Are You Missing the Best Genealogy Websites for Finding U.S. Ancestors?

By Allison Dolan

David Rumsey Historical Maps

We published our annual list of 75 top US state genealogy websites in the December 2016 Family Tree Magazine (you can see the list right here).

These state-focused genealogy websites stand out for their digitized historical records, searchable indexes to vital and other records, and how-to advice.

But our list is just a starting point. There are many more state-focused genealogy websites to mine as you research American ancestors. Nonprofit and government sites don’t have a lot of money to market themselves, so it’s easy for them to slip under a genealogist’s radar. Here are five types of state-focused genealogy websites you should look for in every state where your ancestors lived:

State Archive
Google a state and “state archive” to find the website for the state archive, which usually manages records created by the state (such as state censuses and adjutant general records), may archive old county records, and often collects newspapers, city directories, federal censuses and other records that cover citizens of the state.

On the website, look for:

  • an overview of genealogy-related holdings
  • links to digital collections
  • tips on research topics of interest to you, such as vital records or burned counties
  • a catalog of holdings you can search for your ancestor’s town and county, as well as other terms, for a list of records that might cover your clan
  • locations, hours and visitor information
  • a “research services” or similar link to see if you can borrow items through interlibrary loan or pay for an archivist’s research time
  • links to genealogy resources for more websites to check or guides to consult

State Historical Society
Search for the name of a state and “historical society.” Some historical societies are affiliated with the state government (in Ohio, the state archive is part of the state historical society, called Ohio History Connection), and some are independent membership organizations. Look for the same features as on a state archives website.

State Library
Search for the name of the state and “state library.” The state library may or may not be part of the archive (as for the Texas State Library and Archive), and it may or may not hold genealogical materials. Indiana’s State Library has a description of its genealogy holdings here. Look for the same features as on a state archives website.

Digital Library or Memory Project
Search for the name of the state and memory or “digital library.” Many states have online memory collections with old photos, maps, yearbooks and other digitized records contributed by organizations and individuals around the state. Check out Florida Memory here.

Digitized Newspapers Site
Search for the name of the state and historical (or historic) newspapers. Some state libraries, archives or historical societies run websites where you can search and view digitized newspapers. The Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection is here; Utah Digital Newspapers is here.

Stop in Family Tree Shop for research guides, webinars and video classes for doing genealogy and discovering your ancestry in every state in the USA.