This guide contains starting places for conducting genealogical research.
Last Updated: Apr 9, 2014
- Ancestry Library
START HERE! This database contains many types of records (census, military, oral histories, legal documents) from the U.S., U.K, Canada, and other countries.
- Genealogical Resources @ Boston National Archives
List of available resources at the National Archives' Waltham location; click the "i" icon to see what is available. Some are searchable online; some are on-site only.
- Genealogy/Personal History Records from National Archives
Search for records including military, census, land claims, bankruptcy, and passport applications.
- Cyndi's List of Genealogy Sites on the Internet
This directory contains both official and unofficial sources of information; use caution when using information from these websites. There is a lot of specific information on how to find records in other countries.
- New York Times Historical Collection (1851-2004)
Search the New York Times from 1851 to 2004. Consider searching by a person's name, or browsing on a certain date.
- Where to Write for Vital Records
Information about every state and U.S. territory's process and policies for obtaining copies of vital records - and links to where more information can be found.
- Family Search - Ancestral File
Includes vital records from other countries. Please click the "i" icon for important information. ALSO: Check out the "Family History Library" links. From Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
- MA Births, Marriages, & Deaths 1841-1910
Search an online database of vital records from the Massachusetts Archives. Be sure to read the instructions.
When searching for records, ask yourself: Who cares? What agency, municipality, or person cares enough about the information you're looking for to keep and organize it? Courts? Historical societies? At the local or national level? This will help you zero in better on a starting point.
Search for multiple spellings of names. Some collections may use the "Soundex" system, which brings together differently spelled names that sound the same. See the National Archives' explanation of Soundex.
If you know which state you need your information from, try consulting this list of state libraries and archives, and seeing what records they have available.
If you have a city or county in mind, try Googling that city or county with the words "archives" or "public records" to find a local agency.
Consult a list of "Repositories of Primary Sources" all over the globe (from the University of Idaho).
The library also owns a reference book called The Genealogist's Address Book, which can help you identify other local and nationality-specific sources.
Have you found a great genealogical source? Submit it here and have it added to the guide.
- Passenger Manifests - Boston 1848-1891
Searchable database of immigrants who arrived in the port of Boston by ship, from the Massachusetts Archives. The collection is in the process of being digitized; contact the Archives if you don't find the name you're looking for.
- Ellis Island - Advanced Passenger Search
Search arrivals from 1892-1924 by many parameters, including ethnicity. You can also search "sounds like" variations of last names. Free registration required to view results.