November 2010 Toolkit: Online Databases at Family History Centers

By Rick Crume Premium

You probably know you can access microfilmed records from the Family History Library in Salt Lake City—the world’s largest genealogy collection—at a local Family History Center (FHC; find a location near you at <>). But did you know you also can use many online subscription databases for free at your local FHC? Just sign up to use one of the center’s computers, start Internet Explorer and select FHCPortal from the Favorites. (It probably will be listed under Links.) You can choose from these services:

19th-Century British Library Newspaper Digital Archive

Search for a name or another term appearing anywhere in 2 million pages from 49 newspapers published in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. You’d pay about $10 for a 24-hour pass or about $14 for a seven-day pass to access the same content at <>

Alexander Street Press: The American Civil War
Also available through subscribing libraries, this database has information

about more than 4 million soldiers and thousands of battles, along with 15,000 photos. Approximately 100,000 diaries, letters and memoirs written by generals, soldiers, landowners and slaves document both the Northern and Southern perspectives.
Formerly called FamilyLink, this free service at <> is from the same company behind World Vital Records, a subscription genealogy service. A social network for family history, lets you create your family tree and connect with other genealogists. You also might find genealogists who live where your ancestors lived and can do a record lookup for free or for a fee.

This British service focusing on English and Welsh records has census records from 1841 to 1911, vital records indexes from 1837 to 2006 and church records back to 1538. You’ll also find military records, as well as passenger lists covering more than 24 million passengers who left the United Kingdom between 1890 and 1960. To access the service directly at <>, you can choose from various pay-per-view and subscription options, including a year of access for about $216.


Through partnerships with the National Archives and other institutions, Footnote is making millions of original documents available online. You’ll find the 1900, 1910 and 1920 federal censuses (more years are in the works), historical newspapers, records of the Revolutionary War, Civil War and World War II, as well as a large collection of city directories. Footnote adds millions of records every month; an annual subscription at <> costs $79.95.

The Genealogist
English and Welsh databases on this British genealogy site include censuses from 1841 to 1901, church records, military records and directories. Options for home access include an annual subscription for about $114.

This site makes all the key sources for Swedish genealogy available online. You can search 18 million photographic-quality images of original church records—including baptisms, confirmations, marriages and burials—back to the 1500s. You also can search government vital records from 1860 to 1897. FHC access saves you big on this site: An annual subscription at <> is $287.

Godfrey Memorial Library

Click on Log In and then on FHC Login. Links to many free online resources are organized in folders by topic and place, such as Military, Vital Records, New York and Germany. Be sure to check the contents of the Godfrey Scholar Premium Databases folder, which provides access to subscription databases including 19th-Century US Newspapers, Accessible Archives, Early American Newspapers, NewspaperARCHIVE and the London Times Digital Archive 1785-1985. You can subscribe at <> for $45 a year.

HeritageQuest Online

Free through subscribing libraries, HeritageQuest Online is one of the largest genealogy sites. Its resources include US census records from 1790 to 1930 with head-of-household indexes to several years; 28,000 family and local history books; PERSI, an index to 2.1 million genealogy and local history articles; Revolutionary War pension and bounty-land warrant application files; records of the Freedman’s Bank, founded to serve former slaves (1865 to 1874); and the US Serial Set, which has memorials and petitions to Congress. HeritageQuest is available only at centers that are open at least 10 hours a week and have at least three computers.

Historic Map Works Library Edition

Maps can help you locate your ancestors’ places of residence and identify their neighbors and nearby churches and cemeteries. This site has more than a million maps, including many full-color historical and antique maps, as well as city directories and old photos and illustrations. You can search 100 million names in the site’s databases. Anyone can search and view the maps for free at <>; printing and saving requires a $29.99-per-month or $249.99-per-year membership—except at FHCs that are open at least 10 hours a week and have at least three computers, where those features are free.

World Vital Records US Collection

This site also aggregates third-party resources, but it lets you search them all at once without having to visit the other sites. You’ll find books from Genealogical Publishing Co., newspapers from NewspaperARCHIVE and pedigree charts and family group records from Everton Publishers—normally $39.95 a year. The $99.95-a-year World Collection at <> (not free via FHCs) adds foreign records, including Quebec church records from Quintin Publications and English and Welsh censuses from

When you go to your FHC, take along copies of Family Tree Magazine’s Web Guides for hints on using Family­Search,, Footnote, HeritageQuest Online and World Vital Records. Make copies from your back issues, or get them on CD and take printouts <>.

Tip: Don’t forget to take a flash drive to the FHC so you can save digitized records from subscription sites and copy them to your home computer.
Tip: The Family History Library and largest FHCs offer free access to an institutional version of

From the November 2010 issue of Family Tree Magazine.

More great genealogy resources from Family Tree Magazine: