Family History Resources Online

Family History Resources Online

Subscription-Based Sites

Ancestry. com is the grandaddy of online data sources for genealogy enthusiasts. I first subscribed over 15 years ago, when I had dial-up internet.  Thank goodness for cable internet! Now, there are literally millions of records available on the site. Some are free; most require paid subscriptions. For full access to the site, it's about $300 per year for an annual subscription (billed once a year); comparatively more per month for a 6-month.or monthly subscription. Though I've gotten my genealogy obsessive-compulsive disorder under control and rarely spend time too much researching these days, over the years Ancestry has been a good buy for me. 

I've gotten a lot of use from my subscription to  If you have British Isles heritage going way back, you'll probably find a treasure trove of lineage information.

There are other subscription genealogy sites, but I personally don't have experience with them, so I can't make any recommendations. If you've had good luck with one or more sites that I haven't mentioned, email me using the contact form on the Meri's Family History page. Write a review that includes the subscription price and I'll add it to my list (giving you credit for the info, of course).

Free Family History Resources Online
The  Family History Center of the LDS Church maintains a network of family history centers across the U.S. and in the rest of the world. These centers are open for research by non-church members, though non-church members pay fees to obtain microfilms not housed at their local centers. (In case you're wondering, I'm not an LDS member and have visited the Salt Lake "mother ship" three times for a few days each, as well as visiting the local site dozens of times. No one has ever tried to convert me or even discussed their faith with me.)  But of more interest to people who research online, the church maintains a website called Volunteers have been working for several years to digitize the millions upon millions of records from all over the world so that they'll be accessible (for free) online.

This site, an amazing free database designed and maintained by volunteers all over the country can be accessed at It's organized by U.S. state and counties; has biographies, county histories, military service information, marriage records, etc. Every state and county site differs -- some are stocked with tons of information; others are pretty bare bones. But sometimes you find records that you can't access other places.

For historical information, including a list of things that happened in particular years in the past, see I sometimes use this information to augment facts about an ancestor's life so I can show what kinds of events might have influenced or help to shape his or her experience.  

Some up and coming young genealogists in an after school program suggested I link this page that they think is helpful. It's got tips on doing research from your home computer or laptop.

New York City and Historic Ellis Island  
Ava Gray, a Girl Scout working on her My Family Story badge, loves this website and wanted me to recommend it to you. Thanks, Ava!

Another enterprising Girl Scout named Colleen found lots of great information here and hopes you'll find something that will help you find your family's past. 

Ellis Island Immigration Records

For information about immigrants processed through Ellis Island (1892 - 1924), including names of immigrants and ships' passenger lists, go to the Ellis Island site at  www.EllisIsland.orgBesides being able to view your immigrant's names on passenger manifests, the site often has historical photographs of the ship on which they arrived. also has a vast number of databases on immigration but entries are not linked to photos. If you haven't visited Ellis Island itself, it's an extraordinary experience. It can be particularly moving if one of your ancestor's first steps on U.S. soil was at that small, forbidding island in the New York harbor. 
S.S. Kroonland, the ship upon which my sons' paternal great-grandparents arrived at Ellis Island from their home in Lithuania
Federal Land Records
(Bureau of Land Management, Government Land Office)

To access records of land purchases from the U.S. Government Land Offices (land transactions in states other than the original 13 colonies), visit the Bureau of Land Management - Government Land Office site at  You can search the records for various states by surname or surname and given name. Legal descriptions of purchases are given and in most cases, digitized images of the original grant documents are available.

I've made wonderful discoveries using federal land records, including the information required to locate where my ancestor's land was and who lived around them (kind of my own version of a township plat map). Since marriages often were sparked by meeting as neighbors, it can give you leads on how intermarriages happened or who someone's parents might have been if you know who the neighbors were.

At the federal land records site, you can download digitized images on the original grant documents, where available, learning purchase date and so forth. Most tree builder software allows you to store these images in your ancestor's data file.

Census Finder
Free online census records from the U.S., Canada,  United Kingdom, and Native American tribes.  Census records can be one of the best sources for determining where your ancestors lived in various time periods (the U.S. Census began in 1790 and has occurred every ten years since then) and often lists the names of household members, as well as other tidbits of information. What you'll find depends on the required categories of data collected in a particular census time frame.

National Archives
If you visit the National Archives data centers or the main National Archives in Washington, D.C.,  you can access and Heritage Quest Online for free, as well as several other databases. If you access these databases remotely, there is a fee. There are Veterans Service Records available through the site, among other things.