Genealogy record round-up: American ancestors

By Guest, 9 November 2016 - 6:02pm

Kimberley Powell reveals some of the best family history resources for tracing ancestors who emigrated to the United States

A bustling Fifth Avenue in New York City on Easter morning, 1900 (Photo: Getty Images)
A bustling Fifth Avenue in New York City on Easter morning, 1900 (Photo: Getty Images)  

Along with the colonists who first founded America, nearly 3.5 million British emigrants chose the United States as their home between 1820 and 1930, making it likely that most British family trees contain an American relative or two.

Thankfully for researchers, billions of US records can now be accessed online through subscription services and free websites, as well as at state archives, county record offices, libraries, historical and genealogical societies, and more.

While the following resources only represent a fraction of the material currently available, they could prove crucial to family historians tracing their cousins across the pond for the first time...
 

Census records

  • Federal census records (1790-1940) are available on Ancestry and Findmypast. Both offer the complete run of images and indexes for members with Worldwide or World subscriptions
  • FamilySearch also offers the census indexes for free, but with images only available for select years
  • TheGenealogist has  recently uploaded the entire 1940 US Census to its collections. Available to Diamond subscribers, the set features some transcriptions not available on other sites, as well as scanned versions of the original enumeration maps
     

Vital records (births, marriages and deaths)

  • Records of births, marriages, and deaths no longer protected by state privacy laws can often be found online. Begin with the appropriate state archives website to see what it has available – you can find a list here
  • FamilySearch has a large collection of vital record images from state archives and county/town record offices. Worldwide membership packages on Ancestry and Findmypast also offer access to selected vital records
  • If you don’t know the state in which your relative lived, the nationwide Social Security Death Index (SSDI) can be searched free of charge here. The resource is also available to subscribers of TheGenealogist
     

Emigration and naturalisation records

    Military records

    Land records

    • Patents, deeds, bounty land warrants and homesteading grants can be used for researching American relatives and are held at national, state or local level. Deeds can be obtained through the county courthouse. Some are online (use the county name plus “online deeds” to search for them). For example, the whole of Maryland state is covered at mdlandrec.net
    • First grants of land in the 30 public land states can be searched through the Bureau of Land Management website
       

    Other records

      A version of this article first appeared in the August 2015 issue of Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine

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