Links to a curated list of free resources I use in my own genealogy and historical research. Some bloggers refer to lists like this as a “research toolbox” or a “digital toolbox”. Whatever you call it, I believe you will find these links of value in your own research.


Chicago Manual of Style Online
The quintessential guide for students, researchers and writers in a variety of disciplines is now online, including the full contents of the 15th & 16th editions.
Find the Quick Guide here.

Evidence Explained
Elizabeth Shown Mills, author of Evidence Explained, clarifies source citations for genealogists and historians. Check out her QuickLessons and the EE citation forum. The third edition to this essential reference was released in May 2015.

Federal Records

1790-1890 Federal Population Censuses
Catalog of NARA Microfilm
Find microfilm roll numbers for the U.S. census for source citations

1800-1840 Census Comparison Form
Downloadable form shared by noted genealogical researcher and educator J. Mark Lowe of Kentucky – Tennessee Research Associates

Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
General Land Office
Federal land records for the 30 Public Land States, searchable by name

A History of the Rectangular Survey System by C. Albert White
A comprehensive work detailing the backstory of the public land surveys in America and legislation underlying those surveys.

Federal Statutes
A Century of Lawmaking For a New Nation
Key site for research into Federal statutes up to about 1875

Federal Tract Books (FamilySearch Wiki Entry)
3,907 tract books exist for 28 of the 30 public land states, documenting the transfer of public lands to private citizens or entities. Sadly, the tract books for Missouri are not among them.

Guide to Federal Records in the National Archives
Search the web version of the guide by keyword or Record Group (RG) number

Integrated Public Use Microdata Series (IPUMS-USA)
The University of Minnesota Population Center collects and preserves data and instructions regarding the decennial United States Federal Census.

NARA Reference Reports
When you visit the National Archives in person, they have helpful brochures on a variety of topics of interest to genealogists to get you started working in Federal records. Now you can download the brochures in PDF format. Topics include census, immigration, military records research, African American and Native American research.

United States Census Tutorial
This BYU tutorial will orient genealogists to use of the Federal census schedules from 1790-1940. Blank forms are included on the site for download.


Historical Record and Dictionary of the United States Army (Heitman, 1903)

Revolutionary War
1841 Census of Pensioners for Revolutionary or Military Service “Planting Your Family Tree in the American Revolution
PDF download shows you how to use their records to find your Revolutionary War soldier.

New Brunswick (Canada) Provincial Archives “Old Soldiers Records”
American Loyalists who went to Canada following the Revolutionary War. Read the intro for background information.

War of 1812
65% of the roughly 180,000 pension files for survivors and widows of the War of 1812 have been digitized thus far, and are available to the public at no charge. The index now covers surnames A through M for most states.

War of 1812 Discharge Certificates
Approximately 2,200 discharge certificates for Regular Army soldiers in the War of 1812 survive and are part of M1856 at NARA. Read more about the collection here.

Mexican War
 current project of FGS and the Palo Alto Battlefield National Historic Park to document the 130,000 US soldiers who participated in the conflict. 

Civil War

Barnard & Gardner Civil War Photographs
Both works by George Barnard and Alexander Gardner, originally published in 1866, are newly available online through the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Duke University.

Center for Civil War Photography

Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System (CWSS)
Maintained by the National Park Service, this site has over 6 million entries for Civil War soldiers who served both the Union and the Confederacy. Also contains listings for 18,000 African American sailors who participated in the conflict.

FamilySearch has a new portal for United States Civil War era records on their site.

World War I
The Library of Congress has launched a World War I collections portal, with digitized versions of posters, photos, manuscripts, maps, sound recordings, sheet music, etc.
Trench maps are here:
National Library of Scotland:

World War II compiled noted WWII researcher Jennifer Holik’s articles into a free PDF download.

State-Level Research and Repositories

ACPL State and Subject Snapshots
The Genealogy Center at the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana has made available research guides for every state, essentially bibliographies of books on a particular topic with ACPL call numbers. If you find a title of interest and are not at ACPL, check WorldCat to find other repositories.

FamilySearch Research Wiki
It may not look like much from the main page, but there is a wealth of information on a variety of genealogy topics at this site. If you are researching in a new geographic area, make this one of your first stops to learn what records may be available. Start here if you are new to using wikis.

Online State Resources for Genealogy
Blog by Michael Hait, CG, author of an e-book with the same title, the latest version of which features 9,000+ links

California had the earliest trademark law in the United States, pre-dating Federal law by a decade. This collection of logos and product labels were registered with the Secretary of State beginning in 1861. Worth checking out if your ancestor was an early entrepreneur in the West.

Kansas: State Historical Society
A must-visit repository, whether you are doing Kansas research online, or on-site in Topeka

Kentucky’s Land Office

Baltimore City Archives
Maryland Genealogical Society
Maryland State Archives
Western Maryland Historical Library (WHILBR)

Missouri: Digital Heritage

New Jersey
GSNJ Bible and Family Records Collection Index
Jersey Genealogy: A Research Guide Using Local History Collections
Journals and Minutes of the State Legislature
New Jersey Digital Legal Library
New Jersey Early Land Records Project
New Jersey History Journal
New Jersey State Censuses, 1855-1915
Newark Archives Project
Overview of Genealogical Resources at the State Archives

Records of Officers and Men in the Civil War (Stryker, 1876)
Rutgers Library Guide on New Jersey History
Searchable Databases
at the State Archives
State Historical Society
The Story of New Jersey’s Civil Boundaries 1606-1968 (Snyder, 1969) or

Trenton Historical Society

New York: Emigrant Savings Bank
User’s Guide to Emigrant Savings Bank Records

Early Oregonians Database
Oregon Donation Land Claim Index
The Genealogical Forum of Oregon (GFO) has an index of more than 7,300 successful claims for free land in the Oregon Territory.
State Historical Society

Historic Pittsburgh
A tremendous number of resources for the “Steel City”, including historic maps,
texts, images and census material. City directories available online for 1815-1945.
Lancaster County Historical Society
Added to my “must visit” list to research my 18th century Bigham, Ritchey/Richey and Reed families. The Journal (published since 1896) is available at this link.
Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission
Start your research online with finding aids, research guides and records.

Chalkley’s Chronicles of the Scotch Irish Settlement in Virginia (3 vols)
Libray of Virginia
Two good entry points to the collection are the catalog and the county and city records holdings. The Chancery Records index is here.

Between the Lines: Washington State Library Blog
Digital Archives
My home state represents! Great starting point for research in Washington state.
Valuable databases here, some that include scanned records.
Washington Rural Heritage
130 cultural institutions in Washington state have contributed material to this incredible (and growing) digital collection.


American Antiquarian Society (AAS)
Links to state newspaper digitization projects by AAS Curator of Newspapers and Periodicals, Vincent Golden. One interesting blog by the AAS is Past is Present.

California Digital Newspaper Collection
More than half a million digitized Californian newspapers from 1846 to the present

Chronicling America Historic American Newspapers at the Library of Congress
A significant and growing repository of digitized American newspapers from 1789-1924. More than 12.4 million images from 43 states and D.C. are now available for no charge. Includes a separate section for publication information of American newspapers from 1690 called the U.S. Newspaper Directory.

Mapping Journalism’s Journey West
Maps and newspapers together! Stanford University data visualization project derived from LOC newspaper data. Shows information on 140,000 newspapers published in the United States 1690-2011.

Ohio’s Digitized Newspapers
See the state map on this page that shows which counties have digitized historic newspapers available, either on Chronicling America or Ohio Memory.

New Jersey Newspaper Resources
Burlington County Library System (BCLS)
Abstracted information from the Bordentown Register newspaper, which served Bordentown, New Jersey from 1855-1966. More than 42,000 entries in the database.
Abstracted information from the New Jersey Mirror newspaper, published in Mt. Holly, New Jersey. It started out as the “Burlington Mirror” in 1818. More than 84,000 records have been extracted to date.

Hunterdon County Democrat
Excerpted information from the newspaper serving Hunterdon County, New Jersey spanning 50 years of publication, from 1838-1888.

New Brunswick Free Public Library (NBFPL)
Digital images of The Daily Times and The Daily Home Guard newspapers published in New Brunswick, Middlesex Co., New Jersey from the latter half of the 19th century. Much more than newspapers at the library’s archives page.

Red Bank Register Archive
113 years of the area’s history represented in newspapers, 1878-1991. Red Bank is located in Monmouth Co., New Jersey northeast of Trenton. Searchable index with digital images of newspapers in PDF format.


Atlas of Historical County Boundaries
To effectively do historical research in the United States, it is essential to know the correct county. The Newberry Library in Chicago, Illinois maintains this site.

Charles Booth’s London
Victorian London poverty maps and police notebooks provided by the London School of Economics and Political Science

David Rumsey Historical Map Collection
More than 81,000 maps and images online, focusing mostly on 18th and 19th century Western hemisphere.

DeedMapper Software
Use the software to enter land survey descriptions, and it plots the deed automatically. The deed database is particularly strong for Virginia.

Greater Philadelphia GeoHistory Network
More than just maps. Find a variety of digitized geographic materials essential for studying the history of the Philadelphia area at this site.

Historical Soil Survey Maps
More that 1,600 United States Department of Agriculture maps published between 1899-1950. Requires the free MrSid browser plug-in for the best viewing experience. I first learned of this site in a 2012 lecture by professional genealogist J. Mark Lowe, CG.

Hotchkiss Map Collection
The new site for the complete map collection of Major Jedediah Hotchkiss, a Confederate “topographic engineer” who primarily drew maps in Virginia and West Virginia during the American Civil War.

Mapping the Freedmen’s Bureau
Freedmen’s Bureau Field Offices mapped. Hover over an image to get a balloon showing microfilm reel numbers for the records, or links if available online.

New York Public Library Map Warper
More than 23,500 hi-res maps in the public domain, and mapping tools to overlay historical maps onto modern-day maps.

Oregon Donation Land Claims Maps
These digital General Land Office maps show original donation land claims in Oregon.

The Greatest Grid
Additional resources to augment the Museum of the City of New Yorks’s 2011-2012 exhibit on the street grid system of Manhattan, 1811-2011. Street grids for selected other cities are included here.

Vision of Britain
Topographic, boundary and land use maps covering Great Britain

Washington State General Map Collection (1851-2005)
More than 2,000 digitized maps from Washington’s territorial days to 2005

Immigration Research

Manifest Markings: A Guide to Interpreting Passenger List Annotations
Written by Marian L. Smith, Historian with the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service


BYU Script Tutorial

Early American Handwriting Game

African American Research

Black Military Experience
The story of Emancipation, and wartime service, as told by letters and manuscripts of those directly involved in the events of 1861-1867. Transcriptions reference original documents held at the National Archives. Part of the larger Freedmen and Southern Society Project of the University of Maryland.

Discover Freedmen
Search portal to records of nearly 4 million emancipated slaves

Free African Americans
Two award-winning books by Paul Heinegg have also been published on the web

Geography of Slavery in Virginia
Early newspaper advertisements for runaway slaves and servants in digital form

Missouri’s Early Slave Laws
Missouri’s laws were derived from the “Code Noir” of Colonial Louisiana. Of interest ever since I learned my extended Howard family in Missouri were slave owners.

Patriots of Color Database
Search for men and women of color who participated in the American Revolution

Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database
More than 35,000 slave ship voyages that transported 12 million or more Africans to the Americas, 16th to 18th century. Sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), among others.

[Last updated 11 Dec 2017]

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