Database Index
(12,000 names within 1000 surnames)
Genealogical Research Resources and Helps

Are you ready to dig in? Finding and documenting your family history:

Here are some tips and tricks, along with some excellent sources of free genealogy records and information.  Much can be found for free.  If you've already dug and dug, and are up against a brick wall, I can research for you for a fee, utilizing thousands of other resources and databases that I have compiled over the years - and from the paid databases that I have subscribed to.  For more information see here...but really, you should at least search some of the many free sources that are available below first.  With the information on this page alone, you can have material for literally years of research.

Getting Started: Organization and Documentation

Use genealogy software.
Cite your sources!

Free sources of records and information

General resources.
Specific record sources for the United States.


Organizing your research with software is a must. I could write a book of all the reasons, but in short today's software is so easy to use and and so much more effecient than shoeboxes or notebooks full of paper that there's just no excuse.

Suffice it to say that if you're not using software yet, I can promise you now that sooner or later (probably sooner) you will wish you did...and the longer you wait before entering your information in a software program the harder it will be.

There are many genealogy software apps out there (see here and here) but many of them are to be avoided. The two keys to picking good software are
1. It should use/support GEDCOM (the standard & most widely accepted electronic genealogy format), and
2. It should be well supported and frequently updated

I recommend:

1. For the newbie, I suggest Personal Ancestral File (PAF). It's a free download, easy to use and well supported. It does not have "power user" features, but if you want to switch to a more powerful program down the road, you can export your file to the new program.

2. For power users who want all the bells and whistles, I recommend The Master Genealogist (TMG). They have a Silver and a Gold edition; compare the two here. do yourself, and those you plan to pass your information down to, a big favor: Record your information in software.

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Start a good habit now: Always cite a source when documenting information you've found.

Start by listing your sources (in your software's Source List). Once you have your sources organized it's a simple click to cite the source when entering information. There is nothing worse than looking at something later and either not remembering where you got it, or 2nd guessing it's accuracy. Don't just enter a name and leave it at that, though. For each source, you should also:

1. Assign a Surety Level (A numerical value assigned to indicate the quality of a source in documenting a given fact). The standard surety levels are

  • "3" = an original source, close in time to the event (birth certificate, death certificate, marriage license, diary of the person, the testimony of an eyewitness to the event, tombstone, etc.)
  • "2" = a reliable secondary source (obituary, etc.)
  • "1" = a less reliable secondary source or an assumption based on other facts in a source (family stories, etc.)
  • "0" = a guess (it's ok to presume based on circumstantial evidence)
  • "-" = the source does not support the information cited or this information has been disproved (It's good to leave incorrect information in your file so that you have documentation as to why it has been disproven).

2. Document important details about the source: Like for printed material: the name, year, author, etc.

3. Assign the source's "Repository". This is simply where it is. Mostly applicable for books, magazines, pictures, etc.

Yes, it's work to document all this stuff, but you only need to do it once. Once they're all entered, you simply click on it, or enter it's number, with the factual information you're inputting.

Tip: If you attempt to get info from a source, whether it be book, courthouse, graveyard, etc., and don't find any information, then still record it as a source in your records. You can simply note it, for example, "No Smith info in this source". You'll never remember all the sources you've checked, so this is a good way to keep track of them so you don't waste your time checking something you've already checked.

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1. Interview living family members.
Don't forget this easy step.

2. Google and Yahoo (search engines):
Genealogy is so common nowadays that many people are publishing what they've found on websites. Using John Andrew Doe as an example, be sure to search the variety of ways the name might show up, as in "john andrew doe", "john a. doe", "john doe", "doe john", "doe john a", "doe john andrew"

  • If the name is uncommon, search "firstname lastname", "firstname middleinitial lastname", "lastname firstname", etc. Use the quote signs.
  • If the name is common, then do the above searches and add information that you know, like maybe a maiden name, maiden name of spouse, city, etc. Any other information you know about the person can be added to the search to help narrow it down.

3. The WorldConnect Project.
This is the biggest repository of family trees on the net. Use the search box to enter information you know - to see if the person you're researching is in someone else's family tree. Remember that you have tens of thousands of cousins. You should not be surprised to find that one or some of them are researching the same person you are. Start by entering all you know in the various boxes, then if you're not getting hits, remove bits of information to widen the search.

4. The big Genealogy Message Boards: and
These are the largest Genealogy Message Boards on the net. You can search them by name or locality: Message Boards | Message Boards

This site is my vote for the best single genealogy website on the planet.  It's research and records compiled by the Mormons. Not only do they publish information found by individuals, but they actually research and compile information themselves.

The entire site is free, so simply enter a name in the search box(es) on their home page. Also check out their advanced search.

The search results will be to a wide variety of sources including other researcher's information, actual birth, marriage and death records, etc.

6. The US GenWeb Project.
Compiled genealogical records and information from all over the U.S. First, click a state on the left to search current articles. Also, be sure to check the "Projects" link at the top of their homepage for other good genealogical projects.

7. The World GenWeb Project.
Compiled genealogical records and information from all over the world.

8. Cyndi's List.
A mega site of links to genealogical sites and sources by category.

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1. The Social Security Death Index (SSDI).
This database typically contains the birth date, death date, where the Social Security Number was issued and last place of residence for deceased individuals (who were issued a Social Security Number).

2. Census Records
There are many free sources for the Census' (with the exception of the 1890 Census, which was lost) in book or microfilm form. Check your local public library or LDS Family History Center. Here are online census' that are searchable.

The entire 1880 Census.
Change the drop-down after the heading "Census" to "1880 United States Census", then enter the name - and State if you know it. Here you will find every name that was enumerated in the 1880 Census, along with ages, places of birth and much more. If you find an ancestor here, be sure to check the neighbors. You'll often find other family members living nearby.

3. Immigrants

  • Ellis
    Between 1892 and the 1940s millions of immigrants came through Ellis Island. Their information is online for free. You get the age, arrival date, where they came from and ship they were on. Be sure to check the ship's manifest as large families often came together.
  • Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild.
    Use the Passenger Lists links to search either individual names or ship names. Like the Ellis Island site, you get the age, where they came from, date of arrival, sometimes their occupation and who was on the ship with them.

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