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This free site from the National Archives and Archives.com serves up census maps and descriptions to locate an enumeration district, plus complete 1940 census images you can save, share and download.
Researchers with American Indian roots will want to bookmark this site for sure, but it’s also worth a visit for its state pages, African-American records and links, military records and more. Recent additions include directories, school yearbooks and local histories. Even better? It's free.
This eye-popping site from Harvard’s Center for Geographical Analysis tracks the slave trade with historical overlays and geographical data.
Search databases including a slave records collection, death and marriage records, census schedules and a surnames database. Or connect with fellow researchers with regular chats, message boards and mailing lists.
Afro-Louisiana History and Genealogy 1719-1820
Powerful search tools let you scour this database of 100,000 Louisiana slaves by plantation. It represents the results of 15 years of research by Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, professor emerita of history at Rutgers University.
Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center
The nation’s second-richest genealogy library goes beyond its Indiana base to serve up how-tos, American Indian and African-American collections, military records and family Bibles. Check the Surname File to identify others researching your same surname.
Although this website from the New England Historic Genealogical Society is richest in its home region, don’t overlook it for more far-flung resources. Full access to its 451-plus databases costs $89.95 a year, but more than 30 databases are free to explore. Those include an index of Revolutionary War pensioners, New York wills and back issues of the society’s magazine.
Not cheap, at $149 for six months of global access, but you definitely get what you pay for here. Ancestry offers more than 32,000 collections of genealogical records, from popular datasets such as censuses and passenger lists, to databases with narrower coverage, like Chicago’s 1888 voter registration index. Build your family tree to get hints to matching records and, for another $99, test your DNA.
Atlas of Historical County Boundaries
This acclaimed independent library in Chicago is best known by genealogists for its interactive Atlas of Historical County Boundaries. You’ll also find Chicago resources, Freedmen’s Bureau finding aids and a raft of genealogy guides.
A growing database with a specific focus, the optimistically named BillionGraves claims to be “the world’s largest resource for searchable GPS cemetery data.” Search for your deceased relatives to see if someone has added them, or register—it’s free—to start contributing with your smartphone and the BillionGraves app.
Researching ancestors in Canada? Put their lives in context with this archive of 40 million pages from some of Canada’s most popular historical collections. The directories, newspapers, manuscripts and more range from the 1600s to the mid-1900s.
US arrivals through the port of New York from 1820 through 1892—before Ellis Island opened (see page 21)—came here, and now you can search all 11 million of them for free.
Don't want to commit to one of our "heavyweight" subscription sites? Search more than 677 million US census records (1790-1940), then pay only for the results you want to view, starting at $7.95 for 1,000 credits. There's also a subscription plan, priced at $34.95 for six months.
Civil War Soldiers & Sailors Database
The best place to start researching your Union or Confederate ancestors, this database delivers the basics on more than 6 million soldiers from both sides, plus 18,000 African-American sailors, all hailing from 44 US states and territories.
Indexes to pre-1900 marriages, plus deaths and military records back to the War of 1812, stand out in this collection of databases. Search the Illinois Regional Archives Depositories (IRAD) for offline resources to pursue next.
Still the go-to site for genealogy links after more than 20 years, Cyndi’s List organizes more than 336,000 sites into 220 categories for easy finding and clicking.
Daughters of the American Revolution
For genealogists, the highlight of this organization’s site is the Genealogical Research System. You can research Revolutionary War patriots, their descendants, and the DAR members who’ve proven a link to them. You can also search the catalog of the DAR Library in Washington, D.C.
David Rumsey Map Collection
View the 85,000-plus historical maps multiple ways, including Google Earth, making it easy to see how yesterday’s places relate to today’s.
Digital Library on American Slavery
Explore this painful chapter of America’s past through runaway-slave advertisements, slave “deeds,” insurance papers, and legislative and court petitions digitized by the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
Digital Public Library of America
Search more than 21 million digitized items from many of the nation’s foremost libraries and archives.
Search books, photographs, maps, family histories, state documents, newspapers and more from North Carolina institutions, or browse by county.
Documenting the American South
Though not exclusively focused on the African-American experience, these collections from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill include “The Church in the Southern Black Community” and “North American Slave Narratives.”
Early American Roads and Trails
A new look makes it easier to explore this trove of historical documents, with options to browse by era, region or topic, plus hundreds of maps and a searchable timeline. Those with Civil War ancestors will want to start with the searchable online edition of the 128-volume Officials Records (the “OR”) of the Civil War, complete with an index and atlas.
Timelines, maps and the searchable 128-volume Officials Records (the “OR”) of the Civil War make this your first stop for digital history documents.
Elephind doesn’t host digital newspapers; rather, like its more-or-less namesake elephant, it never forgets where the best collections reside online. Smart search scours more than 181 million items from 3,566 newspaper titles for your ancestors.
Think of Evernote as an omnipresent digital scrapbook for all your genealogy finds. Clip or copy that census page or family photo on one device, then access on your PC, Mac, tablet or even your phone. Basic accounts are free, though you’ll be tempted to upgrade for more features ($69.99 annually).
Recent controversies aside, the world’s biggest social-networking site can connect you with cousins as well as with your favorite genealogy institutions.
This huge website holds FamilySearch’s indexes and digitized records, which comprise more than 2,300 free online collections at last count. You also can search the unified Family Tree (where you can plant your own branch for free), historical books, the research wiki and more. Note that some digitized record collections are available only when searching on the computers at a branch FamilySearch Center (find one near).
Find A Grave
Another cemetery-specific site, this 101 Best Websites stalwart now boasts more than 170 million searchable grave records from approximately 480,000 cemeteries in 240 different countries.
Still the go-to destination for British Isles research, Findmypast also has a solid collection of US and Canadian records and is in the process of digitizing the genealogical journals indexed in the Periodical Source Index (PERSI). The Ultimate package costs $179 a year.
Florida Memory Project
Take a virtual visit to the Sunshine State—no sunscreen required—with historical photos, land records, Confederate pension paperwork, maps, WWI service cards and even early auto registrations. While you research, you can listen to streaming old-time radio.
This Ancestry-owned site now serves up 523 million records, focused on—but not limited to—military history (hence the name, which is inspired by a flag ceremony). You can set up a “watch” to alert you when new records are added that match anything in your previous searches. Subscriptions cost $79.95 a year, but look for deals if you’re already shelling out for Ancestry.
Sort of a matchmaking site for genetic genealogy, a free registration lets you match your autosomal DNA results with others who’ve uploaded data from AncestryDNA, 23andMe or Family Tree DNA’s Family Finder.
Did an old newspaper report on your ancestors’ involvement in a disaster? Browse by state, year or type of disaster (train wreck, fire, flood, shipwreck, etc.) to read all about it.
Can’t find your ancestors’ hometown newspaper anywhere online? This redesigned subscription site hosts more than 7,500 digitized newspapers and 250 million obituaries—95 percent not available elsewhere online—plus historical books and directories.
If your library subscribes, your library card can unlock this free (to you) “Ancestry lite” site that now goes well beyond HeritageQuest’s original half-dozen collections. Dig deep to find US censuses, immigration records, military records, city directories and more at this institutional site “powered by” (but not owned by) Ancestry.
Historical Newspapers in Washington
Sophisticated search options make it easier to ferret out your ancestors in this collection, the fruits of a project to digitize old newspapers that were previously accessible only on 40,000-plus microfilm reels.
Indiana State Digital Archives
Civil War and Indiana National Guard records are the latest additions to this growing Hoosier website. It’s now home to more than 2.7 million searchable records.
International African-American Museum Center for Family History
This museum in Charleston, SC, won’t open until 2020, but you can enjoy its gorgeous website now, with digital collections including Bible and marriage records, newspaper obituaries and funeral programs.
International Society of Genetic Genealogy Wiki
Curious but confused about genetic genealogy? Let the ISOGG, founded by DNA project administrators, explain everything from all those acronyms to making sense of your results.
Kentucky Historical Society
Bluegrass State researchers will stampede to this site for its cemetery records, Civil Rights archive and digital collections of everything from artifacts to old postcards. Click on the Kentuckiana Digital Library to also search more than 550,000 digital images including historic newspapers, photographs, Sanborn maps and historical issues of the Daily Racing Form.
Library and Archives Canada
Find your ancestors up north in this vast free collection. Click the Databases and Resources tab, and then Ancestors Search to get to the good stuff, like databases of censuses, military records, immigration lists, land records and much more.
Library of Congress
Thomas Jefferson may have gotten the ball rolling, but the nation’s library has grown quite a bit since his day. Check the online catalog of pretty much everything in print, then explore digital collections of maps (including Sanborn fire insurance, land ownership and Civil War battlefield maps), photos, oral history interviews, sheet music and more.
Plantation records, a research library, records of slaves taken from the area, and detailed documentation of the 33rd US Colored Troops infantry regiment make this handsome site a must-visit for researching the historic rice-growing areas of South Carolina, Georgia and northeastern Florida.
MIDWEST AFRICAN AMERICAN GENEALOGY INSTITUTE
The Midwest African American Genealogy Institute (MAAGI) is a place where attendees learn, research, and gain the tools needed to become a stellar genealogists and family history researchers.
Midwest Genealogy Center
This website from the Mid-Continent Public Library in Independence, Mo., was recently redesigned and relaunched. Don’t miss its index of 1.5 million US Railroad Retirement Board pension records, digitized books and how-to guides.
Minnesota Historical Society
Particularly nifty here is the People Records Search, a one-stop combing of vital records, state censuses and military records. And don’t overlook the digitized newspapers, maps, place-name finder and other tools that’d make Paul Bunyan proud.
Missouri Digital Heritage
Show me, indeed: A single click searches more than 9 million records from the state archives, state library and other institutions across Missouri. Or you can explore individual collections including military records, naturalizations and vital records.
My Genealogy Hound
This new, free website from Hearthstone Legacy Publications lets you access thousands of biographies extracted from pre-1900 county history books, plus old county maps. The initial focus is on Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee, with maps also from Oklahoma and Texas.
Build your tree here and MyHeritage will search other members’ trees for connections; plans range from free to $119.40 a year. If you spring for a separate data subscription (also $119.40 annually), you can also get emails as MyHeritage’s SuperSearch scours its 8.5 billion records for matches. The site now offers DNA testing; results are integrated with the site’s family trees.
National Archives and Records Administration
A must for finding and ordering what’s not online—such as veterans’ records—this site also has plenty of clickable treasures if you dig deep: WWII enlistment files, historical photos and maps, passenger lists for German and Russian immigrants, and more. Start with the Research Our Records section for genealogy guidance.
Nationwide Gravesite Locator
This site, updated daily, searches US burial locations of veterans and their family members in VA national cemeteries, state veterans cemeteries and more.
New York Public Library Digital Collections
Those with Big Apple ancestry are lucky, as this site’s Map Warper tool is only one of the high-tech highlights at this online home to more than 742,000 digitized prints, photographs, maps, manuscripts and videos.
New York State Archives
From old “lantern slides” to a database of more than 360,000 New York soldiers in the Civil War, this site helps you discover the Empire State’s past. Particularly nifty is the step-by-step Probate Record Pathfinder.
Already a favorite, wherever your ancestors lived, for its Atlas of Historical County Boundaries, this site has beefed up its Chicago-area offerings. New here are full-text searchable PDFs of volumes 1 to 39 (1969-2007) of the Chicago Genealogist.
Before you pay for sites that put old newspapers online, check the more than 69,000 pages of abstracts and extracts from historical newspapers available here. Growing by more than a thousand pages a month, Newspaper Abstracts concentrates on the “good stuff,” genealogically speaking, such as obituaries, births, marriages, deaths, court notices, land sales and tax notices.
This Ancestry-owned site claims to be the largest online newspaper archive, with pages from 7,500 publications from the 1700s to 2000s. Viewing and clipping tools make it easy to save and share your finds once you’ve invested $74.90 a year (discounted if you’re an Ancestry member).
North Carolina State Archives
A new North Carolina Civil War Soldiers Timeline uses letters from individual soldiers plotted on a Google Map and tied to a timeline so you can follow a soldier's path both geographically and through time. The Digital Collections link reveals digitized newspapers, family Bibles, marriage and death announcements and historic maps.
From censuses to vital records, foreign calendars to alphabets, Steve Morse empowers visitors to drill down into genealogy and related databases. You can skip intros and tedious forms and use more-flexible search options. To view results on a fee-based website, you do need a subscription to that site.
Slavery in America and the World: History, Culture & Law
Free registration unlocks information published about slavery, primarily prior to 1880, from HeinOnline, one of America’s top online legal library services.
South Carolina Department of Archives and History
Tucked away under the Online Research link are indexes and images including Confederate veterans’ records, wills, court paperwork and land-grant plats.
The Genetic Genealogist
Don’t know your mitochondrial DNA from your Y-STR? This informed but accessible blog by Blaine Bettinger puts you painlessly on the cutting edge of genetic genealogy. A genealogy buff for 20 years, Bettinger also has a PhD in biochemistry with a concentration in genetics, and authored the Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy [LINK TO
The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database
These databases describe more than 35,000 slave voyages, with the African names of 91,491 individuals taken from captured slave ships or from African trading sites.
US Geological Survey
New satellite images add to the “wow” here, complementing the National Atlas, Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) and National Map. Find your ancestral places, no matter how obscure, and then see them on historical topographic maps.
For more than 20 years, this site by and for US genealogists serves as the hub of county and state sites from Maine to California. Don’t overlook its special-project pages for tombstones, censuses, maps, obituaries and more. Note that at press time, local sites hosted on the RootsWeb domain were inaccessible due to a security breach on that site late last year.
Not just for Virginia research, this Library of Virginia site is also strong on all things Confederate. New projects spotlight WWI records and slavery in the commonwealth.
This free, wiki-style site aims to build “a unified family tree containing the best information from all contributors.” It’s up to 2.8 million ancestral individuals, so you know webmasters are doing something right.
Western States Historical Marriage Records Index
Not just for locating Idaho ancestors, this Western States Marriage Index searches more than 913,000 matrimonial records from 12 western states.
This collaborative family tree wiki site boasts more than 17 million people profiles contributed and edited by a half-million researchers worldwide. It’s now incorporating DNA results, with 3.7 million profiles that include DNA test connections.
Wisconsin Historical Society
There’s nothing cheesy about this compendium of more than 3 million records, among them vital record indexes, newspaper clippings, photographs, and old property records.
Connect to the catalogs of 10,000 of the world’s libraries and search 2 billion items with a single click, then find holdings closest to you. An app gives you WorldCat to go on your phone. Sign in to create lists and bibliographies to keep track of your research.
Your favorite Family Tree Magazine authors, “Genealogy Roadshow” and other family-history TV shows, Ancestry experts and more are in the quarter-million videos that pop up when you search for genealogy.