15 Places to Find the Genealogy Records You Need
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Has this happened to you?
You are ready to begin researching your ancestors and have created a research plan. You have determined the types of records you need. You may even know the specific record you need to research.
You are ready to begin.
Where Do You Find the Genealogy Records You Need?
What records are available online? If online, are they on a free or subscription site?
Do you need to travel to a repository housing the records?
Do you need a subscription to one of those genealogy sites?
Many of you recently told me this was one of your biggest frustrations in genealogy research!
I am a frugal person by nature, and I personally use a combination of subscription based ($) and free resources. When possible, performing on-site research at archives and local courthouses is the most rewarding (and fun!). Unfortunately, distance from our ancestor’s locations can prohibit on-site research. This is when subscription based sites while expensive, can save the expense of a research trip or hiring someone to do the research for you.
So, let’s get started and look at some sources for records that will get you on your research way. Both free and fee based resources in the list below.
Places to Find Your Genealogy Records
Subscription Based (online)
Most subscription sites have trial periods so you can try out their site. If you are interested in a particular site, I recommend developing a research plan for the information on that site. Then sign up for the free trial period and make the most of your time. Often genealogy sites will open up a select group of databases or their entire databases around a holiday. For example, around Veteran’s Day you might find military records offered free over the holiday. If you keep a running list of what you need to search, you will be ready to take advantage any free offers.
If you participate in a free trial, place the trial period expiration date on your calendar, so you can make your decision about purchasing a full subscription in a timely manner. No one likes a surprise bill when you could have avoided it!
- Ancestry.com – A very popular genealogy website!
- FindMyPast – Also, very popular and fantastic if you have UK ancestors.
- My Heritage – Another great site for genealogists.
- Fold3 – Great resource for military records.
- GenealogyBank – Newspaper research
- Newspapers.com -Another historical newspaper site.
TIP: Check with your local library. Many have library editions of Ancestry.com and Heritage Quest you can use free of charge if you have a library card.
Free (Online and Offline)
- Family Search – This is one of the most popular free online databases.
- Google Books – A great source history books and family history books. Many are available to read in full.
- WorldCat.org – Think of this as the largest card catalogue! You can search for local history books and family history and discover what libraries have them. Then simply request an interlibrary loan from your local library. WorldCat is great to use in conjunction with Google books, if the full book is not available online.
- The Internet Archive – A digital library of free books, images, and movies.
- US GenWeb – Free volunteer based site providing genealogical information for the different states. The information on these sites varies for each state.
- New York Public Library – Fantastic resource for genealogical research. Even if you do not have NY ancestors, the NYPL is still a good resource. I have found records pertaining to North Carolina ancestors there as well.
- Local courthouses – Before visiting a local courthouse, check with them first! Sometimes courthouses transfer the older county records to a state archives.
- State Archives – Obviously archives are great places to research your genealogy! Many have online finding aides you can use to plan your research trip ahead of time. State Archives are now putting more and more of their collections online. Check out what your archives has online ahead of time. This can save you an expensive trip and/or make your research trip more efficient. Tip: Check back frequently to see what new additions an archive has put online.
- State and Local Genealogical Societies – Some require a membership to access their databases, others do not. These are also great places to make local connections who can help you with your research.
- Church records – Church records online can be spotty. Offline they can be hard to track down. Start with an internet search for your ancestor’s religious institution and location. From there you will be able to narrow if the records exist at all or if they are online or where you can possibly access the records.
These lists will certainly get you started on your genealogy research. [Did you notice I slipped in 16 places to find the records you need? 🙂 ]
For information on North Carolina and Virginia genealogy research specifically, refer to my Genealogy Resource Page.
- How To Research Ancestors in a Location You Cannot Visit
- How to Perform Your Genealogy Searches More Successfully
Please note that this post contains affiliate links which means I may earn a commission if you decide to purchase a product/service. This does not cost you extra. Be assured I only recommend products/services that I use and think you would like too.
Family Search records section. This section holds many indexed and unindexed images of many, many, records
Don’t use only the tree database.
Thanks, Terry! You make a very good point about not using only the tree database. FamilySearch has a lot of great databases and resources.
I’ve learned a lot that I really didn’t know and about other sites too thank you all.
You’re more than welcome!