GENEALOGY AND HISTORY SITES THAT ARE FREE TO ACCESS AND FREE TO USE

Hard to find but free places where you can research genealogy on line, without having to pay. Your comments and feedback are welcome to any post.

About me: Jerry E. Reed
First and foremost, I am a seasoned voice talent and media/public relations specialist with many other interests. I have been helping businesses with their narrations, presentations, commercials, and more all of my adult life.
For more information about Jerry Reed - Voice Talent visit:
http://jerryreed.com

I am also a genealogist, a
n avid photographer, and artisan bread baker.
My genealogy interest began before personal computers were a family "must have." Personal genealogy computer research has blossomed in the past 15 years. It wasn't long before someone decided that they could charge for information that should be free and in the public domain. I have always been frustrated by that. Now, thousands and thousands of pages of useful facts are coming on line daily in free-to-access digital archives located all over the world. So, I'm constantly searching for new sources of free on line material. Blog updates follow this section and all links are added to the master list below the new posts.
Updates are posted when
I discover another new source or when something I have already reviewed gets a major update.
Have fun and enjoy.
Note: if you find a link no longer works, please let me know so I can research and update it.



Friday, October 31, 2008

Arizona Genealogy Birth and Death Certificates

You can now view Arizona Birth & Death Certificates on line for free. Birth certificates are available from 1854 and death certificates from 1844 but are limited to those that occurred 75 years ago or longer for births and deaths from 50 years ago and older. So, as of 2008 births range from 1854 to 1932 and deaths 1844 to 1957. The certificate images provided are limited to those that occurred in Arizona.
Here's the link:
genealogy.az.gov/

Thursday, October 30, 2008

American Libraries - Archive.org

Don't let this one fool you. On your initial visit this site looks daunting. This collection contains materials from hundreds of libraries around the the United States. It may not appear to have much for the genealogist. But, take a closer look and be creative with your searches. I did a search on the word "genealogy." The resulting listing showed hundreds of rare volumes of family history books including several volumes of "The New York genealogical and biographical record." I think you'll find yourself spending hours at this site. I know I plan to spend more time here.
Here's the link:
www.archive.org/details/americana

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

City of Rochester NY Marriage Index

The City of Rochester New York offers an index called the Historic Marriage Records Research Site. You can search marriage records for the city from 1876 through 1932. The index is free, as are the results. If you want to purchase an offical copy of the actual record, that's an additional charge and must be ordered. However, the information is free to access and free to use.
Here's the link:
www.cityofrochester.gov/Finance/RecordsMangement/MarriageRecords/index.cfm

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Digital Past - North Suburban Library System in Illinois

Digital Past, which I found at the North Suburban Library System in Illinois, has a superb collection of digital documents. It's a little difficult to figure ouot at first because they don't show a list if the specific collections. But don't let this deter you. With a little exploring, it didn't take me long to find a system that worked for me. Searches a massive collection of photographs, postcards, diaries, oral histories, documents, movies, interpretive exhibits, and other historical materials from libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural venues throughout Illinois.
I suggest that if you are in search of a particular family line, start by browsing with a Proper Names. If you know a particular company or organization that plays a role in your family line, then browse by Organization, followed by a particular City if you know where the family lived in Illinois.
Here's the link:
www.digitalpast.org/nsls.php

Monday, October 27, 2008

More from Canada - Canadian Genealogy Center - Archives

Your first choice upon entering is English or French, then on the next page you are greeted with:

"Welcome to the Canadian Genealogy Centre
A great place to research your family history!"

There are many databases to search. However I suggest you start at the very top:
Ancestors Search: Combined genealogical databases

and see where that leads. Then when you are done with that, explore the site. There's more than meets the eye at first visit.
Here's the link:
www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/genealogy/index.html

Sunday, October 26, 2008

British Columbia Cemetery Finding Aid

This is similar to the Ontario database but is for British Columbia and includes over 344,000 interments.

Here's the link:
www.islandnet.com/bccfa/

Ontario Cemetery Finding Aid

Do you have relative that lived in the province of Ontario, Canada? This on line database has records of more than 3 million interments. The incredibly fast search engine looks at records of several thousand cemeteries, cairns, memorials, and cenotaphs. The results displayed include: name, cemetery, county, township and reference number. You can the use the reference number to obtain the name and address of the contributing organization. This is great to cut down on hunting unknown cemeteries and millions of road miles. You can zero in on where to go and whom to contact.

Here's the link:
www.islandnet.com/ocfa/

Friday, October 24, 2008

Prelinger Library - Archive.org

Archive.org is just about the coolest place I ever found on the Internet. Not only does it include rare films, audio, text and The Way Back Machine (takes you back in time to see how web sites today looked in the past.) Hidden in the huge archive is the Prelinger Library. The description on the opening screen describes the library as a "private research library open to the public, located in downtown San Francisco." The library's collections include about 50,000 books, periodical volumes and printed ephemera. The library is currently making possible this on line collection of public domain books and materials. Your searches need to be a little creative. So, play around and you'll be surprised at what you might find.
I searched for Kent England. The results included such things as family surname histories, parish registers, town histories and more.
Here's the link:
www.archive.org/details/prelinger_library

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Coloradio Historic Newspapers

(Revised and updated Jan 18, 2011) Ok, I admit it, I have this thing for historic newspapers. I find them fascinating to read and a wonderful source of information about people and what was going on in the communities where they lived. I just found this resource that I could have used fifteen years ago when I traveled to Boulder, Colorado just to get access to the Boulder Daily Camera to find a gr gr uncle. Now historic issues of that paper and about 148 more from both sides of the Rockies are available through this link for Colorado Historic Newspapers.
Here's the link:
http://www.coloradohistoricnewspapers.org

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Eastern North Carolina Digital Library

There are hundreds of items available to search on this site. But, the one that caught my eye was the first entry when I selected Titles (browse text alphabetically by title). Abstract of North Carolina wills is a compilation of abstracts of every will found in the office of the North Carolina Secretary of State. The abstracts in the images from this book published in 1910 gives the name of the testator; place of residence; and names of wife, children, legatees, witnesses, and probate officer; names of plantations; and "remarkable items or noteworthy passages" in the wills.
For anyone with NC Roots, this is a must visit and it's free.
Here's the link:
digital.lib.ecu.edu/historyfiction/

National Gravesite Locater - Bureau of Veterans Affairs

This site lets you search for burial locations of veterans and their family members in Veterans Affairs National Cemeteries, state veterans cemeteries, various other military and Department of Interior cemeteries. This register includes veterans who are buried in private cemeteries, if the grave is marked with a government grave marker. I did a quick search on my Rev War ancestor, as I had ordered a replacement marker a few years ago. Yup, he was in it.

The information in this database comes from many sources including the records of the VA. You should be aware that some records have more or less information depending on what information was available. As with private cemeteries, the information provided is what was gleaned from the application forms provided for the purpose of determining the eligibility of the veteran for the government marker. 1997 is the cut off year. Any markers placed on graves after that year are not included in the database.

Here's the link:

gravelocator.cem.va.gov/j2ee/servlet/NGL_v1

Colonial Connecticut Records 1636-1776

This collection of records from the early history of Connecticut is housed at the University of Connecticut and was made possible through a cooperative effort of The University of Connecticut Libraries with support of the Mashantucket Pequot Museum & Research Center and the Connecticut State Library. This collection is from Connecticut (Colony). The Public Records of the Colony of Connecticut, from April 1636 to October 1776 ... transcribed and published, (in accordance with a resolution of the General assembly). Hartford: Brown & Parsons. 1850-1890. 15 vols.
If you choose to browse the collection, the index is quite extensive and arranged by surname and keywords. The search feature is limited but allows you to search for a specific date or volume and page number.
Here's the link to the collection:
www.colonialct.uconn.edu/

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Missouri Birth & Death Records Database, Pre-1910

This collection is just a small portion of the data that the State of Missouri makes available to search on line. You can search two different areas: birth and stillborn records prior to 1910 and death records for the same period. It's part of the larger Missouri Digital Heritage which has several other databases on line to search also such as:
Books, Pamphlets, and Monographs
Military Records and Resources
Missouri Newspapers
County and Municipal Records and much more.

To search the Birth and Death Records follow this link:
www.sos.mo.gov/archives/resources/birthdeath/
The main site for Missouri Digital Heritage is here:
www.sos.mo.gov/mdh/collections.asp

Pennsylvania Archives Records Information Access System (ARIAS)

The Pennsylvania State Archives has quite a collection of useful information for genealogists and family historians, all on line for free access. You'll find the following collections available:

PA National Guard Veterans' Card File, 1867-1921
Civil War Veterans' Card File, 1861-1866
Mexican Border Campaign Veterans' Card File
World War I Service Medal Application Cards
Spanish American War Veterans' Card File of United States Volunteers
Revolutionary War Military Abstract Card File
Militia Officers Index Cards, 1775-1800
So, if you have ancestors from Pennsylvania, this could be a valuable tool.
Here's the link:
www.digitalarchives.state.pa.us/archive.asp

Monday, October 20, 2008

Brooklyn Public Library - Brooklyn Daily Eagle

I love old newspapers and this one is great if you have any family or ancestors that lived in its coverage area between 1841 and 1900. The Brooklyn Public Library has several digital collections, but I think this one is worth mentioning because the paper was published from 1841 to 1955, then for a short time from 1960 to 1963. So far only phase one is complete covering the period between October 26, 1841 to December 31, 1902. That's more than sixty years worth of news from Brooklyn. This paper has thousands of obituaries and seemed to have some in every issue of the paper under the heading of "Died." Be patient the search engine is a bit slow.
Here's the link to the collection:
http://www.brooklynpubliclibrary.org/eagle

Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers

The Library of Congress is testing a new site (beta) the makes many historical newspapers available on line. This searchable database includes about ninety-five (95) newspapers from around the country. Chronicling America currently allows visitors to view newspaper pages from 1880-1910 in California, District of Columbia, Florida, Kentucky, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York, Texas, Utah, and Virginia. The site also provides information about American newspapers published between 1690-present.
Check it out at: www.loc.gov/chroniclingamerica/index.html.

Virginia's Digital Library

Virginia is one of the earliest entry points for immigrants to this country. This collection has more than 6,000 bible records and features a fully searchable index of pre-1880 wills and administrations for the Commonwealth of Virginia. The collection includes more than 2.2 million books, magazines, newspapers, state and Federal publications; county and city government records, state government records, architectural drawings and plans, Bible records, business records, organization records, personal papers, genealogical notes and charts; maps, rare books, broadsides, sheet music, posters, prints and engravings, postcards, paintings, sculpture and photographs. Not all of the information is accessible on-line. Once you search the collection the thing to pay close attention to is the "format" column when the search results display. This is where you will note the words "on line material." This would be the information that you can view or download on line. The files are in uncompressed "tif" formats, so you'll need a program to view those files. Most of the image viewing programs these days do read "tif" files. It's one of the older file formats for images and is still preferred by the printing and publishing industries.


Check it out at: www.lva.virginia.gov

Sunday, October 19, 2008

New Hampshire Historical Collections

More and more universities are establishing digital collections of historical papers, many of which contain important clues for genealogists. The New Hampshire History Bookshelf is another example that includes two collections: New Hampshire History and New Hampshire State Documents. You can search the collection and view the images for free. As an example, I searched for an ancestor that I knew lived in New Hampshire at the time of the revolutionary war. The results included a document that showing he served under General John Stark. Only a few years ago I would have had to travel to Concord or Washington D.C. to view these documents. Have fun with this collection, especially if your ancestor lived in New Hampshire.
Here's the link:
The New Hampshire History Bookshelf

Immigration to the United States, 1789-1930

Looking for information on your immigrant ancestors? Harvard's digital collection might be a good place to start. It's Immigration to the United States, 1789-1930 collection is a vast digital collection of historical documents relating to immigration. The description on it's welcome pages states: "Concentrating heavily on the 19th century, Immigration to the United States, 1789-1930, includes approximately 1,800 books and pamphlets as well as 9,000 photographs, 200 maps, and 13,000 pages from manuscript and archival collections." The digital library has incorporated diaries, biographies, and other writings to capture diverse experiences. This collection provides a window into the lives of ordinary immigrants.
Here's the link:
Immigration to the United States, 1789-1930
It's part of Harvard's Open Collections Program, and it's free!

Family Search

I used to think highly of the Family Search system available from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For many of us early into computing it was one of the few free resources of information via computer and through its various Family History Centers throughout the world. There is still a wealth of information available on line for free. However, I am concerned about recent strategic alliances that have been established with Ancestry.com, Findmypast.com, and Footnote.com. It's almost like buying concert tickets. They are making the indexes available for free but the images will cost you when they add the "convenience fee.'
Read all about it at:
familysearchindexing.com.

USGenweb

USGenweb has been around for many years and the material that is found on line through its links is vast. Thousands of volunteers in counties throughout the U.S. and many localities around the world have been contributing documents to the USGenweb project. On the various local sites you'll find cemetery lists, vital statistics and local history information. Having been a county coordinator for many years for two counties in New York I can honestly say that much of the material is genuine, but not immune from typos, errors and omissions. So, beware.
Visit the USGenWeb project through this link..

Google Books

Google has so taken over the lives of just about anyone that uses the Internet these days. Its search engine is one of the best. But, that's not all Google provides. The Google empire is huge. When you visit the main Google search page, be sure you select the small "more.." button at the top of the page. About one third of the way down the list that drops down is Books. Google has been busy scanning millions of old books and new ones too. Some of the older books, especially those no longer protected by copyright are available in full text. Don't overlook this huge resource if you are looking for information, be it genealogical or historical.
I did a quick book search for "vital records" (using the quotes around the text). The search result showed several volumes of Vital Records for individual towns in Massachusetts. These are available in full text view. I think back to the miles and miles I put on my car and various libraries I visited in the past just to get my hands on these books. Now, you can view them in the comfort of your home with the help of your computer. Google is constantly adding new material, so keep checking back. One day you may hit the jackpot.

Cornell's Windows on the Past Collection

This is a wonderful source of freely accessibly information for the genealogist or history buff. Hours and hours of free reading are at hand when you access the numerous collections of digital scans of important historical documents, books, and other materiel from the vast collection at Cornell University. There are three I would like to call your attention to:

The Making of America Collection a digital library of primary sources in American social history from the antebellum period through reconstruction.

The New York State Historical Collection. The opening page of the collection states: "The Cornell University Library New York State Historical Literature is a collection of selected monographs, pamphlets and other materials with expired copyrights chosen from from the Cornell Library's extensive collection of New York State Literature."

Cornell Daily Sun Issues of this daily newspaper available on line date from 1880 through 1979.

Access to all of these collections is free. Check 'em out.

More Free Newspapers

The North Country Library System offeres free access to old newspapers in a system similar to the one at Fulton History but focuses on newspapers from the seven counties the system serves from its base in Watertown, New York. They are: Oswego, Jefferson, Lewis, St. Lawrence, Franklin, Clinton and Essex counties. The search and layout are similar but does feature some newspapers not available in the other site.

NNY Historical Newspapers

Again, access to the digital newspapers is free to anyone at the above link.

However, there are some additional features such as access to the pay site from Heritage Quest containing Census and Digital Historical Books that are free to patrons of the system with a North Country Library System borrower's card. Those without a library card from a member library unfortunately can not access Heritage Quest. Check with your home library to see if it offers Heritage Quest access. Some systems and individual libraries do make it available to library patrons with an active borrower's card.

New York State Newspapers

One of the finest free utilities available for researchers with roots in New York State is the site maintained by Tom Tryniski from Fulton in Oswego County, NY. As of this posting, visitors were able to search over 7,486,000 old New York State historical newspaper pages. Initial searches are quite easy. Just type in the key word or surname and select the "search" button. Results will show in the left hand column, with any result selected displayed in a separate column powered by an Adobe ® PDF Reader. More complex searches can be accomplished using the Boolean search option which allows you to narrow the searches down to specific newspapers or localities.


The main search site is located at:

fultonhistory.com

A complete listing of the available newspapers can be viewed at:

Historical Newspapers From New York State

Beware the site does get busy during peak times. Tom reports that in one thirty day period the site experienced nearly 1.5 million hits from more than 125,000 site visitors. So, be patient when things slow down.


While the site is free to use, Tom accepts donations of money and or hard drives. Currently the sites houses all the data on 2.8 terabytes of hard drive space and keeps growing. New material is added every Sunday night.


If at first your search produces little or no results, try again and add or remove key words. You can also try adding quotation marks around several words to search for a specific string of text.

Check it out. This site is wonderful if you are looking for obituaries, published vital stats that appeared in newspapers and of course, news items.


Sociable