There are two problems with search engines like Google. First, they can give way too many irrelevant results. Second — how do you search for something that you don't know exists? That's when you need a good curated list of relevant sites. My go-to source for finding genealogy websites: Linkpendium. Let's take a look at the largest collection of links to genealogy websites.
What Is Linkpendium?
Linkpendium is a site with more than 10 million links to genealogy resources. (That's a whole lot of websites!) It was created by Karen and Brian "Wolf" Leverich, the creators of RootsWeb — people who know about genealogy on the Internet. Those 10 million links include more than 1 million to U.S. resources, more than 9 million surname pages (worldwide), and about 10,000 UK links.
It's also a search engine which covers 2.8 million of those pages. (More on that below.)
Not only are these sites curated (meaning that they've been met the criteria for covering something meaningful for family historians), the site is constantly monitored for dead links. (Don't you hate it when you click on a link and that page doesn't exist anymore? So do the Leverichs. That's why they check and get rid of the dead links.)
The Location Links
Let's say that your research leads to Fayette County, Pennsylvania. You've seen what's on Ancestry and FamilySearch, but you know there's more out there. You go to Google and search for Fayette County Pennsylvania genealogy... and you get 218,000 results. (Yeah, Fayette County has a lot of genealogy, but 218,000? I don't think so.) Let's find the meaningful stuff.
Go to LInkpendium.com and scroll down to the Genealogy Links section. There you'll see links to all 50 US states, plus American Samoa, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Click on Pennsylvania.
The top of each state page has a link to statewide resources, followed by links to each county (or parish, if you're looking at Louisiana). The number after each link shows how many links are on that page.
Scroll down to the county you want (in this case, Fayette) and click on it. You'll get a links for genealogy resources pertaining to Fayette County, Pennsylvania, broken down by category. Each county page also has links to the surrounding counties. You can also tell if a site is free or requires a subscription; subscription sites are noted with "($)" after them.
These aren't just sources like Ancestry, FamilySearch, and RootsWeb. There are links to resources at libraries, archives, societies, government agencies, non-profits, for-profits — all categorized and easy to find.
NOTE to genealogy societies: Go to the appropriate county or state page and submit links not only for your society, but also any databases you have. (You'll find a link to the submission form at the top and bottom of each county and state page.) It's free advertising!
The Surname Links
Links to surname resources make up the bulk of Linkpendium's links. To find the surname that you want, either use the search box on the right-hand side of the page or scroll down on the main page to the "Surnames: Worldwide" section and click on the first letter of the name. Keep clicking through the appropriate sections. Here's a portion of the page for the Skinner family.
Don't be confused by the difference between the category and where the link is from. For example, the biography of J.O. Skinner is listed under "Meigs County, Ohio," but it came from the Iowa USGenWeb site. That's because his biography mentions that he was born in Meigs County, Ohio. (There's also a link under Polk County, Iowa, which is the county history where his biography appeared.)
By the way, while researching this article, I found a link to the biography of a possible collateral relative in the Presbyterian Ministerial Directory, 1898 on Google Books. I doubt I would have found it without Linkpendium. I never knew he was a Presbyterian minister and wouldn't have thought to look in that book. But Linkpendium listed his biography under Perry County, Ohio, which is where my Skinners are from. (Now to confirm that he's my guy!)
Linkpendium: The Family Discoverer Search Engine
As if the links weren't enough, Linkpendium offers a search engine that covers 2.8 million of the links that they have. (Why not all of them? Not all resources are searchable. You really should do the search and browse the location and surname pages for best coverage.)
On the main page, you can enter a surname, a first name (optional), and a location (either "worldwide" or a US state).
The Family Discoverer Search Engine will scour the 2.8 million sources that it covers. I recently did a search for George Debolt (worldwide) and got 73 results. Yes, it's fewer results than I would have gotten on Google, but they are more meaningful results. (When it comes to search results, I'll take quality over quantity any day of the week!)
Go try Linkpendium and leave a comment letting me know what you found!