Thursday, January 30, 2014

My Top Ten FREE USA Genealogy Resource Websites

A society colleague asked me recently "What are your top online websites with free records in databases?"

I decided to write them down so that all of my readers could benefit from them, and I'll use it in my society newsletter also.  I'm not going to include general search engines like Google and Bing, online family tree websites without records, or data portals like CyndisList.

Here are my choices in some sort of order according to my own perception.

1.  FamilySearch (

This has to be number one because there is so much available.  From the 1,711 record collections (as of today, which include indexed and browsed collections for many states and countries around the world), the FamilySearch Books collection, the FamilySearch Library Catalog (which provides information on available books and microform at the FamilySearch Library), plus the FamilySearch Family Tree (online interconnected tree), and the Research Wiki (not records per se).  

2.  Find A Grave (

This cemetery site has over 111 million memorials for deceased persons all over the world, but mainly in the USA.  Volunteers have added many gravestone photographs, and often add inscriptions, birth and death information, notes and obituaries.

3. (

Rootsweb has a few online databases (California, Kentucky, Maine and Texas death records; United Kingdom Civil Registration births, marriages and deaths; some user provided databases and reports, etc.), plus the WorldConnect family trees (over 700 million names, in separate trees).  There are also very useful mailing lists and message boards that can be searched for queries of other researchers.

4.  Chronicling America (

There are almost 7 million searchable digitized newspaper pages from 39 states between 1836 and 1922.

5. United States GenWeb Project (

There are web pages for every state, and every county in every state.  Each page was created and is maintained by volunteers.  Many text databases have been added over time for vital, cemetery, and other record types, and sometimes transcribed books are available.  The searchable databases are on the USGWArchives (

6.  Google Books (

Google Books has millions of digitized books in several formats that can be searched for information about names and/or locations.

7.  The Internet Archive (

The Internet Archive has millions of digitized books in several formats that can be searched for names and locations.  The U.S. Census images are also available but are not searchable - you have to browse them in the microfilm area.  There are other microfilm collections that may have browsable records.

8.  Heritage Quest Online (

Researchers have to use these databases through a subscribing library.  The site has U.S. census records with name indexes for many years.  There are over 28,000 digitized books, Revolutionary Way Pension Files (selected pages), Freedman's bank, U.s. Serial Sets, and the PERSI periodical index.

9.  Mocavo (

 Mocavo offers a free search for all of their records.  There are over 100,000 databases, but most of them are relatively small at this time.  The user can view a record for free, but it is difficult to work with because you can do only one search at a time.

10.  Massachusetts Vital Records Project (

This project is digitizing and indexing the published Massachusetts town early vital record books up until 1850.

There are many other websites with FREE online resources, including most of the subscription sites.  They often have some free databases or collections.  You can use the Randy's Genealogy Links page at the top of this blog to find more free and subscription websites listed by record type.

What are your favorite FREE online genealogy websites for USA records?  Tell me in comments.

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Copyright (c) 2014, Randall J. Seaver


Claudia said...

Thank you Randy, a few of those I have not used, but I will look at them tomorrow.

Shirley A. said...

These I use all the time:

Bureau of Land Management

DAR Genealogical Research Databases

Nationwide Graveside Locator

Maryland State Archives

St. Mary's Families (Colonial Maryland)

Missouri Digital Heritage

Illinois State Archives

California Digital Newspaper Collection

Lynn David said...

GoogleBooks helped me to find an immigrant ancestor who had changed his name after coming to America. I found a reference to him in a book on Belgian jurisprudence which confirmed part of the oral mythology about his life in Europe.

I would have to add another to my own top ten - that of But that would only be among the top 10 for those of us with Belgian &/or French ancestry.

Taneya said...

just a note re usgenweb -- the archives site is not the only location for searchable databases. Many individual county sites may also have searchable databases. :-)

Unknown said...

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Unknown said...

My first stop is always Google. All the others a great. Thanks.