Thursday, February 3, 2011

Book Review: Online State Resources for Genealogy

Michael Hait, a professional genealogist residing in Delaware, published an eBook in PDF format recently titled Online State Resources for Genealogists, which is available as an online download at his website, Hait Family Research, here.

The Introduction notes:

"Many researchers are unaware of the sheer volume and variety of records that have been brought online, at no cost, by government agencies and others active in individual towns, counties, and states. This book will provide a directory to sites that offer record images and indexes nationwide, including:

*  state archives
*  state libraries
*  state health departments
*  county clerks
*  historical societies
*  genealogical societies
*  university libraries
*  public libraries
*  others"

It also notes that online indexes and databases provided by free (e.g., FamilySearch, Rootsweb) and subscription (e.g., Ancestry, Footnote, GenealogyBank) genealogy websites are not covered by the book.

In the book, each state has a chapter, and within that chapter are links to governmental, institutional,  genealogical and historical society archives and libraries with online indexes and databases.  In many cases, there are links to the different online collections available at the entity.  For each database entry, there is an explanation, usually in the websites own words, about the content of the database.

An example entry from the Illinois section (I picked one that almost every researcher knows about):

"Illinois State Archives ("
and down the alphabetical list a bit:

Illinois Statewide Death Index, Pre–1916 ( : ―The pre–1916 Illinois death index is an ongoing project coordinated by the Illinois State Archives. The sources for this index include original county clerks‘ death records, such as death registers and licenses. For each death, the index includes the name of the decedent, the date of the death, the name of the county where the death occurred, the place of death within the county, when possible; the age and sex of the decedent and a citation to the original record—volume and page number for death registers or certificate number for death certificates."

Some states have extensive listings, and some do not.  For instance, Colorado has one repository listed on three pages, California has four repositories listed on two pages, while Illinois has six repositories listed on eleven pages, and Maryland has nine repositories listed on twenty pages.  This is certainly due to the volume of records freely available in online indexes and document image databases.  A reader can see which states have been proactive and diligent in providing online databases to their citizens and researchers.

The book includes websites that have both freely available databases and members-only access to other record databases, but the book does not include the members-only databases.  An example is the Illinois State Genealogical Society.  However, state and regional level institutions that do not have have any freely available state record indexes and document image databases - the New England Historic Genealogical Society in Boston comes to mind, are not included in the book. 

The book does not include repositories that have online indexes for catalogs but no actual online data in index or document image form.  For example, the California State Libraries (not listed in the book) at, has no actual data (transcriptions or images) at the library website - only a searchable catalog of books on the shelf at the library.  A casual reader might assume that there is no State Library or that it has no web presence at all, when the reality is that there is no actual data available online.

Those are not really "complaints," they are statements of fact about the contents of the book.  The Introduction notes that:

"Only the most useful resources for genealogy research, and contextual historical information, have been included in this guide."

One of the very best features of this book are the active hyperlinks in the text.  The reader can click on the hyperlink, which is often very long, and go directly to the online database of interest.

The book is an excellent compilation of the state resources freely available in online databases with actual data - index information and/or document images.  It will be very valuable to every researcher trying to perform a reasonably exhaustive search for their ancestral families.  I know that I will use the resources in this book in my genealogical research.  It will be a valuable addition to any American researcher's genealogical library.

The cost of this book is $15.00 for a PDF download from ( ).  Recognizing that the volume of online state resources  is increasing regularly, the author will provide one complimentary updated revision at a future date (the buyer needs to contact him by email with some information).

Disclosure:  Michael Hait contacted me last weekend asking if I would write a review of his book, and he provided me with a PDF copy of the book.  I try very hard to write objective reviews of books for the benefit of my readers.

1 comment:

Roberta Baum said...

Hi, Randy: Thanks for including the price of the book. Your review was very helpful. Roberta Baum