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A list of underused free resources to help build on family tree discoveries and to solve problems of identity and relationship.
These resources can expand research skills and reveal family connections while deepening your family history research.
Census Techniques and Strategies
This list provides strategies to overcome common problems in US Census searching. Elizabeth Shown Mills, editor of the National Genealogical Society Quarterly, said, “Census records are the most used—yet most under used of all genealogical resources.”
Tracking Common Census Enumeration Mistakes
Understanding common census enumeration mistakes and how they affect your searches in online census records can help you find even the most elusive ancestors. This article goes over seven problems that can trip up even the most intense census search and shows how to overcome them.
This Library of Congress website is a searchable database of U.S. newspapers with descriptive information and digitization of historic pages from 1777 to 1963.
Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System (CWSS)
The Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System (CWSS) is a database containing information about the men who served in the Union and Confederate armies during the Civil War. Other information on the site includes histories of Union and Confederate regiments, links to descriptions of significant battles, and selected lists of prisoner-of-war records and cemetery records, which will be amended over time. The Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System contains an index of the men who served in the Civil War with only rudimentary information from the service records (including name, rank and unit in which they served). The full service records are housed at the National Archives and Records Administration.
The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, often referred to as the Freedmen’s Bureau, was established in the War Department. The Bureau supervised all relief and educational activities relating to refugees and freedmen, including issuing rations, clothing and medicine. The Bureau also assumed custody of confiscated lands or property in the former Confederate States, border states, District of Columbia, and Indian Territory.
U.S. Serial Set
This large multivolume resource contains various congressional reports and documents from the beginning of the federal government, and its coverage is wide and varied. Women, African Americans, Native Americans, students, soldiers and sailors, pensioners, landowners, and inventors are all represented in some fashion. While a beginning genealogist would not use the Serial Set to begin a family history, it nevertheless can serve as a valuable tool and resource for someone helping to flesh out an ancestors life, especially where it coincided with the interests of the U.S. federal government.
Atlas of Historical County Boundaries
The Atlas presents in maps and text complete data about the creation and all subsequent changes (dated to the day) in the size, shape, and location of every county in the fifty United States and the District of Columbia. It also includes non-county areas, unsuccessful authorizations for new counties, changes in county names and organization, and the temporary attachments of non-county areas and unorganized counties to fully functioning counties. The principal sources for these data are the most authoritative available: the session laws of the colonies, territories, and states that created and changed the counties.
Geonames for the US – Geographic Names Information System (GNIS)
The GNIS contains information about physical and cultural geographic features of all types in the United States, associated areas, and Antarctica, current and historica. The database holds the Federally recognized name of each feature and defines the feature location by state, county, USGS topographic map, and geographic coordinates. Other attributes include names or spellings other than the official name, feature designations, feature classification, historical and descriptive information, and for some categories the geometric boundaries.
PERSI – Periodical Source Index
The Periodical Source Index, or PERSI, is the largest subject index to genealogy and local history periodical articles in the world. Created by the staff of the Allen County Public Library Foundation and the ACPL’s Genealogy Center, PERSI is widely recognized as a vital tool for genealogical researchers. PERSI indexes articles in 11,000 periodical titles (including 3,000 defunct titles) published by thousands of local, state, national and international societies and organizations, arranging 2.7 million entries by surname or location and 22 basic subject headings. PERSI can be used to find citations in local history and genealogy society journals in reference to surnames and place names.
Created for a very wide range of cities and towns from about the mid-1850s to the mid-1950s, these maps often contain detailed information about a specific building and the buildings surrounding it.