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Content: K-12 School and College Projects ~ Community Events ~ Family Reunions ~ Gift to Your Family ~ Your Legacy ~ Just for Fun An Internet Guide HOW TO FIND YOUR FAMILY HISTORY & CULTURAL ROOTS (April 2004 edition) by Dr. Andy Anderson Wells Fargo Chief Historian [email protected] For generations, members of your family have sent you the historical equivalent of a message in a bottle. They launched them from every prairie schooner, riverboat and stagecoach ride across America, from every farm, ranch, small town, and big city in America, and from every corner of the world with every immigrant's voyage to America. Every day now, these messages, in the form of historical documents and records, are coming ashore from the vast ocean of information we call the Internet. Ask your family members ­ parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, cousins, in-laws, outlaws ­ and family friends to join you in finding them. It's a great family project that spans time and distance, and often brings relatives closer together with a sense of reunion. In the blink of an eye, the Internet makes it possible to do much of the searching from your own home. It's also an adventure with many surprises that'll be part of your legacy ­ your own message in a bottle ­ to future generations of your family. STEP 1 ­ Start with just one name ­ yours, an ancestor's, or a family surname Go online to Google,, or Yahoo!,, and type a single name, or a family name, in the SEARCH box (like this: "Patrick O'Reagan" or "O'Reagan family" ­ using quotation marks helps narrow the results). You may get a direct hit (that's how I found my great grandfather, Patrick O'Reagan, whose 19thcentury story was put on the Internet by a middle school class in Cherokee County, Kansas). At very least, you should get some links that'll send you around the world on a voyage of discovery. You can also keep going back to Google and Yahoo! to narrow your searches by associating names with subjects. Just add an "and" between them (as in: O'Reagan and Kansas, or O'Reagan and Ireland; no need to use quotation marks for this type of broad search). To build a larger list of ancestors to search for, ask all living family members to recall nicknames, original spellings of names, forgotten first names, maiden names, and so on. Don't be surprised to discover wildly inconsistent spellings. In census and immigration records, for instance, you can easily find your family name spelled three or four different ways. (For a long time, I couldn't find my great-great-grandfather, Archibald Anderson, in the census records ­ until I tried "Archie Anderson," the nickname he used in reporting his household information to the local census takers. That unlocked a wealth of records.)
Most importantly, don't be discouraged if you don't find an ancestor right away. Sometimes, you just have to keep telling yourself: if you're here, they're there ­ somewhere in the historical records. (Tip: if you need language-translation help with Internet web sites, try the "Language Tools" on Google's homepage. It provides quick, automatic translations of whole web pages into English, French, German, Spanish and Portuguese.) STEP 2 ­ Search the large genealogy databases You can now search over two billion names ­ and often view original documents such as U.S. Census records ­ at the major family history sites. These include:, the oldest free genealogy site; it's now affiliated with and also hosts the AOL Golden Gate Genealogy Forum;, part of the group of web sites; they maintain the largest databases and are emerging as one of the "must see and use" groups; try the SEARCH and MESSAGE BOARDS; or, see their all-USA site at, especially the 124 million name index to the recently-opened 1930 U.S. Census;, now affiliated with, this site has the most complete indexes to the 1910 and 1900 U.S. Census; it also has a great "Family & Local Histories" collection called Heritage Quest, which reproduces old county histories and rare books online;, the LDS site, physically based in Salt Lake City, Utah, gives extensive help on a free, non-denominational basis; start with the "Search Records" section;, pc/mac friendly; try the SURNAME SEARCH, which will give you numerous possible leads to other sites;, simplicity and pc/mac friendly from the publishers of the classic Handybook for Genealogists and Family History magazine;, another large subject compilation, like Cyndi's List, which can also redirect you to name-search services;, an easy-to-navigate gateway to many records and databases; it has a strong specialty in Native American history. Give them all a try until you find the ones you like. They're all user-friendly. They all have "how to" guides, family message boards (a distant cousin may already be working on your family history), and they all provide pointers to other large databases, such as census, immigration, and military service records. (Please Note: full access to original documents on some of these web sites requires a monthly or annual fee; however, most offer a 14-day free trial before you have to make a commitment. Alternatively, free access is available at many public libraries and some schools. Ask the librarians, for instance, about using Ancestry Plus.) 2
STEP 3 ­ Check these gateways to family history & cultural roots (eight possible approaches ­ it's a matter of personal preference) · Cyndi's List. If you do nothing else, go online to, and find your cultural roots by state, country, or region of the world, or by topic, ranging from Adoption to Lands and Deeds, Recipes and Cookbooks, Prisons and Outlaws, Religion and Churches, Wills and Probates, and everything in between. This is genealogist Cyndi Howells' amazing site of over 200,000 links. The U.S. is listed in detail at Cyndi's List is one the most important family history sites on the Internet and one of the safest. · The LDS (Mormon) Library. Go to, or on foot to the many LDS (Mormon) Family History Centers around the country. They have the largest private collection of genealogical resources in the world, which they willingly share on a non-denominational basis. (This is how my self-described "senior-seventies-something" mother started our family history ­ before she bought a computer and went online!) For locations in the United States and Canada, call toll-free 800-346-6044. Or, see:, or, (click Family History Library System, then, "nearest family history center" at the bottom). · The GenWeb Projects. Go to, the all-volunteer USGenWeb Project, and, the USGenWeb Archives Project. Both sites are rapidly building substantial guides to "original" family history sources, state-by-state, and county-by-county. They'll take you into every corner of every state ­ and into just about every census record and cemetery in existence. On a global basis, look at, the World GenWeb Project. Here, again, pick a continent, or region of the world, and start exploring. · The Tinney Family Gateway. Or, go to, a large, user-friendly, gateway to genealogy resources built by the Chris & Tom Tinney family. It's organized by worldwide geographic regions; and, its list of libraries, archives, and museums,, is especially helpful. It also includes archival and knowledge management resources for the "genealogy" of business at · The National Genealogical Society. Go to for professional step-by-step training from the National Genealogical Society. It has both introductory and advanced "home study" courses, and excellent books, periodicals, and CDs in its bookstore at · History Gateways. If you want to understand the reasons why ­ political, economic, social, religious, cultural ­ your family moved half way around the world to America, and what they found when they got here, try these great sites:, History on the Web sites at the University of Washington Libraries;, Historical Events & People Worldwide section of Cyndi's List; 3, world history sites (by era, culture, and gender) on Paul Halsall's Internet History Sourcebooks Project, currently hosted by Fordham University;, WWW-Virtual Library (History), currently hosted by the University of Kansas. · Local and Regional Libraries and Archives. Or, go online ­ or on foot ­ to your local public library, Historical Society, genealogical society, state archives or state library (they often have special History and Genealogy Rooms), or even a U.S. National Archives Regional Center (NARA), or Presidential Library. Some public libraries, such as Denver Public Library (one of my favorites), have great online or "E-branch" web sites, You'll find over 18,000 libraries listed at: Libdex, the Library Index,, which includes university, K-12, public, county, state, regional, business, law, and medical libraries. Alternatively, try, or, Cyndi's List,; or, the U.S. National Archives,, for the locations of its forty regional archives facilities and affiliated libraries. Ask the librarians and archivists for help. They know the records and books better than anyone and are always very helpful when it comes to family history. They've also got numerous "how to" books on genealogy and family history. Many public libraries now have computers available for online research, or to look at large databases on CDs (such as: census records and passenger lists). (Tip: Be sure to bring your reading glasses, or a magnifying glass. A lot of our original public records, such as the recently opened 1930 U.S. Census, were handwritten by folks who came from a lot of different backgrounds and educational systems. Add to that the vagaries and scratches of microfilm and microfiche and you've sometimes got the makings of a forensic mystery.) · U.S. National Archives, Library of Congress, and Smithsonian Institution. Last, but definitely not least, be sure to go online, or on foot, to these national treasures: U.S. National Archives, (click Research Room), for the largest collections of immigration, military service, and census records in the world. The main National Archives facilities are in the Washington D.C. area, but it also has over 40 regional centers and presidential libraries, as well. They're listed at Library of Congress, (click Research Centers ­ Local History & Genealogy), for the resources of the largest library in the world. Look, especially, at the American Memory site, (over 7 million digital items), and,, the marvelous Global Gateway to World Cultures. Smithsonian Institution Archives,, and the Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian, 4
STEP 4 ­ Go to your specific cultural roots · NATIVE AMERICAN TRIBAL AND FAMILY HISTORY ­ An extensive stateby-state, tribe-by-tribe, topical guide is located on the Native American Genealogy site at More web sites, mailing lists, and publications are compiled at Specific tribal culture, history, genealogy and electronic texts sites are located at, WWW-Virtual Library (American Indians). For the voluminous original resources available in the National Archives, see: (click on Research Topics ­ Native American Records). This collection contains everything from Indian Census records, 1885-1940, to the Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. For historical context, see the University of Washington Libraries' Native American History site at It has an excellent series of links to all the regions and tribes in U.S. history. · AFRICAN-AMERICAN FAMILY HISTORY ­ a great web site inspired by Alex Haley's groundbreaking effort to discover his Roots is located at See also: the Smithsonian's African-American History & Culture at; the Canada-based; the extensive African-American section of Cyndi's List,; and, the U.S. National Archives' online guide to using federal records and photograph collections at: (Genealogy ­ Research Topics ­ African-American Research). For extensive documentary and photographic resources on African history, see: Paul Halsall's Internet African History Sourcebook at Fordham University,; and, WWW-Virtual Library (African-American History), Another great "must see" collection of resource material is the University of California, Berkeley Libraries' African and African-American Collection at Many local libraries are also developing substantial African-American heritage collections. See, for instance, the Africana Center within the City of San Jose/San Jose State University's Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library at; the Oakland (CA) Public Library's African American Museum and Library at Oakland,; the comprehensive Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library at; Genealogy Pathfinder for African-American History at the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System ("The People's University"),; the St. Louis Public Library at; the Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature at the Chicago Public Library at; or, Blair-Caldwell African-American Research Library at the Denver Public Library, 5
· AFRICAN FAMILY HISTORY ­ relies heavily on oral traditions in the absence of written records. A good starting point is Columbia University Libraries' Guide to Research on Africa at The official WWW-Virtual Library (Africa) site is also housed at Columbia, Given the broad movement of African population groups and borders over the years, a regional "search" on this site (Southern Africa, Eastern Africa, West Africa, North Africa, Central Africa, Indian Ocean) is a sensible way to begin. See also: the African and African American Collections at University of California, Berkeley Libraries, Some African ancestral groups with immigrant populations in the U.S., include: Moroccan family history:, French language resources;, Jewish genealogy in Morocco; and,, English language news. Egyptian family history:, the Libdex guide to libraries and archives in Egypt;, the Egyptian National Agricultural Library;, the National Library and Archives of Egypt; and,, the Sephardic web sites. Ethiopian family history:, the Institute of Ethiopian Studies at Addis Ababa University. Somali family history:, a BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) Collection, now at Indiana University. Sudanese family history: Columbia University's African Studies site for Sudan, Ghanan family history:, the Ghana GenWeb. Nigerian family history:, National Archives of Nigeria, hosted by the Centre for Modern Oriental Studies, Berlin. South African family history:, genealogical research at the National Archives of South Africa. · CANADIAN FAMILY HISTORY ­ start at Toronto Public Library's genealogy site, "Bob's Your Uncle, eh!" Try the bilingual Canada GenWeb, Also, try Mary's Genealogy Treasures (formerly Lethbridge's Family History Center) at The National Archives of Canada,, is the primary repository of original records. See also: the excellent site of the National Library of Canada at For the French-Canadian resources and perspective, see the Quebec Family History Society,; and, the Marionopolis College in Montreal site at 6
· HISPANIC/LATINO FAMILY HISTORY ­ is a very large listing of sites for Mexico and all of the countries of Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. Other good starting points are:, WWW-Virtual Library (Latin America Studies) site, in English/Spanish/Portuguese, hosted by the University of Texas;, for every country that's part of the World GenWeb Project; (click Links), the National Hispanic Genealogical Society, which focuses on family histories of the American Southwest; (click on Genealogy), which is broadly inclusive of modern Latino/Hispanic culture;, part of the USGenWeb Project, in this instance, "Los Angeles Ethnic Research";, the comprehensive Anillo de Genealogica Hispana (Hispanic Genealogy Ring), a Spanish-language site with extensive links to archives and libraries in Spain and the Hispanic Americas;, the Local History & Genealogy Section of the Corpus Christi Public Library is a good example of how many public libraries are working to develop their Hispanic family history resources in the context of local history. Mexican family history:, the Mexico GenWeb;, the Coahuila, Mexico GenWeb site, which offers advice about vital records;, the rich collection of links at Cyndi's List. For Spanish-language archives and library resources and a broad historical perspective, see:, Biblioteca Nacional de Mйxico (National Library of Mexico);, Biblioteca de Mйxico;, Archivo General de la Naciуn (National Archives of Mexico);, Biblioteca Daniel Cosнo Villegas de El Colegio de Mйxico;, University of Texas ­ Pan American University, Lower Rio Grande Valley Historical Collection;, WWW-Virtual Library (History of Mexico), a boundless list of resources;, Latin American Library at Tulane University (New Orleans), one of the largest collections of material outside of Mexico;, a comprehensive University of California, Berkeley, course site and resource list on the complex history of the U.S.-Mexico Border. 7
Salvadoran family history:, El Salvador WWW-Virtual Library; and,, El Salvador GenWeb. Nicaraguan family history:, the Nicaragua WWW-Virtual Library. Brazilian family history:, the Brazil WWW-Virtual Library;, the Brazilian National Archives; and,, the Brazil GenWeb. Chilean family history:, the Chile WWW-Virtual Library;, the Chile GenWeb. Peruvian family history:, the Peruvian GenWeb. Cuban family history:, a U.S.­based overview with an index to the 9-volume Historia de la Familias Cubanas. Puerto Rican family history:, the Puerto Rican Hispanic Genealogical Society; and,, the Puerto Rico GenWeb (in Spanish). · ASIAN & PACIFIC FAMILY HISTORY ­ descending from some of the largest population groups in the world. A sizable challenge made easier by a strong sense of ancestry. There's a very rich compilation of genealogical and cultural resources at For historical and cultural perspective, see:, Paul Halsall's voluminous Internet East Asian History Sourcebook, currently housed at Fordham University;, the enormous Asian studies WWW-Virtual Library at the Australian National University; it covers the Middle East to the Pacific Islands;, the WWW-Virtual Library (Southeast Asia) for Cambodia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and THE Philippines;, Far Eastern Russia;, on the tiny islands in the vast Pacific and Indian Oceans. Chinese family history: see the multi-lingual, for this population group that currently tops 1.2 billion. On the Chinese immigration experience, see:, the extensive U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service history site; and,, the new cooperative effort of IBER (Institute of Business and Economic Research) at the University of California, Berkeley, and the U.S. National Archives Regional Center (San Bruno). See also: 8, Chinese Immigration and Chinese in the U.S. records in the U.S. National Archives;, the Center of Local Chronicles and Genealogy at the National Library of China (Beijing);, the WWW-Virtual Library (Internet Guide for China Studies), hosted by Heidelberg University;, the WWW-Virtual Library (East Asia), covering Hong Kong, Tibet, Taiwan, Malaysia and Singapore;, the China GenWeb Project;, the extensive WWWVirtual Library (History of China);, the Chinese Historical Society of America (San Francisco), Resource and Reference Lists. Japanese family history: see Carolyn Brady's Japanese American Family History Resources at; the Japan GenWeb site at; and, the "remember we're all cousins" Distant Cousin site at For historical perspective, see: the WWW-Virtual Library (History of Japan),, at the University of Kansas. See also: the WWW-Virtual Library (Japan),, hosted by Stanford University; and, the Japanese American History Archives at Vietnamese family history:; and,, the WWW-Virtual Library (Vietnam), hosted by the Australian National University. Korean family history:; and, the sites for the two Koreas: (South Korea), and (North Korea). Hmong/Laotian family history:, Asian Studies WWWVirtual Library;, the Hmong Cultural Center (St. Paul, Minnesota); and,, a comprehensive Australia-based site about the dispersion of the Hmong people around the world. See also:, the Laos GenWeb project. Cambodian family history:, the Cambodian WWW-VL, and,, the Cambodia GenWeb. Thai family history:, the Thai GenWeb; and,, the Thailand WWW-Virtual Library. Filipino family history:; and,, the Philippines GenWeb guide. 9
For historical and cultural perspective, see: the WWW-Virtual Library (Philippines), On immigration to the U.S., see:, at the University of Hawaii; and,, Filipino American Resources compiled at Seattle University. Indian family history: is the extensive WWW-Virtual Library (India) link to one of the world's largest population groups. For Indian History, see:, hosted by the University of Kansas. See also: Paul Halsall's comprehensive Internet Indian History Sourcebook, Pakistani family history:, the WWW-Virtual Library link; the graphic; and, the relatively new National Library of Pakistan at Australian and New Zealander family history: a wide-ranging Australasian site at; the New Zealand GenWeb at; Australia GenWeb at · EUROPEAN FAMILY HISTORY ­ over 75% of the U.S. population has roots in these ancestral groups. Some of the following sites are multi-lingual: For Western Europe, start with It covers every country from Austria to Iceland, with Liechtenstein, Andorra, the Vatican, and San Marino in between; For Eastern Europe, start with It covers every country from Russia to Austria (again), including the Baltic States, the Balkan States, Greece, Turkey, and Armenia. For historical context, see: Paul Halsall's documentary and photographic Internet History Sourcebooks (Ancient, Medieval, Modern), currently housed at Fordham University, For a great collection of European documents (originally begun in Herbert Hoover's post-WWI war relief effort), see: This is the site of the Library and Archives of the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University. See also: The European University Institute's WWW-Virtual Library (EUI European History Project) at It's currently building the largest online "European" library, country-by-country and topic-by-topic. Irish/English/Scottish/Welsh family history: Many of our ancestors immigrated through Ellis Island,, and other East Coast ports. See the immigration records held by the National Archives at (Research Room ­ Genealogy ­ Research Topics ­ Immigration Records). Comprehensive sites touching the family histories of all these cultures are: 10, the UK-based site that includes England, Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland, the Channel Islands, and Isle of Man. It has extensive information on topics such as Heraldry, Land and Property, Handwriting, Medical Records, Social Life and Customs; (All-UK and Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales) has extensive links to the library of databases; (United Kingdom & Ireland), the vast compilation of sites at Cyndi's List. Irish family history: for historical perspective on the second largest ancestral group in America (39 million according to the U.S. Census Bureau, Detailed Ancestry Groups), see:, the Irish in America PBS series. See also:, the National Archives of Ireland (An Chartlann Nбisiъnta) in Dublin has a genealogy service available;, Ireland GenWeb for the Republic of Ireland;, Northern Ireland GenWeb;, the University of Notre Dame Libraries' Irish Studies;, the GenUK site for Ireland;, Irish History on the Web at the University of Texas;, the large WWW-Virtual Library (history of Ireland). English family history: for this third largest ancestral group in America (33 million according to the U.S. Census Bureau), the England GenWeb Project offers county-by-county resources at See also: Olive Tree's English to America at Look at the Family Records Centre, managed jointly by the General Register Office (GRO) and the Public Record Office (PRO), the principal government record keepers, at For historical context, see: the WWW-Virtual Library (History of the United Kingdom) at See also: the Historical Manuscript Commission's (HMC) National Register of Archives at; and, the Bodleian Library at Oxford University at Oxford is the oldest university in the English-speaking world. Scottish family history: see the National Archives of Scotland at See also:;; and, the Scotland GenWeb at For the history of Scotland, see the WWW-Virtual Library at Welsh family history: For historical context, see: the WWW-VL (Wales);, the BBC's excellent History of Wales site at; 11
Powys Heritage,; and, Cardiff (University) Centre for Welsh American Studies, Dutch family history:; and the Netherlands/Dutch GenWeb at See also:, the WWW-Virtual Library (Dutch History); Holland Ring,; and, Lambrechtsen Online (archives list), German family history: This is the largest single ancestral group in the United States (approximately 58 million according to the U.S. Census Bureau ­ Detailed Ancestry Groups). For a good overview, see: the Germans in America site at the Library of Congress,; and, the German Studies Web,, at Dartmouth College. For German family and cultural history links, see:, a very large listing of online sites and resources, as well as printed materials;, the Germany GenWeb with direct links to all the neighboring countries;, the Minnesota Genealogical Society guide to thousands of links to German genealogy and history on the Internet;, German and GermanAmerican sites recommended by the University of Minnesota Libraries;, bilingual, Germany-based site; (German Genealogy), many helpful links. For the many ways to explore the complexity of German history, see:, the WWW-Virtual Library;, the German Collections at the Library of Congress (use with the catalog SEARCH function);, the German-American History & Heritage site; and,, the History of Germany Primary Documents Project housed at Brigham Young University. French family history: see the extensive section in Cyndi's List for France at For original records, see: and, for Franco-American and French-Canadian family history;, France GenWeb;, the Bibliothиque Nationale (National Library);, Centre historiques des Archives Nationales (National Archives); For the broad sweep of French history, see: the WWW-Virtual Library site at; and, the WWW-Virtual Library: History of France site at; also, 12
the History of France primary document project hosted by Brigham Young University, Belgian family history: the RootsWeb Project at; and, Luxembourger family history: try;; and, Swiss family history: see, Everton's guide; and,, the Swiss Federal Archives. Spanish family history: is the largest listing for the Iberian Peninsula. See also: the WWW-Virtual Library (Spanish History),; and, the Spanish-language Spain GenWeb, Portuguese family history:, Cyndi's List for Portugal;, a multi-lingual, Portugal-based site. For the Azores, see:, a "Portuguese-American Neighborhood;" and,, the Azores GenWeb project. Basque family history: on Basques in the United States, especially Nevada and Idaho, see:, the Basque Studies Library at the University of Nevada, Reno. Italian and Sicilian family history:, (you've got to love the music on this site). See also: the Italy GenWeb at; the Sicily GenWeb at; the extensive WWW-Virtual Library (History) at; and, for more historical context, the History of Italy ­ Primary Documents Project at Brigham Young University Library, Austrian and Hungarian family history: for centuries, the history of these two countries and cultures was intertwined. See: the WWW-Virtual Library: Austria at; and, WWW-Virtual Library: Hungary at For Austrian family history records, see: the Austrian State Archives at; and, the Austria GenWeb project at For Hungarian family history records, see: the Hungary GenWeb Project at; and, Alex Glendinning's Hungarian Pages at Croatian family history:, the Croatia GenWeb; and, See also: WWW-Virtual Library (History of Croatia) at; the CroLinks history list,; and,, Adam Eterovich's Croatian Heritage site. 13
Slovenian family history:, the Slovenian GenWeb; and,, the Slovenian Genealogy Society. Serbian-Montenegrin family history:; and,, the Serbia GenWeb. See also: the WWWVirtual Library at Greek family history:, Greece GenWeb guide; and, Cyndi's List for Greece at For historical context, see:, WWW-Virtual Library Greece/History. Turkish family history:, the Istanbul GenWeb is a good starting point. See also: Paul Stirling's Turkish Village site at; and the WWWVirtual Library for Turkey at Polish family history: and, the Polish Genealogical Society of America; and, See also: the Polish GenWeb site at:; the WWW-Virtual Library for Poland at; and the Polish State Archives network at Lithuanian family history: a good starting point is the WWW-VL: Lithuania See also: the Lithuanian Global Genealogy Society at Latvian family history:, the Latvian GenWeb project. Estonian family history: start at the Estonian GenWeb page at Russian/Ukrainian/Belarusian/Siberian family history: two good starting points on this complex group of cultures are: the WWW-Virtual Library (Russian History Index) at; and, Everton's Russia site at See also: the Russia GenWeb, (especially, "Useful Links") for European Russia; and, the Russia-based See also: the Russia-based for the Ukraine and Belarus; for the Ukraine GenWeb guide; and, for Germans from Russia. For Siberia and Asian Russia, see: the Siberia WWW-Virtual Library at Armenian family history:, the Armenia GenWeb. Czech & Slovakian family history:, with its wonderful musical interlude; Everton's,; and, the National Czech & Slovak Museum (Cedar Rapids, Iowa), 14
Scandinavian family history: so many descendants in the heartland of America. See:, for an extensive list of links for Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Iceland and Greenland. See also:, part of the Wisconsin GenWeb. Danish family history:, part of; My Danish Roots at; and, the Canadabased, Swedish family history: the Swedish Immigration Research Center at Augustana College,; Everton's guide to Sweden,; and, the American Swedish Institute at Norwegian family history: see Cyndi's List at; Ancestors from Norway at; and, World GenWeb's For historical perspective, see: at Finnish family history:, Everton's guide; and,, Finland GenWeb. Romani/Romany (Gypsy, Irish Traveller) family history: some of the "Unique Peoples & Cultures" in Cyndi's List,; and,, part of the Smithsonian Institution's Immigrations in History site. · MIDDLE EASTERN FAMILY HISTORY ­ covers over twenty different countries and cultures of the region in great detail. See also:, Cornell University collections;, the Middle East GenWeb;, Paul Halsall's Internet Islamic History Sourcebook, at Fordham University;, the WWW-Virtual Library (Middle East Studies), hosted at Columbia University. Lebanese family history: the Lebanese GenWeb. Palestinian family history:, the Palestinian GenWeb; and,, the WWW-Virtual Library (History of Palestine). Jordanian family history:, the WWW-Virtual Library (History of Jordan). Iraqi family history:, the WWWVirtual Library (History of Iraq); and, Columbia University's Middle East Studies (Iraq) at 15
Iranian family history:, the Iran GenWeb; at Columbia University;, including the National Library of Iran; and, the WWW-Virtual Library (Iran) at Afghan family history:, the WWW-Virtual Library (Afghanistan); and,, WWW-Virtual Library (History of Afghanistan). Kurdish family history: elements of Kurdish history and culture are found in the family history sites for Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria. See also: the InfoPlease site at · JEWISH FAMILY HISTORY ­ for some of the oldest recorded genealogy in the world, see:, the Jewish History Genealogy Institute, New York;, the extensive resources of the Israel GenWeb; and,, the Jewish GenWeb. See also:, the extensive guide in Cyndi's List;, Paul Halsall's Internet Jewish History Sourcebook at Fordham University;, on Sephardic Genealogy;, the Feinstein Center American Jewish History at Temple University. Step 5 ­ Find original family history records (state-by-state & special area*) The largest collections of original documents and vital records related to family history are usually found in government records depositories in state capitals and county seats. Sometimes, you'll find them in the "archives" and "special collections" of private institutions. For current statistics, important addresses, phone numbers, and curious facts about each state, see For an overview of genealogical resources and history, state-by-state, see:, the Roots-L Project. For anything you want to know about U.S. History, see:, the WWW-VL (History of United States), hosted by the University of Kansas, and,, the American Memory Project of the Library of Congress. · Alabama ­ Montgomery ­ Camellia State, Cotton State, Alabama Department of History & Archives, Vital Records, Alabama GenWeb, Alabama USGenWeb Archives, Alabama, Univ. of Alabama, Birmingham Public Library, Genealogy, Everton's Genealogy: Alabama, Alabama public libraries 16
· Alaska ­ Juneau ­ The Last Frontier, Land of the Midnight Sun, Alaska Roots-L guide, Vital Statistics, Alaska State Library, Historical Collections, University of Alaska, Anchorage, Alaska USGenWeb Archives, Alaska GenWeb, Anchorage Municipal Libraries, Artic Studies Centre, Smithsonian, Alaska Native Heritage Center, WWW-Virtual Library ­ Circumpolar peoples, Hubert Wenger Eskimo Database, Alaska public libraries · American Samoa* ­ Pago Pago, Island of Tutuila , Historic Preservation Office, official government site of American Samoa, American Samoa GenWeb, Cyndi's List ­ American Samoa · Arizona ­ Phoenix ­ Grand Canyon State, Arizona State Library & Archives, Everton's Genealogy: Arizona, Vital Records, Arizona GenWeb, Arizona USGenWeb Archives, Arizona State University, Arizona Collection, Northern Arizona University, Special Coll., University of Arizona Library, E-texts, Arizona Historical Society, Library & Archives, Phoenix Public Library, Tuscon-Pima Public Library, Yuma County Library, Arizona public libraries · Arkansas ­ Little Rock ­ The Natural State, Razorback State, Arkansas History Commission, Archives, Vital Records, Arkansas GenWeb, Arkansas USGenWeb Archives, Arkansas Roots-L, Laman Public Library, Genealogy Resources, Central Arkansas Library System, Arkansas Libraries online, Arkansas public libraries 17
· California ­ Sacramento ­ Golden State, California State Archives, California State Library, California Roots-L, Vital Records, Tinney family guide, Cyndi's List for California, California GenWeb, California USGenWeb Archives, California Historical Society, California Genealogical Society and Library, Los Angeles Public Library, San Francisco Public Library, Genealogy, Fresno County Public Library, CA History, San Diego Public Library, History and Gen., Sacramento Public Library, San Jose Public Library / San Jose State University, Hoover Institution Library & Archives, Online Archive of California, California Digital Library, University of California, California public libraries · Colorado ­ Denver ­ Centennial State, Colorado State Archives, Colorado Historical Society ­ Library, Denver Public Library ­ Resources ­ Genealogy, Vital Records ­ Genealogy, Colorado GenWeb (bi-lingual), Colorado USGenWeb Archives, Colorado Roots-L, Cyndi's List, Colorado, Colorado Virtual Library, National Archives ­ Denver, Univ. of Colorado Libraries ­ Gen., Colorado State Univ. Lib. ­ History Resources, Colorado public libraries · Connecticut ­ Hartford ­ Constitution State, Nutmeg State, Connecticut Historical Society, Vital Records, Connecticut State Library and Archives, Connecticut GenWeb, Access Genealogy site, Capitol Region Lib.Council,Gen.Resources, Connecticut Polish American Archives, Connecticut public libraries 18
· Delaware ­ Dover ­ First State, Diamond State, Delaware State Archives, Vital Statistics, Delaware Historical Society, Delaware GenWeb, Delaware Digital Library, Hagley Museum and Library, Delaware public libraries · District of Columbia ­ The Nation's Capital, Martin Luther King, Jr., Library, Vital Records, District of Columbia RootsWeb guide, District of Columbia GenWeb, District of Columbia public libraries · Florida ­ Tallahassee ­ Sunshine State, Florida State Archives, Vital Records, Florida State Library, Florida Collection, Florida GenWeb, Florida USGenWeb Archives, University of Florida, Library of Florida History, Florida State University Libraries, Everton's Genealogy: Florida, Florida public libraries · Georgia ­ Atlanta ­ Empire State of the South, Peach State, Georgia State Archives, Vital Records, Georgia Genealogical Society, Georgia GenWeb, Georgia public libraries · Guam* ­ Hagеtсa or Agana ­ `Where America's New Millennium Begins', Guam government, genealogy, Guam government home page, People, Culture, Guam GenWeb · Hawaii ­ Honolulu ­ Aloha State, Everton's Genealogy: Hawaii, Vital Records, Hawaii GenWeb, Hawaii USGenWeb Archives, Hawaii Roots-L, Hawaii public libraries 19
· Idaho ­ Boise ­ Gem State, Vital Records, Idaho Historical Society, Idaho GenWeb, Idaho USGenWeb Archives, Idaho Roots-L, Everton's Genealogy:Idaho, Idaho State Library, Boise Public, Idaho Room, Univ. of Idaho, Special Coll. & Archives, Idaho public libraries · Illinois ­ Springfield ­ Prairie State, Illinois State Archives, Illinois Genealogical Society, Vital Records, Illinois GenWeb, Illinois Roots-L, Chicago Public Library, The Newberry Library ­ Genealogy, Illinois public libraries · Indiana ­ Indianapolis ­ Hoosier State, Indiana State Archives, Vital Records, Indiana Local History, IN State Library, Indiana GenWeb, Indiana USGenWeb Archives, Indiana University Libraries ­ History Resources, Indiana State Library, Indiana public libraries · Iowa ­ Des Moines ­ Hawkeye State, Vital Records, Iowa State Historical Society, Iowa Roots-L, Iowa GenWeb, Iowa USGenWeb Archives, Everton's Genealogy: Iowa, Iowa State Univ., e-library, Public Library of Des Moines, Cyndi's List ­ Iowa, Iowa Women's Archives, Univ. of Iowa Lib., Iowa public libraries 20
· Kansas ­ Topeka ­ Sunflower State, Vital Statistics, Kansas GenWeb Project, Blue Skyways, Kansas State Library, Kansas State Historical Society, Kansas USGenWeb Archives, Kansas Roots-L, Everton's Genealogy: Kansas, Kansas City Public Library, Kansas Coll., Kansas public libraries · Kentucky ­ Frankfort ­ Bluegrass State, Kentucky Department of Libraries and Archives, Vital Statistics, Kentucky Genealogical Society, Kentucky Hist. Society, Kentucky GenWeb (where the concept began in 1996), Everton's Genealogy: Kentucky, Kentucky public libraries · Louisiana ­ Baton Rouge ­ Pelican State, Vital Records, Louisiana State Arch., Archives and Manuscripts Association, Everton's Genealogy: Louisiana, New Orleans Notarial Archives, New Orleans Public Library, City Archives, Louisiana public libraries · Maine ­ Augusta ­ Pine Tree State, Maine State Archives, Vital Records, Maine GenWeb, Everton's Genealogy: Maine, Maine public libraries · Maryland ­ Annapolis ­ Old Line State, Free State, Vital Records, MD State Archives, Enoch Pratt Library, St. Arch., Maryland GenWeb, Everton's Genealogy: Maryland, Baltimore County Public Library, History & Gen., MD Historical Soc. Lib., Maryland public libraries 21
· Massachusetts ­ Boston ­ Bay State, Old Colony, Vital Records, State Archives, Massachusetts GenWeb, Massachusetts USGenWeb Archives, Boston Public Library, Genealogy, State Library ­ Genealogy, Maryland public libraries · Michigan ­ Lansing ­ Great Lakes State, Wolverine State,1607,7-132-4645---,00.html, Vital Records, Everton's Genealogy: Michigan,1607,7-160-17449_18635---,00.html, MI State Archives, Michigan GenWeb, Detroit Public Library, Burton Collection, Michigan public libraries · Minnesota ­ St. Paul ­ North Star State, Land of 10,000 Lakes, Minnesota GenWeb, Minneapolis Public Library, Minnesota Historical Society, Minnesota Ethnic History Project, University of Minnesota, State Archives, Minnesota Genealogical Society, Vital Records, Minnesota USGenWeb Archives, Everton's Genealogy: Minnesota, Minnesota public libraries · Mississippi ­ Jackson ­ Magnolia State, Mississippi State Archives & Library, Vital Records, Mississippi GenWeb, Mississippi Roots-L, Mississippi public libraries · Missouri ­ Jefferson City ­ Show Me State, Missouri State Archives, St. Louis Public Library, Missouri GenWeb, Missouri Roots-L, V-R, Everton's Genealogy: Missouri, Missouri public libraries 22
· Montana ­ Helena ­Treasure State, Montana USGenWeb Archives, Libdex library guide, MT GenWeb, MT Historical Society, Montana Roots-L, Everton's Genealogy: Montana, Montana public libraries · Nebraska ­ Lincoln ­ Cornhusker State, Vital Records, Nebraska GenWeb, Nebraska USGenWeb Archives, Nebraska Library Commission, Omaha Public Library, Nebraska Roots-L, University of Nebraska, Lincoln ­ Archives, Everton's Genealogy: Nebraska, Nebraska public libraries · Nevada ­ Reno ­ Silver State, Sagebrush State, Battle Born State, Nevada GenWeb, Vital Statistics, NV State Library & Archives, University of Nevada, Reno, Nevada USGenWeb Archives, Nevada Roots-L, Las Vegas/Clark County Library, Nevada public libraries · New Hampshire ­ Concord ­ Granite State, New Hampshire State Library, New Hampshire Society of Genealogists, Everton's Genealogy: New Hampshire, Vital Records, New Hampshire Roots-L, New Hampshire public libraries · New Jersey ­ Trenton ­ Garden State, Vital Statistics, New Jersey State Library, New Jersey State Archives, New Jersey GenWeb, Rutgers Univ., New Jersey public libraries 23
· New Mexico ­ Santa Fe ­ Land of Enchantment, State Records Center & Archives, Vital Records, Santa Fe Public Library, New Mexico GenWeb, New Mexico Roots-L, University of New Mexico, Online Archive of New Mexico, New Mexico USGenWeb, New Mexico public libraries · New York ­ Albany ­ Empire State, Cyndi's List for New York, New York GenWeb, New York Genealogical & Biographical Society, New York USGenWeb Archives, Vital Records, New York Public Library, State Archives, State Arch., National Archives ­ New York, New York Roots-L, Everton's Genealogy: New York, New York public libraries · North Carolina ­ Raleigh ­ Tar Heel State, Old North State, NC State Archives, North Carolina State Library, Vital Records, North Carolina GenWeb, Everton's Genealogy: North Carolina, State Lib. of North Carolina, Encyclopedia, North Carolina public libraries · North Dakota ­ Bismarck ­ Peace Garden State, Vital Records, North Dakota State Library, North Dakota State Archives & Library, North Dakota GenWeb, North Dakota USGenWeb Archives, North Dakota Roots-L, Everton's Genealogy: North Dakota, North Dakota public libraries · Northern Mariana Islands* ­ Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands site 24
· Ohio ­ Columbus ­ Buckeye State, Ohio Historical Society, Vital Records, Ohio GenWeb, Ohio USGenWeb Archives, Cleveland Public Lib., Cincinnati & Hamilton County, Ohio Roots-L, Ohio public libraries · Oklahoma ­ Oklahoma City ­ Sooner State, Oklahoma GenWeb, Oklahoma USGenWeb Archives, Oklahoma State Archives, Oklahoma Roots-L, Everton's Genealogy: Oklahoma, Oklahoma public libraries · Oregon ­ Salem ­ Beaver State, Oregon State Archives, Oregon Hist. Soc., Oregon GenWeb, Oregon USGenWeb Archives, Vital Records, Oregon State Library, Oregon Roots-L, Multnomah Co. Lib., Family, Oregon public libraries · Pennsylvania ­ Harrisburg ­ Keystone State, Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies, Historical Soc. of PA, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania GenWeb, Pennsylvania Roots-L, Free Library of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania State Archives, Pennsylvania USGenWeb Archives, Everton's Genealogy: Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania public libraries · Puerto Rico* ­ San Juan, official government site (in Spanish), Puerto Rico GenWeb, USGenWeb Census Project, Puerto Rico history, Biblioteca Virtual de P.R 25
. · Rhode Island ­ Providence ­ Little Rhody, Ocean State, Rhode Island Historical Records, Rhode Island Historical Society ­ Library, Rhode Island GenWeb, Rhode Island Roots-L, University of Rhode Island Library, Rhode Island Genealogical Society, Haffenreffer Museum, Brown University, Providence Public Library, Rhode Island public libraries · South Carolina ­ Columbia ­ Palmetto State, South Carolina State Archives, South Carolina Historical Society, Vital Records, South Carolina GenWeb, South Carolina Roots-L, South Carolina Genealogical Society, Charleston County Library, University of South Carolina Libraries, South Carolina public libraries · South Dakota ­ Pierre ­ Coyote State, Mount Rushmore State, South Dakota State Archives, Vital Records, South Dakota GenWeb, SD USGenWeb Archives, Deadwood Public Library, South Dakota Roots-L, SD Genealogical Society, SD State Univ. Library, University of South Dakota Library, Siouxland Libraries, South Dakota public libraries · Tennessee ­ Nashville ­ Volunteer State, Tennessee State Library & Archives, Tennessee Historical Soc. Encyclopedia, Tennessee GenWeb, Tennessee USGenWeb Archives, Vital Records, Tennessee Roots-L, University of Tennessee Library Special Collections, Vanderbilt University Library Special Coll., Memphis Pub. Lib. History Dept., Tennessee public libraries 26
· Texas ­ Austin ­ Lone Star State, Texas State Library & Archives ­ Genealogy, Vital Statistics, Texas GenWeb, Texas USGenWeb Archives, Texas State Hist. Assoc. Handbook of Texas, Univ of Texas, Perry-Castaсeda Library Map Collection, Univ. of Texas, Benson Latin American Collection, Univ. of Texas, Ransom Humanities Res. Ctr., SMU, DeGolyer Lib, Collections, U. of Texas at El Paso ­ Border Genealogy, Houston Public Lib, Clayton Library for Genealogy, Univ. of Houston Lib, Spec. Coll., Angelo St. Univ. West Texas Collection,2174,1724_32721,0 0.html, Texas A&M University Libraries Special Collections & University Archives, Texas A&M ­ Corpus Christi, Bell Library, Special Collections and University Archives, Texas Tech University Lib, Special Collections, Corpus Christi Public Libraries, Local History & Genealogy, San Antonio Public Library ­ Texana, Fort Worth Public Library, Dallas Public Library, History and Archives, Alice Public Lib, Texas History Room, Victoria Pub. Lib, Research Coll, Waco PL Gen., Texas Roots-L, Texas public libraries · Utah ­ Salt Lake City ­ Beehive State, Utah GenWeb, Utah USGenWeb Archives, Vital Records, LDS (Church of Latter Day Saints)Family History Library & List of Family History Centers, Utah State Archives, Utah Historical Society, U. of Utah Library ­ Western Americana, Brigham Young Univ. Lib. Res. Guides, Utah Roots-L, Everton's Genealogy: Utah, Utah State Library ­ Public Pioneer Online, Utah Encyclopedia, Utah public libraries 27
· Vermont ­ Montpelier ­ Green Mountain State, Vital Records, Vermont State Archives, Everton's Genealogy: Vermont, Vermont Roots-L, Vermont Automated Libraries System, Vermont public libraries · Virginia ­ Richmond ­ Old Dominion State, Vital Records, Virginia GenWeb, Virginia USGenWeb Archives, Virginia Roots-L, Virginia public libraries · Virgin Islands* ­ Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, Caribbean GenWeb, Vital Records, U.S. Virgin Islands GenWeb (Danish, too) · Washington ­ Olympia ­ Evergreen State, Cyndi's List for Washington, U. of Washington Lib., University. of Washington, Suzzallo & Allen Libraries, Special Collections, Washington USGenWeb Archives, Washington State GenWeb, Vital Records, Washington State Archives, Washington State University Library, Special Collections and Archives, Seattle Public Library, Special Collections (new Central Library opening in May 2004), Spokane Public Library ­ Genealogy, MOHAI (Seattle's Mus. of History and Industry), Tacoma Pub. Lib., Northwest Room, Washington Roots-L, National Archives -- Seattle, Washington public libraries · West Virginia ­ Charleston ­ Mountain State, Vital Registration, West Virginia GenWeb, West Virginia USGenWeb, West Virginia State Archives, West Virginia Roots-L, West Virginia public libraries 28
· Wisconsin ­ Madison ­ Badger State, Wisconsin GenWeb, Wisconsin USGenWeb Archives, Wisconsin Historical Society ­ Archives ­ Genealogy, Vital Records, Milwaukee Public Library, Everton's Genealogy: Wisconsin, Brown County Library, Wisconsin Roots-L, Wisconsin public libraries · Wyoming ­ Cheyenne ­ Equality State, Cowboy State, Wyoming USGenWeb Archives, Wyoming GenWeb, Wyoming State Archives, Vital records, Wyoming State Historical Society ­ Western Trails Project, Buffalo Bill Historical Center ­ Archives, Wyoming public libraries Step 6 ­ Looking for different categories of original records At some point in your search ­ whether online or on foot ­ you'll start finding "original records," many of them handwritten. Some of the largest collections of these messages from your ancestors are: · U.S. Census records ­ these are among the most revealing records you can use in trying to put together your family history. They're the equivalent of a snapshot of who was living under every household roof in America, every ten years, from 1790 to 1930 (the most recently available census). They include, to varying degrees: name, date of birth/age, relationship, race, gender, home value, years married, arrival in U.S., each person's birth state or country, each parent's birth state or country, education, veteran's status, occupation, industry or agriculture. It's an extraordinary experience to see in these records how our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and beyond, were clustered in nuclear and extended family units, and sometimes in transition to blended families. (This is how I discovered numerous ancestors I didn't know I had, and learned that a large part of our family had actually come to America from Scotland and Northern Ireland, and not from Sweden as was often repeated in our family's oral tradition.) These records also sometimes explain the cycles of a family's financial fortunes. (In the case of my own family, I discovered that we had transitioned from being nineteenth-century Pennsylvania dairy farmers to being twentiethcentury wholesale "rose-growers" and "horticulturalists" ­ unfortunately, not too long before the Great Depression.) It takes time to wade through all the listings of families ­ and to realize that other people have carried the same name as you. But, it's well worth the effort when you get to the right census page ­ as you surely will ­ and realize that you're sitting at the dinner table of a great family reunion. 29
For access and research advice about census records, see: the U.S. National Archives at (Where is? ­ Genealogy); the U.S. Census Bureau at; the Census Online site at, a user-friendly, map-based presentation that gives access state-bystate and county-by-county (full access requires a fee); and, of course, the always helpful Cyndi's List, Beyond these, and currently have exclusive indexes (full access requires a fee) to the 124 million names on the 1930 Census and to the 1920 Census. Another site,, has indexes to the 1910 and 1900 census records (full access requires a fee). In other words, you'll probably need to use several sources to move through time in these records. Many public libraries, incidentally, offer free access to Ancestry Plus indexes and the census records. Full access is also free at any U.S. National Archives facility, many university libraries, and the LDS Family History Centers. The U.S. National Archives has several good guides to the U.S. Census records available for purchase at Another excellent overview, currently available in bookstores, is: Loretto Dennis Szucs and Matthew Wright, Finding Answers in U.S. Census Records, Orem, UT, Ancestry Publishing, 2002 (also available at It has a state-by-state list of archives that currently hold microfilm copies of the U.S. Census. · Immigration records ­ Ellis Island, the gateway to America in New York Harbor for 12 million immigrants, is a moving experience at and Approximately 100 million Americans can trace their ancestors back to a passage through this immigration center. The index to the first site can lead you to a handwritten ship manifest and even a photo of the ship that your ancestors arrived on. One challenge is the spelling of names, many of which were changed or abbreviated during the process of translating dozens of languages and dialects. Figuring out the various spellings of your family's given names and surnames may be the key to finding your ancestors. (I've found this to be true several times in tracing my own nineteenth-century Irish and Scottish ancestors.) This same tendency to change the spelling of names, and sometimes date of birth, continues beyond Ellis Island and is further reflected in census and military service records. It's also important to realize that Ellis Island was only one of many ports of entry for immigrants to the United States that extended from Boston to New Orleans to Seattle. Angel Island in San Francisco Bay, for instance, was the point of entry for many Asian immigrants, especially the Chinese, to America. On this "Ellis Island of the West," see: The best introductions to all of the immigration and naturalization records are: Cyndis's List, Ports of Entry, at; and, the U.S. National Archives at (Research Room ­ Genealogy ­ Research Topics ­ Immigration Records). You'll find extensive reference to ship arrivals, including those in Hawaii, and to Canadian and Mexican border crossings. These sites also lead you to the naturalization records kept by the federal government. Another good gateway to immigration history is the University of Minnesota's Immigration History Research Center at 30
Military service records ­ these date back to the Revolutionary War, and are among the most extensive, emotional, yet frustrating (because some are lost), records of America's "greatest generation." Most twentieth-century military service records are held by the National Archives at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri. Unfortunately, a disastrous fire in 1973 destroyed a large percentage of pre-1960 U.S. Army personnel records. Nevertheless, if your immediate relative's medical information is vital to you, it's possible to reconstruct it from some National Academy of Sciences records now held as surrogate files in these military service collections. Start at (Research Room ­ Veterans' Service Records ­ and keep clicking). Next of kin can order military service records online. It takes about five minutes; you print out and fax a signature sheet to St. Louis. Some records are in other locations and can be obtained through use of a mail-in form (Standard Form 180 for post-1917 records). You can print it out from this same web site. For further information about the St. Louis facility, call: 314-538-2050. To put military service records in perspective, see the detailed unit histories and resources for each armed service at: (Navy); (Air Force); (Marine Corps); and, (Army). For sites related to the Vietnam War era, see also: · Social Security Death Index records ­ you can reach this site, which currently holds over 69 million records, at For a fee, you can obtain a copy of the original Social Security application form your ancestor filled out. For help with this, see: RootsWeb's "lessons" at, which also includes details about the records of the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board and its pension system. See also: . · Agricultural history records ­ so many of our families came from farms and ranches, we almost always find agricultural history in our search for family history. The National Agricultural Library offers an extensive list of links to agricultural web sites around the country at The American Local History Network's site at also offers an eclectic range of sources. · Land history records ­ sometimes homesteading and land ownership records are the key to unlocking family history. It's complicated because geographic and political boundaries were fluid for much of American history. Some starting points for searching these records are: the Bureau of Land Management's General Land Office Records at; Cyndi's List ­ Land Records, Deeds, Homesteads,; Linda Davenport,, especially if you're wondering about terms like "metes and bounds"; more is available at Direct Line's For Canadian land records (Western Land Grants, 1870-1930), see the Canadian National Archives at 31
· Wills and Probates ­ a great deal of family history is revealed in the wills people wrote and the probate proceedings their estates went through. A good starting point to see the wide range of resources for this topic, especially for the U.S. is: Equally helpful along these same lines is:, on the topic of Cemeteries and Funeral Homes. · City and County Directories ­ sometimes, as families moved from place to place across America, their home addresses, businesses, farms, and occasionally their biographies were listed in city and county directories and histories. Local libraries are the still the greatest source for finding these resources, but now many can be obtained online and on CDs. Some of the useful sources for these are:;; and, for county histories, · Women's history records ­ one of the challenges in doing family history is the change of women's surnames with marriage. A good source to solving this is: Sharon Debartolo Carmack's Discovering Your Female Ancestors, Cincinnati: Betterway Books, 1998. Important sources of original records to look for are the Vital Records kept in state and county archives and public health files. See especially, and Cyndi's List, Some of the online sites that address the historical context are:, the History of Women site at the University of Washington's Libraries;, The American Women's History Research Guide at Middle Tennessee State University;, the Women's History Resources guide at the University of Wisconsin Libraries;, the WWW-Virtual Library Women's History site based in the Netherlands;, Paul Halsall's Internet Women's History Sourcebook, currently housed at Fordham University. It has a large collection of electronic texts that offer a worldwide perspective. · History of money and finance ­ The value of money, interest rates, and even the concept of "value," whether expressed in land, minerals, crops, or investments, have often inspired great movements of humanity in search of opportunity. To look at this history and figure out what your ancestors faced, see the lists of sites and reverse calculators at, and the interesting questions posed by Economic History Services at See also: the web site and links of the National Numismatics Collection at the National Museum of American History, which is part of the Smithsonian Institution, 32
Step 7 ­ Searching on foot ... using the `pebble in the pool' approach Today, this is the sequence of things our children learn in the social science curriculum of our educational system at the elementary, middle school, and high school levels: self-identity and self-esteem, family, community, state, and nation. So, start your search close to home. Visit your local community library, county museum, county historical society, or county records office. Then, go a little further to your state archives, state library, or state historical society (often at the state capital). Most of the public and private libraries and archives in the U.S. are listed at these sites:;; or, These are great field trips where you'll often find original documents, artifacts, and photos related to your family, or to the environment in which they lived. Be prepared though: sometimes seeing "originals," which were created or handled by your ancestors, can be a powerful emotional experience. Next, plan a visit to our national archives, libraries, and museums. They're all accessible online, but are even more fun to visit in person. They include: · National Archives of the United States (NARA) ­ the main facilities are in Washington, D.C. and College Park, Maryland. "Our nation's record keeper" organizes U.S. government records according to every agency, department, or commission that ever existed (well almost).To access these records, see: (Where is?/Genealogy, or, Research Room). Or, go to the nearest National Archives Regional Center, Presidential Library, or affiliated library. Over forty are listed at They all have original records and research rooms equipped with microforms from other locations. It's fun to imagine your family history being safeguarded in the same place as copies of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. For an extensive alphabetical Guide to Federal Records held by the National Archives, see: It includes hundreds of "record groups" created since the founding of our nation. Also, the National Archives has compiled "100 Milestone Documents of American History," from the Lee Resolution and Declaration of Independence to the Truman Doctrine of 1947. These are all documents that have affected our families' histories. You can view them at · The Library of Congress. Don't forget to look here, too. This is the largest library in the world. If it's in print, it's probably here. The Library also has extensive manuscript collections and family papers ­ just in case you're related to one of twenty-three American presidents. The handwritten copy of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address is located here. Go to (click "Find It/Research Centers" ­ "Local History & Genealogy"). · The Smithsonian Institution. "America's treasure house for learning," sometimes called the "nation's attic" at It's worth a family trip to visit this "family" of museums and see everything from the Spirit of St. Louis, to Dorothy's shoes, to Kermit the Frog, to Julia Child's Kitchen. Their artifacts, documents, photographs, and numismatics depict every era of our nation's history. 33
Step 8 ­ Saving what you find Look for genealogy software or online storage programs. Or, use the tried and true method ­ paper and folders (whenever possible, try to use acid-free materials to store your original documents and photos). Most major online family history sites offer software, such as: Family Tree Maker (, Ancestry Family Tree (, Personal Ancestral File from the LDS (, and the mac-friendly Reunion ( If you feel more comfortable with a paper format, try Emily Croom's Unpuzzling Your Past, 4th edition, Cincinnati: F & W Publications, 2001. It has numerous forms to guide you. The same publisher has a large array of online resources, family history books, and software, at, and a "super search" function at Or, try: Elizabeth Powell Crowe, Genealogy Online, 7th Edition (New York: Osborne/McGraw-Hill, 2003) ­ the best-seller; Everton Publishers, The Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America, tenth edition (Draper, Utah: Everton, 2002) ­ the most complete state-by-state listing of resources from the publisher of Everton's Family History Magazine); Loretto Dennis Szucs and Sandra Hargraves Luebking, editors, The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy (Salt Lake City:, 1997) ­ available as a CD at 800-262-3787. Step 9 ­ Some final navigation and lingo tips Ask any reference librarian, archivist, or museum curator for help (they're all amazing). Check out their online guide to the Internet at Also, just know that libraries are organized according to "subject," and usually refer to any original records or manuscripts they have as Special Collections; archives are organized according to "who created the record" (provenance) and typically refer to their collections as Record Groups. (Tip: If you need language-translation help with web-sites, try Google's free, automatic-translation Language Tools at The translations are literal, but very helpful. For additional help with individual historical documents, see: the 67-languages capability of Look Back ­ Plan Ahead Apologies if your ancestors aren't listed here. But don't worry, they're probably just a click or two away when you do a SEARCH on their names at, or, or check Cyndi's List, If you need Vital Records (birth, death, marriage, divorce, adoption), don't forget (U.S.), and (Other Countries). Good luck with your search. Don't be surprised by what you find. And just remember, if you're here, your ancestors are there ­ somewhere in the records. If you need more help, have comments or additions for this guide, please feel free to call or write me directly. It's a work in progress. 34
Once you look back at your family history, plan ahead for your legacy. Family history is often a reflection of the hopes and dreams, great plans, opportunities taken, and fortunes gained ­ and sometimes lost ­ of all of our families. Use what you learn to carry your family vision and values forward to future generations of your family. That's the best legacy of all.
With best wishes to your family,
Dr. Andy Anderson Chief Historian Wells Fargo & Company 420 Montgomery St. (A0101-114) San Francisco, CA 94104 415-222-5070 [email protected] Biographical Note, Acknowledgement, and Disclaimer: Andy Anderson is Chief Historian of Wells Fargo & Company. Over the years, he's overseen the building of several Wells Fargo history museums, the company archives, a modern fleet of stagecoaches, and the initial version of He's taught history at Ohio State, Arizona State and Stanford Universities. He earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in history from The Ohio State University and took his training in archival administration at the Archives Institute of the National Archives of the United States and the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. Most recently, he's published a volume on Wells Fargo's historical "family" of 2,000-plus companies (Stagecoach: Wells Fargo and the Rise of the American Financial Services Industry, New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002). By way of acknowledgement, this family history guide is dedicated to all the genealogists, archivists, librarians, and historians who've preserved those messages in bottles our ancestors sent us `way back when' ­ and especially, to Cyndi Howells, founder of Cyndi's List, and to Jeff Murphy, late co-founder of the USGenWeb (as the Kentucky GenWeb says, it was "conceived in the hearts and minds of Kentucky researchers," Finally, the site selections, opinions, and recommendations expressed in this guide are those of the author alone, and do not constitute an endorsement or guarantee of any kind by Wells Fargo & Company, or any of its subsidiaries or affiliates. This guide is provided, free and gratis, as an educational tool for anyone interested in finding their family history. Please feel free to reproduce it for any personal or educational project; but please do not reproduce it for any commercial purposes. The author has no financial connection to any online site, government agency, company, organization, institution, research consortium, or group listed in this guide, except for Wells Fargo & Company, where he is employed as Chief Historian.
Andy Anderson, 2004

A Anderson

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