What’s avail­able on­line and in the ar­chives

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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.

Census records

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. Fam­i­ of­fers all the census in­dexes for free, with im­ages avail­able only for se­lect years. Mo­cavo has both the in­dexes and im­ages avail­able for free (

Vi­tal records

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 ( to see what it has avail­able. Fam­i­lySearch ( 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 ( steve­ ssdi/ssdi.html).

Em­i­gra­tion and nat­u­ral­i­sa­tion records

Ances­try, Fam­i­lySearch and Find­my­past have large on­line col­lec­tions of pas­sen­ger lists for US ports, al­though el­li­sis­ and castlegar­ are worth search­ing, too. For a set of flex­i­ble search tools for th­ese col­lec­tions go to steve­ 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 at­htW. Go to Ances­try, Fam­i­lySearch and Fold3 ( fold3. com) for nat­u­ral­i­sa­tion records.

Mil­i­tary records

Most US mil­i­tary records, in­clud­ing ser­vice and pen­sion records, are main­tained by The US Na­tional Ar­chives ( ar­ to the First World War, and the Na­tional Per­son­nel Records Cen­ter ( ar­ (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.

Land records

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 md­lan­ First grants of land in the 30 pub­lic land states can be searched through the Bureau of Land Man­age­ment ( glo­

Other records

Fam­i­ 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 news­pa­ (owned by Ances­try), news­pa­per­ar­ and Find­my­past ( World sub­scrip­tion needed), as well as on Chron­i­cling Amer­ica (free) at chron­i­clingamer­ You can search ceme­tery records through find­a­grave. com, in­ter­ and bil­lion­ 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

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