your ancestor's name and execute a search to determine whether any information stored in the database relates to that particular name. 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 find references to them through search engines (see the section "Letting Your Computer Do the Walking: Using Search Engines" earlier in this chapter), comprehensive genealogical indexes (see "Browsing Comprehensive Genealogical Indexes" later in this chapter), and links that appear on personal and geographic-specific Web sites. To give you a flavor of the type of goldmines that are available, we take a look at some of the larger online subscription databases.
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