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CHAPTER 7: The Great Record Hunt- How to Find—and Use—Documents About Your Family

This website has all the information for every state found in Where to Write for Vital Records . It also has links to many other sites, including places to find information about vital records centers in many other countries.

The LDS church site is a good place to look for some of the information contained in the documents themselves. Try running a general search on the family member you are researching in their Vital Records Index area.

This volunteer-run website specializes in making U.S. records available to all. When you get to the homepage, click the link for the state in which your ancestor lived. Look for the vital records section there, then enter your family member's name.

Census Sites on the Web

Census Links

Over 17,000 links to state and country census records:

Clues in Census Records, 1850-1930

The USGenWeb Archives Census Project was started in February 1997. Its mission is to transcribe every U.S. Federal Census and upload it to the USGenWeb Archives. There are people working on this project who will look up one or two records for you. Check these websites for more information

If your ancestors became citizens after September 26, 1906, you may be able to track down their immigration papers with the help of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. There is no fee unless the papers can be found. You can download the required form at:

Naturalization data can also be found on the USGenWeb page for your state.

For more background and information, take a look at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) page on naturalization records.

Passenger Ship Lists
For the millions of Americans whose families came through Ellis Island between 1892 and 1924, the launch of the Ellis Island website on April 17, 2001, made tracing an ancestor much easier. If you go to the site and register, you will be able to enter your ancestors' names and see if you can find them.

Here you'll find a listing of the many online sites that offer information or specific data about immigrant ships.

For general information and updates you might also want to try logging on to the National Archives web page on immigration records.

The National Archives site has a "soundex machine" that will quickly translate names into numbers for you.

You could also try these sites:

Cemetery Records
This site collects searchable information about cemeteries. In 2002, it had nearly 3 million records from more than 4,500 cemeteries!

Land Records
The Bureau of Land Management: Eastern States, General Land Office site allows you to search more than 2 million federal land title records issued between 1820 and 1908. Despite the name "eastern," most data is about midwestern states. Records are continually being added, so anyone with federal land history should check this site occasionally.

Where to Obtain Land Patents/Warrants
A regularly updated site that explains what's happening with the records of who owned what land and when, and where to go to find them.

Retracing the Trails of Your Ancestors Using Deed Records
An interesting and comprehensive article about why these records are valuable.

Family History SourceGuide/U.S. Military Records
Here you'll find lots of specific information about how to trace military records.

Military & Pension Records for Union Civil War Veterans
This site offers a first-person account of how to get these records from the National Archives.

The best place for any American to start a search for overseas information is with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) Family History Library, which includes vital records from dozens of countries. One way to find an LDS office near you is to log on to their website:

You can find lots of information about your ancestors' homelands on the Internet. A great place to begin your search for information about foreign-country websites is:

Other good sites include...

...and the site finder at

You can also find a huge collection of electronic mailing lists on

Genealogical Societies
Genealogists tracing foreign-born ancestors have created groups that offer support and information to others with the same interest. One good resource is the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS), which has a listing of over 500 different genealogy organizations. You can find the FGS list by going to:

You won't find information online about individual wills. But an interesting article, "Analyzing Wills for Useful Clues," taken from the website of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, talks about what genealogical information you can get from looking at a will . . . carefully. You can find the article at: