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1. Decide What You Want to Find

Choose a question you would like to answer about a specific branch of your family. This will help keep your research manageable and help you to organize the information you find. Begin with yourself and work back through time by conducting a home survey. A surprising amount of genealogical information can often be found at home. Sources to look at include family bibles, captions on photographs, scrapbooks, newspaper clippings, diaries, funeral prayer cards, official documents such as birth and death certificates, and even samplers and engraved wedding bands. Remember, family stories may not always be accurate. Use them as a starting point for your research.

2. Begin Your Research

The library has electronic resources that can help you begin your research. A good place to start is by searching a person's name in the census using Ancestry Library Edition (available inside the library), HeritageQuest OnlineMyHeritage Library Edition, or Family Search. Be sure to check to make sure dates and places are logical and, if possible, compare the transcribed data to the image of the document. Don't be too concerned about spelling of names, as census takers often wrote down what they heard. 

HeritageQuest offers a variety of tips and tricks to help jumpstart your research.

3. Organize and Share

Make it a habit from the beginning to organize the information you find. This will help you avoid repeating research and to visualize the next steps in your research. While family tree software or online trees are nice-to-have, they are not necessary to your research. Necessary charts and forms, though, may be downloaded from Ancestry Library Edition (in Library use only) or from the Family Search Wiki.

Library Resources

Other Resources

Ancestry Library Edition

Available in Library only

  • Census Records - US Federal, UK and Canadian Censuses, as well as other census and voter lists for 1700s-1900s
  • Vital Records - birth, marriage and death
  • Military Records - draft records, service records, pension records, bounty land records, claim records, and military histories
  • Immigration & Travel - passenger arrivals, naturalizations, border crossings, emigration, passports, and convict transportations from US and several other countries
  • Wills, Probates, Land, Tax & Criminal
  • City & Area Directories
  • Newspapers - obituary indexes for certain areas and papers as well as a small selection of actual papers, and links to other resources
  • Maps, Atlases & Gazetteers
  • Reference, Dictionaries & Almanacs
  • Stories, Memories & Histories
  • Public Member Trees - viewable only - no personal tree access
  • Photos - member submitted, yearbook, ships, cemetery, Civil War and others


Available from home

  • Census Records - U.S. Federal Census 1790-1940, and national censuses including Argentina, Netherlands, Czech Republic & others
  • Military Records - Revolutionary War pension & bounty land warrants, Confederate prisoner of war records & widows pension applications
  • Wills and Probate Records - from all 50 states spread over 337 years (1668-2005)
  • City Directories
  • Maps
  • Photos - Library of Congress Photo Collection 1840-2000
  • Books - over 22,000 family histories, genealogies, documentary collections, church records, military records, vital records, city & county histories
  • U.S. Serial Set - more than 140,000 private relief actions, memorials, & petitions published "serial" fashion from the US Senate and House of Representatives 1769-1969
  • Freedman’s Bank - index and original images of the Freedman's Savings and Trust Company's registers of Signatures of Depositors 1865-1871

MyHeritage Library Edition

Available from home

  • Census Records - USA federal census (1790-1950); Census of England and Wales (1841-1940); Census and church records from Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Spain, Hungary, Slovakia, Germany, Finland, Netherlands, Italy, Switzerland, Poland, Portugal, and more
  • Vital Records - birth, marriage, and death from the US and Germany
  • Military Records - draft; enlistment and service; pension records; military documents
  • Immigration & Travel - passenger lists, naturalizations, Japanese relocation records
  • Will, Probate, Government, Land & Court
  • Directories, Guides, Reference, Biographies & Yearbooks - yearbook photos are downloadable and may be colorized
  • Newspapers - select US & UK newspapers, magazines, and journals
  • Maps & Gazetteers
  • Family Tree Profiles
  • Photos - member submitted, gravestone, historical, and yearbook
  • Public Records - US and Canada