How to Locate Your Ancestor in the United States

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This guide will give you suggestions on how to find where your ancestor lived in the United States. Records may be kept by state, county, or town agencies. To successfully do research in the United States, you need to search for your ancestor in the records for the state, county, and town. Therefore, you need to determine where he or she lived.

What You Are Looking For:

The place where your ancestor lived so that you can use the records of that place to find more information about your ancestor, such as birth, marriage, and death information.


The following 7 steps list sources which may give the state, county, or town where your ancestor lived.

Step 1. Check previous research.

Research done by other people may have the information you are seeking. For suggestions on previous research, including Internet sites, see How to Use Previous Research.

Step 2. Check the following sources for the state, county, or town where your ancestor lived.

Social Security Death Index lists people whose deaths were reported to the Social Security Administration. Most people in this index died after about 1961. The index also shows the state where the person received a Social Security Number and the state where the person died. These Internet sites have the index: or The Family History Library and many Family History Centers also have the Social Security Death Index.

Accelerated Indexing Services Index (AIS) is an index of census records covering either all the United States or large sections of the United States for given times up to about 1880. A few other records, such as some tax records, are also included. The index usually tells the county and town where people lived. This index is available on the Internet through and The Family History Library and many Family History Centers have this index on fiche.

Military Records and Military Pension Records are indexed on a national or state level.

Passports can help you if your ancestor applied for a United States passport. These are indexed on a national level.