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Genealogy: Finding Your Ancestors Online

A guide to genealogy resources on the Web and in the Cornell University Library


Official Records in National and State Archives

The National Archives
ARC currently contains descriptions of 45% of the National Archives traditional holdings. Many of the records are described broadly at the record group and series levels. For some series, ARC includes specific descriptions at the file unit and item levels. This site can be used to locate microfilm rolls. The archival search engine, ARC, is of limited utility for surname searches but useful for broader searches.

Military personnel records can be ordered from NARA.

Making of America
Contains the War of the Rebellion and Official Records of the Union and Confederate armies.

Use Heritage Quest for Revolutionary War records.

State Archives

Many state archives are now putting their material on the web. Maryland is a good example. The Massachusetts State Archives provide another approach--an online index.

New York State Library
There are many primary documents available at the New York Public Library. This link to their genealogy research room will give you an idea. But be sure to check out their Vital Records Indexes. This is an extraordinary accomplishment as anyone who ever attempted to use the paper death certificate indexes can attest.

Libraries and Other Archives

OCLC WorldCat Available through Cornell or a local public library

OCLC, the nearest thing we have to a national online catalog, is also available from most public and academic libraries. WorldCat recently became freely available to anyone in the world: 

For material you discover that is not available at your local library, talk to local reference staff about placing an interlibrary loan.

Try OCLC's helpful guide to using online library catalogs for genealogy.

Library of Congress

One of the great genealogical collections in the world. Access, however, is mostly local, although some material is online, and the catalog is available over the internet.

Making of America

Search the full-text of dozens of 19th century magazines, history books and the War of the Rebellion; Official Records of the Union and Confederate armies!

Archive Finder Available through Cornell or a local public library
A directory of 5,550 repositories and 149,218 collections of primary source material housed across the United States. Powerfully integrated with detailed subject indexing, this research tool is a central collection of descriptive archival information.

Databases that can be used to find archival material:

ArchiveGrid Available through Cornell or a local public library
ArchiveGrid provides easy access to the archival holdings of The Research Libraries Group (RLG) and affiliates. A friendlier interface than RLIN Eureka.

American Memory
American Memory is a gateway to rich primary source materials relating to the history and culture of the United States. The site offers more than 7 million digital items from more than 100 historical collections.

The Genealogy Center, Allen County Public Library, Indiana
The Fred J. Reynolds Historical Genealogy Department of the Allen County Public Library was organized in 1961 by the library director for whom it was named. The department's renowned collection contains more than 300,000 printed volumes and 314,000 items of microfilm and microfiche. This collection grows daily through department purchases and donations from appreciative genealogists and historians.

Steele Memorial Library
A local resource in Elmira NY with a large genealogical collection. Particularly noteworthy is the collection of NY State and US census microfilm.

Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints Family History Center (Ithaca NY)
Microfilm of FHC records can be ordered here. 114 Burleigh Dr. Ithaca, NY 14850 (607) 257-1334

Note: Resources marked with are restricted to subscribers, either through Cornell University or your local public library.


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