Well, it’s been a while since my last genealogy resources post. I meant to complete the three-part cycle sooner, but too many other pressing ideas decided they wanted to be written first. After covering resources specific to Missouri and the sub-region of Southeast Missouri, both of which I have worked extensively with, I am branching directly out to worldwide resources. Why? I could focus on just United States resources, but once looking at this level most sources also cover places worldwide. There is simply no reason to divide the topics and repeat many resources. That said, let us examine what resources are exist.
Subscription-based for content; Free to create a family tree. Offers individual and library subscriptions.
Check and see if you local library offers it before paying.
Ancestry.com by far has the largest hold on the genealogy market. Over the last decade they have bought out many competing companies and folded their information into one of the largest databases in history. Ancestry.com offers multiple types and tiers of subscriptions. The lowest allows for only networking and family tree sharing. The middle plan allows one to search for records in one of Ancestry.com’s “home counties” (United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Australia, or Sweden). To search the records for these nations, one must live in the nation they wish to search. Otherwise they need the third type of plan, worldwide. The worldwide plan allows users to search the records of all the aforementioned nations plus records curated from other countries.
As the largest source of records, Ancestry.com offers a myriad of scanned images and indexes. These include but are by no means limited to birth, baptismal, marriage, and death certificates; immigration and naturalization records; military service records; yearbooks, church directories, and phone directories; Census and voter registration records; member family trees; tax, criminal, land, and will records; and member added content such as photographs, scanned documents, and stories. Because of the vast quantity of material, Ancestry.com offers a sophisticated, but easy to learn search tool. One a search has been ran, a side bar of facets allow one to examine relevant documents within a particular collection. The advanced search allows users to enter all information they know about an individual.
Family Search is a wonderful resource created initially by the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Now it is a joint venture in which the Mormons are but one partner. If you are worried about using something sponsored by the Mormons, set all fears aside. This is one venture everyone can agree they did right. The fact it is freely available only makes it better.
Family Search offers 3 billion+ records and offers 4,500 research centers worldwide to help those seeking their history. Records offered include birth, marriage, and death certificates; land records; probate records, and military service records. They are able to do this through partnering with local organizations to capture preservation quality images of physical material, digitally convert microfilm, and index said records online. They also store the preservation copies (aka permanent copies to make additional copies from) in a secure vault. One can search the records via a simple search interface that asks for the name of an individual. If known, place of residence and birth information can be added to narrow results. If the results locate a family tree or family group records (individuals can also create these on Family Search), that can link to the individual to other relatives. Also, a sidebar will appear after the search that also one to further limit by life events, relationships, and many other filters.
Subscription-based for libraries or individuals.
Check and see if you local library offers it before paying.
Formerly known as footnote.com, Fold3 is a database that specializes in American military records from the American Revolution through the Vietnam War. That said, it also offers the 1850 and 1930 censuses, nationalization records, the Social Security Death Index, homestead records, and selected other records. One has the option to conduct a basic name only search, advanced search, or to browse the records.
I have used this database before, but unlike Ancestry.com and Family Search, it’s one I no longer have access to. I would love to let you, dear readers, know more about the search types and if there are filters to use but I cannot. As of a few years ago, when Fold3 was still footnote.com, it did not offer facets or detailed searching. However with the advances in search interfaces and techniques I would imagine it now does. If someone can let me know for sure, please comment!
Library subscription-based; check local library for availability.
Heritage Quest offers digital copies of every existing United States federal census from 1790 to 1930. As the only place to offer all of those years, it makes this database a valuable tool. Also offered are scanned copies of more than 28,000 family and local history books. the Periodical Source Index (PERSI) index of genealogical and local history periodicals, Revolutionary War records (including original scans of pensions and bounty land warrant application files), the Freedman’s Bank Records (offers records of African-American applicants and their families from 1865-1874), and the LexisNexis U.S. Serial Set (which “records the memorials, petitions, private relief actions made to the U.S. Congress back to 1789”). Both the scanned books and PERSI can offer non-United States content if it is relevant to a particular included family.
Like with Fold3, I have not had access to this database in the last couple years. However, I can confirm by checking the database’s subscription information page, the interface has not changed. One can only search one collection within the database at a time and the search interface differs between collections. Most offer a basic keyword search, but some, like the censuses, also offer a more advanced search.
Google Books has millions of scanned books in its database. Many out of print texts are fully viewable; if it is also out of copyright, the title can be freely downloaded. All titles have been OCRed, allowing them to be fully searchable, even if only snippet or preview view is allowed. These facts, especially the latter, make Google Books a powerful searching tool. One can opt to use the basics or advanced searches to find their ancestors as there are a plethora of older, locally focused history titles. To learn more about the searching capabilities, please check out my older post “Researching Using Google Books” for more details.
Find a Grave is a free member crowd-sourcing project to document graves, the data headstones contain, and the cemetery’s location. Then possible, copies of the obituaries are added to an individual record. It includes records from every state in the USA and almost every industrialized country. It is important to note, however, that Find A Grave is not complete; some places are more complete than others and some cemeteries are unaccounted for. That said, it doesn’t hurt to check it.
Other Places to Check:
- Archives.com; United States: Similar to both Ancestry.com and Family Search. It is another subscription service that offers U.S. vital records and newspaper clippings to obituaries and other assorted documents.
- Census.gov; United States: Offers browsing ability of the pre-1940 censuses.
- BBC’s “Family History Links;” United Kingdom: Links to many British genealogical resources.
- National Archives; United Kingdom: Offers birth, marriage, death, and citizenship records.
- Newspaperarchive.com: Worldwide, but mostly United States: Subscription service offering thousands of scanned newspapers covering from the late 1700s to present. See comments below for more information.
- “Resources or Genealogists,” National Archives and Records Administration; United States: Offers tips and publicly available records, such as the military service records, and land records, and the indexed 1940 Census.
- RootsWeb; Worldwide; A website offering discussion forums for family historians to ask questions and seek answers from others. It is a sub-community of Ancestry.com.
- The USGen Web Project; United States: Another volunteer effort to provided fellow genealogist with information. It also offers state-level portals. Compared to other sources, it is a bit dated and some links could be bad.
With the exception of Archives.com and Newspaperarchive.com, the above resources are freely available.
Lastly, don’t forget to check with local, state, or national level historical societies. They are great repositories of historical and genealogical resources for their coverage areas.
For those in Catholic-based nations, records are often kept in triplicate-local, diocese, and Vatican-level, so those are great places to check for birth, baptismal, marriage, and death records. I would imagine the same could be said of other religious organizations with a similar organizational structure (ex. Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, or others with a hierarchical organization). Plus in many industrialized nations, copies of birth, marriage, divorce, and death records are held at a city or county level, often at a courthouse or record center.