Research Genealogy

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Use library resources to start your own research. 

Online Learning  

Databases and Classes

Ancestry, Library Edition (in library use only)

This powerful subscription website is home to more than 30 billion old records, 100 million family trees and more than 20 million DNA profiles.

HeritageQuest Online

HeritageQuest® Online is a comprehensive treasury of American genealogical sources—rich in unique primary sources, local and family histories, and finding aids. The database provides genealogical and historical sources for more than 60 countries, with coverage dating back as early as the 1700s.

Universal Class, Genealogy 101

UniversalClass is the place to continue your education online and fulfill all your lifelong learning goals.





Best known for its health reports, 23andMe also has an enormous pool of DNA testers: over 10 million. This makes it a great place to look for DNA matches (relatives) who may know something about your origins that you don’t. It doesn’t have as many tools to help reconstruct your family tree using DNA as AncestryDNA or MyHeritage DNA, but its genetically-oriented Family Tree is unique and helpful.


More than 15 million people have taken DNA tests here, making it a prime place to connect with genetic relatives. Powerful tools help users compare their family trees with each other and figure out how they might be related. The proprietary Genetic Communities help reveal ancestral migration patterns.

This is a budget-friendly, scaled-down version of, its owner. The core historical record collections are for the United States, so this may be a good option for beginning researchers who believe their families have been in the United States for several generations.


Search an enormous, free GPS-tagged database of tombstone images, or upload your own with the companion app. Users can add personal history information to individual photos and link them to other tombstone images. Subscribers can access premium features, including cemetery maps showing plot locations, enhanced GPS mapping and alerts for your previous searches.

Cyndi's List

Consider Cyndi Ingle’s free site your table of contents for online genealogy. You’ll find lists of sites dedicated to researching particular places, types of records, ethnic and religious groups, and more. Check out the Beginner’s category for guides and tips just for newbies. But also watch for topics you’re interested in, like military research or DNA.

Chronicling America

The Library of Congress’ portal to historical newspapers has two important areas of content: digitized newspaper pages (1777–1963)—and a comprehensive index to all known newspapers published in the United States and where to find them today. Check back frequently for new content. To learn more about using the site, including what’s on it and what’s not, click on the Help section.

Family Search

The world’s best all-free genealogy website, with more than 10 billion global, name-searchable records and billions of additional ones to page through. Learn research skills with the Research Wiki (under the Search tab). The Search > Catalog tab takes you to the most extensive genealogy library catalog in the world. Join the world’s biggest shared family tree—or just mine it for information about your ancestors. The modest learning curve is well worth the effort.

FamilyTree DNA

This DNA testing company offers more than the standard autosomal DNA test provided by others. Customers can also choose various levels of YDNA testing, to look at paternal-line ancestry (for men only), and mtDNA testing, to look at deep maternal ancestry (both women and men can take this test). Join different kinds of DNA projects to compare your DNA with others of the same geographic, cultural or surname origin.

FamilyTree Magazine

Our own website offers abundant tools and how-to’s for beginners. Under Free Resources, find downloadable forms, ebooks, cheat sheets, our podcast and more. The cheat sheets can be especially helpful for beginners: don’t miss our Genealogy Essentials downloads, Record References, ethnic research aids and top online genealogy tricks. Join our Premium membership for access to articles on many topics for beginners and beyond or take an online class from one of our experts (find these under the Shop menu).

Find a Grave

Dig up ancestral burial information from millions of free tombstone images here. Search by an individual or cemetery name. Users are encouraged to upload additional tombstone photos and submit biographical information for memorial pages. You can even create virtual cemeteries to connect loved ones buried in different places.


If you have roots in England, Scotland, Ireland or Wales, consider subscribing to gain access to millions of parish records, censuses, military and criminal records, and millions of British and Irish newspapers. Under the Help menu, explore the Getting Started section. DNA tests offered through Findmypast offer especially detailed geographic origins reports within Britain and Ireland.


This is the go-to source for digitized US military records from the Revolutionary War forward. Using the Help link (which you can access without a login), learn basic finding strategies and how to add ancestral memorials or even organize a gallery of family content. This section may help you decide whether to subscribe, so you can search and see a lot of records that used to be accessible only through the National Archives.


Clues about your ancestors’ lives may be as close as your next Google search. In addition to the ability to search for names and places, Google offers several genealogy-friendly tools. Google Translate helps you translate text and websites into or out of English. Google Books includes an online library of out-of-print resources such as local histories and compiled genealogies. Google Maps and Google Earth help you locate ancestral addresses and virtually visit them.


GenealogyBank is home to more than 13,000 big-city and small-town newspaper titles; the site claims 95% are exclusive to their site. Search results are labeled as historical or modern obituaries, marriage notices, immigration records, and the like, making it easier to find what you’re looking for. Scroll to the bottom of the site for tutorials on researching various ethnicities and a portal to 260 million obituaries.

Illinois State Archives

The Illinois State Archives preserves county and state records, including pre-Chicago fire documents. They have indexed vital records, early land grants, military records such as muster rolls and Civil War registers. All federal and state censuses are available. Their surname card index covers much of the collection


The newest of the major genetic genealogy companies, this one is best known for offering the most detailed breakdown for ancestral origins in Britain and Ireland. It doesn’t yet have as robust a customer base as the others (limiting your options for finding DNA matches) or robust tools for determining the nature of relationships to genetic matches.


If you have more recent immigrant origins or are especially interested in finding overseas cousins, consider subscribing to MyHeritage, home to more than 17 billion historical records and DNA testing. This Israeli website is strongest for continental Europe, Scandinavian countries and Jewish research. You can pay just for family tree-building tools or historical record access or combine them.

National Archives

The National Archives Museum in Washington, DC, and Presidential Library museums are open. Find out hours of operation on each museum's website.


Access more than 120 million digitized newspaper pages dating to 1607. The site is easy on the eye and easy to navigate. Browse newspapers by state and city (and for other countries), or enter names and other keywords along with desired dates and locations. Click on Help to take tutorials on using the site.

Access more than 120 million digitized newspaper pages dating to 1607. The site is easy on the eye and easy to navigate. Browse newspapers by state and city (and for other countries), or enter names and other keywords along with desired dates and locations. Click on Help to take tutorials on using the site.


RootsWeb - the Internet's oldest and largest FREE genealogical community. An award winning genealogical resource with searchable databases


Click the free site’s Humanities tab, then History & Culture > Genealogy to dive into dozens of free how-to articles covering genealogy research basics, online searching, and sharing and preserving the past. You won’t do actual research on this site, but you’ll learn a lot. Because each article leads to more detailed and related articles on the same site, it’s easy to lose track of what you’ve read. Refer back frequently to the main topics tabs (Basics, Surnames, Genealogy Fun and Vital Records Around the World) if you want to read systematically through everything offered.

Your DNA Guide

A hands-on, try-this-now approach to finding answers from DNA testing—whether you’ve tested already or not. Under Learn, find easy-reading introductions to specific questions you can ask your DNA, such as ethnicity and geographical origins; finding biological relatives; and identifying unknown ancestors on your family tree.




Immigration Sites

Canadian Border Crossings 

As the custodian of our distant past and recent history, Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is a key resource for all Canadians who wish to gain a better understanding of who they are, individually and collectively. LAC acquires, processes, preserves and provides access to our documentary heritage and serves as the continuing memory of the Government of Canada and its institutions.

Ellis Island 

We honor the immigrant experience and the pursuit of freedom through preservation efforts, educational initiatives, and community programs. As caretakers of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, we work to create bridges to history and to foster an appreciation for the rich tapestry of our national identity.

Castle Garden is a free database developed and funded by The Battery Conservancy. It contains and makes available eleven million records of immigrants who arrived at the Port of New York from 1820 - 1892. Today more than 100 million Americans can trace their ancestry to this early period of immigration.

Immigrant Ships 

Includes sites to research emigration, immigration and naturalization, 100+ passenger list sites, ethnic research, libraries and archives, and passenger ships.

Books, DVDs and Other Resources

Search "Genealogy" at HPL
Search "Genealogy" at all SWAN libraries
Golden Rules of Genealogy 
ProQuest Research Tips



A Few Things to Remember

  • Spelling names correctly or consistently was not overly important to our ancestors. Think of every possible way that a name could be spelled, and check them all.  Sometimes spellings were changed from one generation to the next.  Also try searching last name first AND first name first.
  • Research siblings, too. You never know when you’ll find a record for one of them that connects to more information on the whole family.
  • Interview your living relatives ASAP! Even younger cousins – they may have some family stories or photos that you don’t have.
  • Remember that borders changed frequently. Think great-great grandpa was born in Germany? Some areas of Germany changed hands with Poland and back again a number of times.  Check Google historical timelines and histories of your ancestors’ countries.
  •  Document your sources – this will not only help prove your information, but keep you from searching the same place more than once.
  • Just because it’s on the Internet, doesn’t mean it’s true. It’s best to find more than one resource for your “facts”. But, DO record approximate dates, i.e. “ab. 1904” or “May 1905” until you have a solid, real date.
  • Printable forms can be downloaded from Ancestry and Cyndi’s List.
  • Genealogy is an adventure!