As we conclude our discussion on how and where to begin your ancestry research with suggestions based on my experience, I thought it would be helpful to collect the online resources in one place. The following is a list of some of the many online sources which I found most helpful.
I also continue to stress that not all submitted family records on any given site are totally accurate. Unintentional errors and misspellings in data creep in. It is up to you to seek out and prove the accuracy of whatever data you find online about your ancestors. Unless you know a book is truly accurate and can prove the author had sound documentation, do not take a published book as fact “just because it says so.” That’s how I proved errors in a book that had been accepted as fact for decades as I noted previously. The extra footwork involved can be extensive, but it’s worth every effort put forth to have solid documentation for your family’s ancestral heritage.
Ancestry.com – free 1880 census record; but, for an annual subscription fee, you get in-depth census records from 1790-1930, military records, city and national records, land records, international records, family trees, baptisms, marriages, death index records, etc.
Family Search - free website with 1880 census records, baptism, marriage records, death records, and submitted family data. Books and documents on microfilm can be ordered and viewed at a Family History Center of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, locally as in Owego or Elmira. They also have a free down-loadable Personal Ancestral File, PAF, which I have used, though I prefer the Family Tree Maker.
My Heritage – discover your roots in a free trial to a subscription-based genealogy compilation. I have not used this site.
Olive Tree Genealogy - free old church/cemetery records, 1600s ships’ lists, records for New Netherland, Palatines, Mennonites, Loyalists, Native American, Military, and Canadian data, etc. I found this website to be very helpful in my early research nearly 20 years ago.
RootsWeb – free source of records, county genweb sites, surname lists, e-mail lists, posted documentation for cemeteries, church records, family websites and more. Currently undergoing a full-site rebuilding, but worth checking out for sections as they come back up for use.
CyndisList - free listing of American and International records and resources – a great resource.
Vital Records – U.S. birth certificates, death records, and marriage licenses for a fee.
U.S. GenWeb – free County GenWeb sites with a lot of data to aid your research.
Three Rivers – free source for middle-eastern New York families in the Hudson, Mohawk, Schoharie river regions, family genealogies, books, etc.
Sampubco - Wills from several states, but not all wills. Fee charged for copies. I purchased several wills from this website and was very pleased with the service.
National Archives and Records Administration – Click on Veterans’ Service Records section to begin searching. You will find military service records, pension records of veterans’ claims, draft registration records, and bounty land warrant application files and records available. Order forms are free, but you pay a fee to order copies of records. Well worth the cost.
NARA contact/forms – see various forms listed for National Archives Records Administration, government war records. Obtain free forms from which to order military records including pre-Civil War full service records or pension application files (on NATF Form 85 and/or 86; forms are free). Some list family members, others do not. You will find a good amount of information in files re: a soldier’s service, enlistment, capture, discharge, death, etc.,; these records provide valuable documentation.
Soldiers and Sailors Database - Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Database for military records.
Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island Foundation - search passenger and ship manifest records free, or order quality record copies for a fee. Ship manifest records are also found at Ancestry.com, a subscription resource.
New York Biographical and Genealogical Society – very trustworthy site with many online articles/records; they are working to put more records online; however, most are limited to membership in the Society. The Steele Library in Elmira has the full set of the New York Genealogical and Biographical Record and the New England Genealogical Journal. I can attest to the high quality of published research and records in both journals. I used these journals in my research, with my documented research articles published in the NYGBR. In order to publish, you must prove all of your statements with solid documentation.
Making of America, Cornell University – old books, magazines, newspapers online in searchable/readable format – worth wading through this free resource.
Higginson Book Company, Salem, Mass. - old maps, family surname genealogies, county/state historical books, published cemetery and church records, etc. Contact for free catalog; copies books/records obtained for a fee but worth it, from which I purchased a few books.
Olin Uris Library, Cornell University - Cornell University’s guide to research of their extensive holdings. They note that, unfortunately, not all their genealogical books are kept in one section.
Find-A-Grave - free resource of many gravestones around the United States. Be careful of family notes – I found errors in a family of my close relatives; when I contacted the contributor who added notes tying my family to theirs by error, there was no response, no correction.
Tips on fraudulent lineages at:
Family Search Fraudulent Genealogies
Gustav Anjou, Fraudulent Genealogist
Genealogy.com - locating published genealogies
Genealogy Bank, Researching your Pilgrim Ancestry from the Mayflower
Again, locally, the Steele Library in Elmira has an excellent genealogy section on the second floor to aid your research. I spent many a Saturday morning searching through their collection for documentation on my ancestry data and can highly recommend it. Cornell University also has a major genealogy library though I was afraid to go up on campus for a personal visit.
And, last but not least, your local library can order books through the interlibrary loan system. This was a tremendously helpful resource to me for out-of-county and out-of-state historical/genealogical books. I could not have done it without these resources.
I must also give credit to the many friends I made along my genealogical journey, some of whom proved to be distant cousins and have remained close friends. We shared data, books, and a love for our ancestral families.
And now, I wish you every success as you search for your ancestors. Enjoy the journey!
~ The End ~