USA

This is a page of resources I’ve found helpful for genealogical research in the USA.

I’m primarily a Canadian-based researcher, but here are the links I’ve found helpful for the families I’ve researched, because we all know our ancestors travelled across fluid borders. Of particular interest to me are the states bordering Canada: Washington, Montana, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, New York, Vermont, and Maine. And California, because that’s the other main entry point for the Chinese in North America (besides Vancouver / Victoria). Oh, and Nevada, because marriage.

NATIONAL

Find a Grave, and

Interment.net

Cemetery records are invaluable – for me, the first place to look when searching for long lost ancestors are cemeteries and death certificates. Start with Find a Grave, then go to Interment.net, even if Find a Grave locates your person. Also, I find that sometimes, a specific search for a name on the landing page might come up with no good results, while a more general search for a location might uncover the person you’re looking for… or their relatives. Remember too, that families are often buried together, so searching nearby is a good practice.

After I spent a weekend locating long lost ancestors in far-flung places, I joined the volunteer community at Find a Grave in February, 2018. It feels great to be able to assist someone else’s genealogical research this way.

International Classification of Diseases (ICD)

Thanks to a conversation on the Facebook Group Genealogy Squad, I learned there’s a secret code on death certificates. Your eyes, like mine, might have glossed over them, and if you’re thinking what’s a death code? have I got news for you. For a great article on death codes, see Family History’s The “Secret” Codes on Death Certificates That Can Tell You How Your Ancestors Died.

Library of Congress – Historic American Newspapers

As of this writing, there are over 2500 newspapers available from nearly all the American states and territories. Hopefully, the last holdouts will get on board, as this is an incredible resource for genealogists and historians alike. It’s also absolutely free, unlike the more well known newspapers.com.

Niagara Falls Honeymoon & Visitor Register

Did your family vacation at Niagara Falls for their honeymoon?

For the years 1949-2011, Ancestry holds the records of couples who opted to sign the Niagara Fall register as honeymooners, and they helpfully provided their last names, addresses, and dates of marriage. Niagara Falls attracts couples from all over the world, but especially North America, so try a few of your names and see what pops up.

NOTE: This is a link that goes to the Ancestry file. You will need to have access to Ancestry, either with an account, or perhaps at your local library. If you’re at the library, you are looking for the Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, Honeymoon and Visitor Registers, 1949-2011. Double check that you’re searching this particular file, because Ancestry has a habit of defaulting to the general SEARCH.

Randy Majors Research Hub – Genealogy search tools

Not only for Canada, Randy has developed searching tools that are wonderfully suited to the genealogist. He’s refined Google to develop AncestorSearch, which is like Google but returns far more refined results for people. I tried it with my known ancestor, and then again with me, and was pleased to see what came up. He’s also got a nifty tool called Historical US Counties that shows changing borders and boundaries in the USA by date, so for example when your ancestor kept crossing the border from Saskatchewan to North Dakota, you can see when Dakota was the Dakota Territory (1870) and when it was broken into counties (1880). HUGELY helpful for those of us who don’t know our American history. Randy’s got more – go and play. Aside from being helpful, it’s fun.

US Ports of Arrival and their Available Passenger Lists 1820-1957

From Joe Beine comes this exhaustive list of links and resources, which breaks down available passengers lists by state. Why is this useful for a Canadian-based researcher? Because our ancestors found the borders a lot more fluid than we do today. One of the family lines I dug into this year had family members in south Saskatchewan, North Dakota, and Washington state, i.e., the states bordering Canada. This page is sorted by state, and there are 50 states, so a lot to explore here.

NOTE: For some reason, the direct link to the page won’t work, so go to the site and scroll down to the Passenger Lists and Immigration Records / US Ports of Arrival & Their Available Immigration Records 1820-1957

STATE BY STATE

California

Search our free database – Southern California Genealogical Society and Family Research Library

A small collection of links but has a soundex option.

Minnesota

Iron Range Research Center

From the Minnesota Discovery Center comes this searchable index of records for the Taconite tax relief area. The records are for fee, but the index is free to search.

Minnesota Reflections

Over 54K digital materials. Look for maps, photos, documents.

Nevada

Clark County Clerk’s Office (Las Vegas Marriages)

Did your ancestor run away to Las Vegas to get married? Find them here in the lookup. I ran a bunch of tests and am blown away at the results. Free to search, but if you find a hit, you’ll have to order the record. HINTS: Leave the dates wide open and try a last name, first initial. You can download the results to a “.csv” file for further analysis.

Washoe County Recorder’s Office (Reno Marriages)

Did your ancestor marry in Reno? Here’s the lookup from Reno, but be aware that results are only available from 1 Jan 1965. (Which is contrary to everything I’m used to in Canada, with marriages for the living being behind big walls of privacy.)

North Dakota

BMD

Cass County, N.D. Divorce and Civil Cases Index – North Dakota State University

A list of over 3300 files from 1870s to 1942.

Cass County, N.D. Marriage License Index – North Dakota State University

A list of over 15K files from 1870s to 1940s.

Cass County, N.D. Probate Records Index – North Dakota State University

A list of over 5900 files from 1875 to 1949.

Maps

1920 map of the Great Northern Railway Line – Washington State University

The GNR served Washington, Montana, and North Dakota, as well as reaching into Oregon, Wyoming, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Canadians travelled the GNR, crossing at various points from Sumas, Grand Forks, and Gateway in BC; Sweetgrass, Montana; Northgate, ND; and Bannerman, MB. It’s pretty useful to have a visual.

Randy Majors Research Hub – Genealogy search tools

Not only for Canada, Randy has developed searching tools that are wonderfully suited to the genealogist. He’s refined Google to develop AncestorSearch, which is like Google but returns far more refined results for people. I tried it with my known ancestor, and then again with me, and was pleased to see what came up. He’s also got a nifty tool called Historical US Counties that shows changing borders and boundaries in the USA by date, so for example when your ancestor kept crossing the border from Saskatchewan to North Dakota, you can see when Dakota was the Dakota Territory (1870) and when it was broken into counties (1880). HUGELY helpful for those of us who don’t know our American history. Randy’s got more – go and play. Aside from being helpful, it’s fun.

General Genealogy

Genealogy and biography – North Dakota State University

A wealth of links – awarded Best State Website by Family Tree Magazine in 2015.

Washington

1920 map of the Great Northern Railway Line – Washington State University

The GNR served Washington, Montana, and North Dakota, as well as reaching into Oregon, Wyoming, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Canadians travelled the GNR, crossing at various points from Sumas, Grand Forks, and Gateway in BC; Sweetgrass, Montana; Northgate, ND; and Bannerman, MB. It’s pretty useful to have a visual.

Seattle Public Library – Special Collections Online

Newpapers, photos, and more, digitized, searchable and free. Of special interest to the genealogist are the Seattle City Directories.

University of Washington Digital Collections – Photos

Free resources for the history of Seattle and the Pacific Northwest, including Western Canada.