101 Best Websites: Genealogy in the USA

By David A. Fryxell Premium

1940 Census

Though initially overwhelmed by the explosion of interest in the newly released census, this free site from the National Archives and quickly recovered and now serves up census maps and descriptions to locate an enumeration district, plus complete 1940 census images you can save, share and download.


Anyone can add documents, images and family stories to this user-generated (but nonetheless slick) African-American genealogy site, and anyone can access, print and use the records for research purposes for free. The powerful search engine lets you zoom in on your ancestors’ records among documents such as runaway slave ads, deeds and life stories.

Allen County Public Library

Not only Indiana researchers should make time for a virtual visit to this library in Fort Wayne renowned for its genealogy collection. Online databases include family histories, Bible records and military files, with special gateways for African-American and American Indian research.

Castle Garden

In January, 63,000 new records were added to this searchable database that now totals 11 million arrivals through Castle Garden, America’s first official immigration center (it was open in New York Harbor from 1820 through 1892). That makes this pre-Ellis Island immigration collection nearly complete—so if you haven’t checked for your ancestors here lately, it’s worth another look. $

This new American records site from British genealogy company brightsolid takes a different approach to searching and retrieving from its more than 535 million US census records, stretching from 1790 to 1940: You can search for free, then pay à la carte for your ancestors’ records. (except for the 1940 census, which is free). Prices start at $7.95 for 1,000 credits.

Digital Library on American Slavery

Search detailed information on about 80,000 individual slaves, 8,000 free people of color, and 62,000 whites—both slaveowners and non-slaveowners—extracted from legislative and county court petitions, wills, inventories, deeds, bills of sale, depositions and court proceedings. For slaves, data may include information otherwise lost to the tragic history of slavery, including age, dates of ownership, economic and family information.

Collecting more than 10 million genealogy records from nearly 4,300 sources, this is a good place to check for less-obvious resources such as school yearbooks, alumni lists and city directories. You’ll also find some vital records, censuses, passenger lists and military records.

Ellis Island

Still the first place to search for your immigrant ancestors if they arrived on US shores between 1892 and 1924, this database covers 17 million passenger arrivals through the port of New York. You’ll need a free registration to view records.

The USGenWeb Project

Since 1996, this free, all-volunteer genealogy project has connected state and county websites from coast to coast. Choose a state and then a county, or click the Projects link to also explore special endeavors tackling censuses, tombstones, military pensions and more, including a handsome US Digital Map Library.
Check out the rest of our 101 Best Websites for genealogy in 2012! Click on a category below.
From the September 2012 Family Tree Magazine