Any way you slice it, these 75 top state-focused websites are must-visits for tracing your ancestors across the United States.
Many of the most useful records for genealogists were kept at the state level and are preserved by state archives and historical societies. Instead of traveling to state capitals around the country, borrowing microfilms or ordering photocopies, you now can access a lot of these records online—many for free.
We spotted a clear trend in selecting this year’s best state websites for genealogy: Many states are developing collaborative websites that give researchers access to digitized items from multiple archives, museums and libraries. With everything from oral histories and city directories to Civil War diaries and photographs, these sites offer plenty of material that could not only add names, dates and places to your family tree, but also add insights into your ancestors’ lives.
The increasing digitization of state records has made competition fierce for our annual 75 Best State Websites list. Our final selections this year contain a mix of new additions (indicated with a NEW! symbol) and several tried-and-true favorites. We love finding aids and instruction, but for this list, we focused on sites that provide actual records, transcriptions or indexes. Now let’s see which state genealogy websites made the cut.
Alabama Mosaic NEW!
Among the digitized records you’ll find here from archives and libraries across the state are oral histories, naturalization records, school yearbooks and Civil War diaries and letters.
Alaska State Archives
Resources for genealogists here include indexes to naturalization records from 1888 to 1972 and probate records from 1883 to 1971, plus guidelines for requesting information from the archives.
Arizona Genealogy Birth and Death Certificates
Search for births from 1855 to 1939 and deaths from 1870 to 1964, and view the original records online for free. If only all states put their birth and death records online!
The more than 100,000 digitized items here come from museums and historical societies across the state. Items include oral histories, city directories, tax rolls and photos of pioneer settlers.
Search for a name in over a million gravestone photos from the Natural State. Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton’s modest gravestone is there, along with a biography.
California Digital Newspaper Collection
This site puts more than 8 million articles from California newspapers dating from 1846 to the present at your fingertips. Place quotation marks around a name to search for it as an exact phrase.
Online Archive of California
This site describes collections of diaries, letters, photographs and other items held in more than 200 libraries, museums, historical societies and university archives all across the Golden State. Even better, you can view more than 220,000 digital images and documents from these collections online.
Colorado State Historical Records Index Search
This search tool scours entries in original sources, including county birth and death registers, a statewide divorce index (1880-1939), and will and probate records. You can order copies of the original records for a fee.
Denver Public Library Digital Collections
A search of the genealogy collections covers many resources, including indexes to marriages (1858-1939), military records, biographies, obituaries, the 1885 Colorado state census, cemetery records and naturalization records.
This site’s resources include extensive church and cemetery records from Connecticut. Click Home at the bottom for free access to many genealogy resources from New England and Mid-Atlantic states. Use the search box to find a name anywhere on the site.
Connecticut State Library Digital Collections
Search and view 27 collections of digitized books, diaries, photographs, court records, witchcraft trial records, newspapers, vital records indexes and more. Materials come from the Connecticut State Library, the Connecticut State Archives and the Museum of Connecticut History.
Delaware Public Archives
Click on the Digital Archives link to access Civil War records, naturalization records, historical maps and more. Click on Research and then Collection Gateway to search indexes to bastardy bonds, death registers and probate records. You can order copies of the records for a fee.
Florida Memory Project
Click on the Collections tab here to access free databases from the State Library and Archives of Florida, including Confederate pension applications, WWI service cards, early territorial census records and Spanish land grants. Click on the Photographs tab to search an online collection of more than 185,000 historical photos. You can download documents and images for free or, for a fee, order high-resolution prints and photo scans.
Digital Library of Georgia
If your ancestors hailed from the Peach State, you can cover a lot of ground here with a single search covering digitized books, manuscripts, photographs, newspapers and more from over 60 libraries, archives and museums and 100 government agencies. Use the Advanced Search to limit your search by place, a range of years and media type, such as newspapers or diaries.
Click on Virtual Vault at the right to search colonial wills, Confederate pension applications, death certificates (1914-1927) and the General Name File. Use the search box to search across multiple collections or click on the Advanced Search tab. View digitized images of the original records for free.
Hawaii State Archives
Under Research Our Records, click on Genealogical Indexes to search marriage (1826-1929), divorce (1848-1915), citizenship (1844-1894) and death records. You can order copies of the records for a fee. In addition, click on Digital Collections to peruse vital records, land record indexes, passenger lists and WWI service records, which you can review online for free.
Idaho State Historical Society: Searchable Indexes
Search for your ancestor in the Potato State with these indexes to naturalization records, Civil War veterans, pension records, the inmate catalog and the Idaho Biographical Index. When you find a promising reference, contact the Archives for more details.
Illinois Digital ArchivesNEW!
Digital collections on this site come from the Illinois State Library and other libraries. The collections cover oral histories, manuscripts, letters, photographs, newspapers, maps and more.
Illinois State Archives
Click on Databases to search various county indexes to births, wills, probate and naturalization records, as well as statewide indexes to marriages (1763-1900) and deaths (pre-1916 and 1916-1950). Another 11 databases cover Illinois war veterans. Use the Global Database Search to cover all the databases at once. The database descriptions tell how to order copies of the original records.
Indiana Digital Archives
Search indexes to over a million records, including naturalizations and military records. Coming soon are veterans’ graves registrations and even more naturalizations.
Indiana State Library: Genealogy Collection
Click on Databases in the site index at the left and scroll down to Indiana State Library Databases to search indexes to marriages, biographies and newspapers. Click on the link to access Indiana Memory’s more than 330,000 digitized images, including county histories, oral histories, plat books, city directories, photographs, newspapers, yearbooks and more. Click on the VINE database to search Indiana local history and vital records, censuses and church records from libraries, historical societies and genealogical societies.
One of the most useful state sites in The USGenWeb Project
, the Hawkeye State site has more than a million gravestone photos, more than 2,900 family group sheets, state census transcriptions (1836-1925) and more. Under Quick Links, select either a county or a special project.
The Iowa Heritage Digital Collections
Civil War diaries, county atlases, biographies and high school yearbooks are just some of the digitized items you can view from Iowa libraries, museums and historical societies.
Kansas Historical Society
Two large indexes on this site will help you find your ancestors in the Sunflower State. The Kansas Names Index covers the 1895 state census, biographies, marriages, death notices and more. The Kansas Military Index has records from the Civil War to the present. Select Purchase or Use Photos from the Research tab for instructions on how to order copies.
Kentucky Digital Library
Search digital images of more than a million items from the Bluegrass State, including books, manuscripts, newspapers, maps, oral histories, pictures and yearbooks.
Louisiana State Archives: Historical Resources
Click on Locate Historical Records to search indexes to death records (mostly 1804-1964), birth records (mostly 1790-1914) and Orleans parish marriages (1831-1964). Other online databases cover passenger lists from January to July 1851 and Confederate pension applications.
This site’s extensive resources for researching your ancestry in the Pine Tree State include indexes to vital records, obituaries, passenger lists, military records and court records. Use the First and Last Name boxes at the top of any page to search all the files at once.
Maine Memory Network NEW!
Developed and managed by the Maine Historical Society, this site lets libraries and historical societies across the state upload digital copies of historical items from their collections into this site’s database. The site has over 20,000 historical items, including letters, photographs, maps, clothing and audio and video files. Also available is a searchable database of 1924 Portland, Maine, tax records.
Maryland State Archives
Click on the Find Records tab and then Search Online Databases to search various records databases including census indexes, entries of early settlers, slaves and slave owners, vital records death indexes, land records and more. Also, connect here to the online collection from the Maryland State Archives, which has over 471,000 historical documents. Simply click on the Archives of Maryland Online
link to view an index of colonial probate records (1634-1777), Revolutionary and Civil War resources, land records (including deeds, patents and court records) dating back to 1658 and city directories dating back to 1827.
Digital Commonwealth NEW!
Explore digitized photographs, maps, postcards, manuscripts, books and artifacts from libraries, museums and archives across Massachusetts.
Search indexes to birth, marriage and death records (1841-1910), plus an index, in progress, to passengers arriving in Boston between 1848 and 1891. The Archives Collection Database includes church, town, Indian and maritime records from 1629 to 1799.
This growing site has more than a million digitized records, including death records (1897-1939), state census records (1827-1894), Civil War service records, oral histories, photographs and plat maps. Click on Advanced Search to select one or more collections to search.
Western Michigan Genealogical Society: Online Searchable Databases
Iron Range Research Center
The Genealogy Database covers more than 1.4 million records, including birth, marriage and cemetery records from the Iron Range, plus alien registrations, naturalization records and obituaries from across Minnesota. Order a copy of a record for $10.
Minnesota Digital Library: Minnesota Reflections NEW!
This collection includes 210,000-plus items from the state’s cultural heritage organizations. You’ll find newspapers, photographs, diaries, maps, plat books, oral interviews and more.
Minnesota Historical Society
Trace your ancestors in the Land of 10,000 Lakes with indexes to veterans graves, territorial and state censuses (1849-1905), birth records (1900-1934, plus a few earlier ones) and death records (1904-2001). Use PeopleFinder to search all of these databases and others in one fell swoop.
Mississippi Department of Archives and History
This page describes the archives’ most commonly used genealogy resources. Click on Digital Archives to view Confederate pension applications and WWI statement of service cards and indexes. Use the online catalog to identify specific records (hire a local researcher if you can’t use them in person).
Missouri Digital Heritage
Access more than 9 million death, military, naturalization, census, land and other records from around the Show-Me State through this site’s main search form. Or, to search individual databases, click on Browse Collections by Topic and then on Genealogy.
The State Historical Society of Missouri Digital Collection NEW!
This website features a large newspaper collection, plus diaries, plat maps, photographs, oral histories and Civil War letters, as well as newsletters published by local historical and genealogical societies. The Advanced Search option lets you select one or more collections to search.
Montana Memory Project
Use the search box to find a name in digitized newspapers, yearbooks, prison records (1869-1974), photographs and more from archives across the state.
Montana State Genealogical Society
Click On Line Data to view an index to 700,000 Montana deaths through 2002. It’s arranged by decade. Other free indexes cover marriage and naturalization records of Norwegian immigrants.
Nebraska State Historical Society
Select Additional Research Databases from the Search Collections tab to access indexes to names in cemetery records, county atlases, city directories and prison records. The 1860-1954 Tract Books Index database covers the first owners of land in Nebraska.
Nevada State Library and Archives NEW!
The Nevada State Digital Archives has more than half a million online records, including territorial census records (1861-1864), state land patents (1865-2013) and records of prisoners and orphans.
New Hampshire GenWeb Genealogy and History Project NEW!
Part of The USGenWeb Project
, this website offers transcriptions of censuses in five counties and connects you with online maps, records and histories of New Hampshire families. Select a county from the County List drop-down menu on the left to find more resources for specific counties.
New Jersey State Archives: Searchable Databases
These databases include indexes to marriage records (1666-1799 and 1848-1878), and indexes to death records (1878-1893). The databases also cover over a million references to military, census and court documents and photographs.
New Mexico Digital Collections NEW!
This site provides access to digitized manuscripts, as well as photographs, oral histories and maps from libraries and museums across New Mexico. Under Browse All Collections, the Newspapers Database tells where copies are available and includes links to digitized copies of some titles.
New Mexico USGenWeb Project Archives
Scroll down the page to search a statewide index to almost 51,000 deaths from 1899 to 1949. On the right, click on links to County List and Tombstone Photos Project for more resources organized by county.
German Genealogy Group
Italian Genealogical Group
Thanks to the coordinated efforts of volunteers in these two groups, you can search indexes to births, marriages, deaths, naturalizations and church records in New York City and Long Island. It’s now it’s easy to identify someone’s spouse when using the marriage indexes.
Sampubco: New York Counties Will Testators Indexes
This index covers more than 270,000 New York wills. Browse by county or click on Search This Site Engine to search for a name throughout the entire site. In the FREEFind box, enter the last name first and put quotations around the name to search on the phrase like this: “Robertson, John.” Optionally, add the name of a town or county like this, “Robertson, John” Worcester to narrow the search.
With contributions from cultural heritage institutions across the Tar Heel State, this website from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has digitized newspapers, school yearbooks, historical photographs, city directories, genealogies and more.
State Archives of North Carolina
Start under the For the Public tab, and click on Digital Collections and Publications. Then, Under Resources by Subject, click on Alphabetical Lists to access digitized Confederate pension applications, naturalization records, Bible records and newspapers back to 1751. On the left, click on Online Catalog and Finding Aids. The MARS Online Catalog (for Manuscript and Archives Reference System) describes manuscripts in detail, so it’s worth searching it for names in your family tree. In the section on Online Finding Aids, click on County Records Box Lists to access indexes to many county court records, including divorces, estates, guardianships, marriage licenses and wills.
North Dakota State Institute for Regional Studies
The Institute for Regional Studies Archives has developed several databases, including the statewide North Dakota Biography Index, North Dakota Naturalizations, the 1885 Dakota Territory census for counties in present-day North Dakota and obituaries from Fargo’s Forum newspaper, plus indexes to Cass County marriages, divorces and probate records. It also has a link to the North Dakota Department of Health’s Public Death Index
This collaborative project includes items from more than 360 cultural heritage institutions statewide. You’ll find yearbooks, county atlases, photos of Civil War officers, over 220,000 newspaper pages and much more.
Ohio Obituary Index
Search an index to 3 million Ohio marriage notices, death notices and obituaries dating back to the early 19th century. Order copies of the original newspaper items for a small fee.
Oklahoma Historical Society
Click on Research Center to access several databases, including the 1890 territorial census index, the Dawes Final Rolls and Smith’s First Directory of Oklahoma Territory, plus indexes to marriages, obituaries and probate records.
Archival Records: Guides, Records and Indexes
The Early Oregonians Database here documents people who lived in Oregon prior to statehood. The Oregon Historical County Records Guide includes county maps, histories and record inventories. The Oregon Historical Records Index covers more than 615,000 names from county records, including birth, marriage, death, divorce, naturalization and probate records.
PA Photos and Documents NEW!
On this site, digitized photos and documents from libraries across Pennsylvania are grouped by subject, such as genealogy, local newspapers, Pennsylvania history and yearbooks. You can search each collection individually, but not all of them at once.
Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission
Click on Digital Copies of Documents for a handy jumping off point to online records from the Pennsylvania State Archives, including military records dating from the Revolutionary War to World War I. Many of these records even include soldiers’ physical descriptions. Databases of land records date from 1681 to 1957 and include indexes you can browse.
Rhode Island Historical Cemetery Commission
More than just an index to gravestones, this site includes dates of birth and death, maiden names, names of family members and maps. Many entries include detailed descriptions and photos of the gravestones.
South Carolina Department of Archives and History
Click on the Online Research tab and then on Online Records Index to search more than 300,000 items (many with images), including records of Confederate veterans (1909-1973), criminal court records (1769-1891), state land-grant plats (1784-1868), will transcripts (1782-1855) and even school insurance photos (1935-1952).
South Dakota Birth Records
This index holds information from more than 275,000 records of South Dakota births that occurred at least 100 years ago, including many delayed birth certificates that were issued for people born before statewide registration began in 1905.
South Dakota State Historical Society
Find your ancestors in the Mount Rushmore State with the help of these indexes to naturalizations, cemetery records, the 1905 state census and biographies, plus a transcript of the 1885 census of Civil War veterans.
Tennessee State Library and Archives
Indexes here let you search Tennessee death records (1908-1912 and 1914-1933), death notices in Nashville newspapers (1855-1907), Confederate pension applications and Nashville city directories.
Volunteer Voices NEW!
This site searches digitized photos, diaries, oral histories and artifacts in archives, libraries and museums across the state. You’ll find many Civil War-related items, including letters from soldiers and photographs of veterans.
The Portal to Texas History NEW!
Libraries, archives, historical societies and genealogical societies from across the Lone Star State have contributed digitized books, maps and photographs for this site. You’ll find college yearbooks, church records, county histories and newspapers. Use the search box to search sitewide, or click Explore and then Collections to search and browse available collections.
Texas State Library and Archives Commission
Databases for researching your ancestors in the Lone Star State include an index to Confederate pension applications, lists of indigent Confederate families and digitized Republic claims. You can order copies of the pension applications, and they’re also available as part of a searchable database on subscription-site Ancestry.com
Utah State Cemeteries and Burials
This database contains cemetery records for about 600,000 people buried in Utah. More burials are continually being added. Information comes from both sexton’s records and gravestones. It also links you to the Utah Death Certificate Index (1905-1964)
Utah Digital Newspapers
Search for a word anywhere in more than a million pages of Utah newspapers dating between 1850 and 2010. Digital Utah
has links to other digital collections.
Vermont Historical Society
Under the Research tab, select Genealogy and then click on Genealogy Indexes & Lists to find links to PDF files with indexes and transcriptions of various Vermont records, including baptisms, marriages, deaths, naturalizations and town records.
Library of Virginia
Among the many useful indexes and digitized documents on this site, don’t overlook the index to wills and administrations up to 1800
. The Library of Virginia has a separate site for digitized materials at Virginia Memory
. Under the Digital Collections tab, select Collections by Topic to access Revolutionary War records and Confederate pension rolls, as well as land patents and grants dating back to the 17th century.
Washington State Archives: Digital Archives
This terrific site already has more than 53 million searchable records online, including birth, marriage, death, census, cemetery and naturalization records.
West Virginia Archives and History: Genealogy Corner
Click on Birth, Death and Marriage Records to search and view digitized birth records (1790-1939), marriage records (1780-1971) and death records (1753-1964). They’re not complete for all counties, but more records are continually being added.
Recollection Wisconsin NEW!
Historical resources from libraries, archives and historical societies across the Badger State include diaries, letters, local history, newspapers, oral histories, photographs, plat maps and yearbooks.
Wisconsin Historical Society
A search here covers more than 3 million records at once, including indexes to birth, marriage and death records, plus obituaries, biographies and photos. Scroll down the page for links to other resources, including Civil War records and local history and biography articles. Consider yourself lucky if you have Wisconsin kin: This website is truly among the very best state sites for genealogy research.
Search and view more than 800,000 newspaper pages, including newspapers published in Wyoming between 1849 and 1970. The site continues to add digitized papers.
When genealogy experts say a record is kept on the local, state or federal level, they’re using shorthand for the type of government agency that has custody of the record. The “local level” might be a town clerk or county courthouse. State-level record custodians might be the state vital records office or state archives. Federal-level records might be with a US government entity, such as the National Archives and Records Administration
or Citizenship and Immigration Service
The level you look to generally depends on whether a local, state or federal entity required that the record be kept. But there are exceptions: The state vital records office might retain copies of birth and death certificates forwarded by counties. Or a county courthouse might send old records to the state archive. A repository at any level might have microfilmed records from another level. For example, state archives may have federal census records. Barring exceptions, the major types of records usually kept on each level include:
- Local: Vital records, wills and probates, court records, coroner records, property deeds, voter registrations, pre-1906 naturalizations filed in county court
- State: Vital records after state-mandated vital record-keeping began, state censuses, state or colonial land records, some records of military service, state institution (prison, hospital or orphanage) records, pre-1906 naturalizations filed in state court
- Federal: US censuses, passenger lists, military service and pension records for the Revolutionary War and later, federal land patents, pre-1906 naturalizations filed in federal court, naturalizations in 1906 and later, alien registrations, passport applications, Social Security applications, Bureau of Indian Affairs records, federal court records, federal prison records, vital records from overseas military bases
From the December 2015 Family Tree Magazine