United States Compiled Genealogies
The term genealogy is used in this Wiki article and in the Family History Library Catalog to describe a variety of records containing family information previously gathered by other researchers, societies, or archives. These records can include pedigree charts, compiled data on families, correspondence, ancestor lists, research exchange files, record abstracts, and collections of original or copied documents. These can be excellent sources of information that can save you valuable time. Because they are secondary sources of information, however, they must be carefully evaluated for accuracy.
For additional ideas, see United States Previous Research.
Many families have produced histories that may include genealogical data, biographies, photographs, and other excellent information. These usually include several generations of the family.
The Family History Library has an extensive collection of almost 50,000 published U.S. family histories and newsletters, including copies of most of the histories listed in the sources below. Copies at the library are listed in the Last names search of the Family History Library Catalog. Not every name found in a family history will be listed in the catalog. Only four or five major surnames are included for an average size family history.
Major collections of printed family histories are also found at most of the archives and libraries listed in United States Archives and Libraries. Most large libraries have the following indexes and catalogs to published family histories:
- Genealogical Index of the Newberry Library. Four Volumes. Boston, Massachusetts: G. K. Hall, 1960. (Family History Library Ref book 973 D22n; films 928135-37.) This lists books published before 1917.
- Greenlaw, William Prescott. The Greenlaw Index of the New England Historic Genealogical Society. Two Volumes. Boston, Massachusetts: G. K. Hall, 1979. (Family History Library Ref Q book 974 D22g.) This indexes genealogical information in records acquired by the society that were printed between 1900 and 1940. It contains references to sources that include three or more generations.
- Index to American Genealogies . . .. (known as Munsell's Index). 1900. Reprint, Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1967. (Family History Library book 973 D22m 1900; film 599811.) This indexes 63,000 citations in family and local history books and periodicals published prior to 1908.
- Hanson, J.C.M. and M.A. Gilkey. American and English Genealogies in the Library of Congress. 1st ed. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1910. Digital version at Internet Archive.
- Gilkey, M.A. American and English Genealogies in the Library of Congress. 2nd ed. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1919. Digital version at Internet Archive.
- Kaminkow, Marion J. Genealogies in the Library of Congress: A Bibliography. Two Volumes. Two supplements, 1972-76, 1976-86. Baltimore, Maryland: Magna Charta Book, 1972. (Family History Library Ref book 016.9291 K128g.) A 1981 Complement is Family History Library Refence book 016.9291 K128c. The Complement lists genealogies at 45 other libraries. The newest supplement is:
- Genealogies Cataloged in the Library of Congress since 1986. Washington, D.C.: Cataloging Distribution Service, Library of Congress, 1992. (Family History Library book 016.9291 L616g.)
- New York Public Library. Dictionary Catalog of the Local History and Genealogy Division. 18 Volumes. Boston, Massachusetts: G. K. Hall, 1974. (Family History Library Ref book 974.71 A3nd.)
- Rider, Fremont, editor. American Genealogical-Biographical Index. Volumes 1-186+. Middletown, Connecticut: Godfrey Memorial Library, 1952-. (Family History Library book 973 D22am serial 2; on 31 Family History Library films starting with 1698167.) This is a continuing series. An earlier version of 48 volumes was published as The American Genealogical Index, 1942-1951. Over 12 million brief citations (name, date, and source) to manuscripts, periodicals, and books. The earlier version had reference to 350 sources; the second version has consulted an additional 800 sources.
To help interpret citations and locate the original sources use the colored pages in some volumes or see:
- Clark, Patricia L., and Dorothy Huntsman, editors. American Genealogical Biographical Key Title Index. Salt Lake City, Utah: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1990. (Family History Library book 973 D22am index; film 1698167 item 4; fiche 6088377.) Shows which sources are at the Family History Library and their call numbers.
An index to family information found in published family histories, periodicals, local histories, and other sources acquired by the Family History Library before 1964 from all over the United States is:
- Old Surname Index File. Salt Lake City, Utah: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1976. (Family History Library films 820378-98.)
Search Engines. Online search engines make it possible to search for ancestors' names across the Internet. Examples:
- Google (try searching for your ancestor's name in parenthesis, i.e. "Jebediah Hogg")
- Mocavo (a new site that searches only websites with genealogical content)
Family Tree Databases
World Connect. Hundreds of thousands of Americans appear in family trees submitted to the online World Connect Project. The accuracy of the data varies, but the database is commendable for its ability to include transcribed sources within each individual's file. These databases will provide many researchers clues as to what has been done in the past, and where future research efforts should be directed.
Many published genealogies, particularly those printed before 1923, which are now out of copyright, are being digitized and made available online. Major sites include:
- Google Books
- Internet Archive
- Family History Archive (this site focuses specifically on genealogy and history books)
- World Vital Records
- JSTOR (this subscription site searches, among other items, scholarly history journals)
Community Networking Sites
Message Boards and Lists. Genealogists share information and ask questions in online message boards and lists. Some popular United States examples are:
- GenForum (Genealogy.com)
- Family History & Genealogy Message Boards (Ancestry.com)
- RootsWeb Mailing Lists (find lists devoted to your surname, ancestor's place of residence, ethnicity, etc.)
DNA. DNA studies are one of the most exciting new ways to learn about your roots. There are many DNA companies that can assist. Y-Chromosome tests are very helpful, because they can help many people who share surnames find out if they're related. Company websites inform you if someone is already studying your particular surname. A few that include surname projects are:
PERSI. This database, available online both at Ancestry.com ($) and HeritageQuestOnline ($), searches the titles of articles published in genealogy journals. It can help you learn if anyone has published information in this format on your particular family tree.
Many individuals and societies have compiled and published ancestor lists, lineage books, and genealogy tables. These usually represent the ancestry or descent of a group of individuals from a specific place, time, or event. For example, you may find compiled genealogies of colonial immigrants, soldiers who served in the Revolutionary War, pioneers of a state, or members of a religious group. These are usually listed in the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog under UNITED STATES - GENEALOGY or [STATE] - GENEALOGY. Also see United States Societies. This is an example of a compiled genealogy:
- Virkus, Frederick A., editor. Abridged Compendium of American Genealogy: First Families of the United States. Seven Volumes. 1925-1942. Reprint, Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1987. (Family History Library book 973 D2vf; compact disc number 9 part 114.)
Many libraries, archives, societies, and individuals have collected a wide variety of unpublished records pertaining to families. These may include the life work of genealogists, records submitted to patriotic or lineage societies, and records submitted to share genealogical information (such as pedigree charts). You will need to search most manuscript collections personally.
A source for obtaining old and rare books is America's Books CD.
The Family History Library has microfilm copies of several major manuscript collections. These collections are described in the state Wiki articles. They are listed in the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog under:
UNITED STATES - GENEALOGY
[STATE] - GENEALOGY
[STATE], [COUNTY] - GENEALOGY
Numerous family papers and unpublished collections at other libraries and archives are listed in the:
- National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections (NUCMC). Annual. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1959-. (Family History Library book 016.091 N21.)
An index to 200,000 names in the collections described is:
- Index to Personal Names in the National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections, 1959-1984. Two Volumes. Alexandria, Virginia: Chadwyck-Healey, 1988. (Family History Library book 016.091 N21 Index 1959-1984.)
Writing and Sharing Your Family History
Sharing your own family history is valuable for several reasons:
- It helps you see gaps in your own research and raises opportunities to find new information.
- It helps other researchers progress in researching ancestors you share in common.
- It draws other researchers to you who already have information about your family that you do not yet possess.
- It draws together researchers with common interests, sparking collaboration opportunities. For instance, researchers in various localities might choose to do lookups for each other in remote repositories. Your readers may also share photos of your ancestors that you have never seen before.
- See also: