What’s available online and in the archives
Billions of US records can be accessed online through subscription sites ( Worldwide membership) and free genealogical websites, as well as state archives, county record offices, libraries, historical and genealogical societies, and more.
Federal census records (1790-1940) are available on Ancestry and Findmypast ( Worldwide/ World options). Both offer the complete run of images and indexes for subscribers. Familysearch.org offers all the census indexes for free, with images available only for select years. Mocavo has both the indexes and images available for free ( bit.ly/1FsNBa2).
Records of births, marriages, and deaths no longer protected by state privacy laws can often be found online. Begin with the appropriate state archives website ( abt.cm/1RImkYS) to see what it has available. FamilySearch ( bit.ly/1JoCio4) has a large collection of vital record images from state archives and county/town record offices. Worldwide options on Ancestry and Findmypast also offer selected vital records. If you don’t know the state in which your relative lived, the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) can be searched nationwide ( stevemorse.org/ ssdi/ssdi.html).
Emigration and naturalisation records
Ancestry, FamilySearch and Findmypast have large online collections of passenger lists for US ports, although ellisislandrecords.org and castlegarden.org are worth searching, too. For a set of flexible search tools for these collections go to stevemorse.org. Many British emigrants arrived in the United States via Canada due to cheaper fares. Canadian immigration records can be searched online through Ancestry and Library and Archives Canada at bit.ly/1QbbhtW. Go to Ancestry, FamilySearch and Fold3 ( fold3. com) for naturalisation records.
Most US military records, including service and pension records, are maintained by The US National Archives ( archives.gov) to the First World War, and the National Personnel Records Center ( archives.gov/st-louis) (from the First World War to the present). The best site for accessing these federal records online is Fold3. There are also military records on Ancestry, FamilySearch, Findmypast, and at state archives. World war draft registration cards on Ancestry are a valuable resource, too.
Patents, deeds, bounty land warrants and homesteading grants can be used for researching American relatives and are held at national, state or local level. Deeds can be obtained through the county courthouse. Some are online (use the county name plus “online deeds” to search for them). For example, the whole of Maryland state is covered at mdlandrec.net. First grants of land in the 30 public land states can be searched through the Bureau of Land Management ( glorecords.blm.gov).
Familysearch.org has a large collection of probate records and wills, available online for almost every state. Historical newspapers and obituaries can be searched for family connections on subscription sites such as newspapers.com (owned by Ancestry), newspaperarchive.com and Findmypast ( World subscription needed), as well as on Chronicling America (free) at chroniclingamerica.loc.gov. You can search cemetery records through findagrave. com, interment.net and billiongraves.com. Published family, social and immigrant histories are waiting to be discovered in Google Books, Internet Archive as well as the Hathi Trust.
Historic newspapers can be accessed for free at Chronicling America