List of Specific Databases and Indexes
| General References and Guides
This article is part of a series.
|Introduction to the General References and Guides|
|Overview of Databases and Indexes|
|Database and Index Types|
|List of Specific Databases and Indexes|
|List of Useful Finding Aid References|
The following list of specific databases and indexes is organized alphabetically. Some groups of small, related databases or indexes are grouped together by subject.
- 1 American Biographical Index
- 2 American Genealogical-Biographical Index (AGBI) (Rider’s Index)
- 3 Ancestral File
- 4 Ancestry World Tree
- 5 Pedigree Archives
- 6 Biography and Genealogy Master Index (BGMI)
- 7 Census Indexes
- 8 Civil War Indexes
- 9 Family Group Records Collection
- 10 Genealogical Periodical Annual Index (GPAI)
- 11 Genealogical Research Directory
- 12 GeneaNet
- 13 GenServ
- 14 Global Tree
- 15 Greenlaw Index
- 16 Immigration Indexes
- 17 Index to Genealogical Periodicals (Jacobus’ Index)
- 18 Individual Periodical Indexes
- 19 International Genealogical Index (IGI)
- 20 Munsell Index
- 21 New England Marriages to 1700
- 22 Old Surname Index
- 23 OneGreatFamily
- 24 OneWorldTree
- 25 Other Name Indexes
- 26 Pedigree Resource File
- 27 Periodical Source Index (PERSI)
- 28 Revolutionary War Index
- 29 Statewide Indexes to Genealogical Periodicals
- 30 U.S. Social Security Death Index
- 31 Vital Records Index (VRI)
- 32 World Family Tree
- 33 References
- 34 External Links
American Biographical Index
One important index to biographical information in local histories is the American Biographical Index (ABI). Part one is an index of approximately 300,000 biographies from more than 600 volumes for local and national leaders in the United States and Canada. The six-volume index identifies every subject, including dates of birth and death and occupation. The 368 sources used for this collection were published between 1702 and 1956, but fully ninety-two percent of the titles were published before 1920; fifty-five percent of them were published before 1900. Relatively few were published in the early years of this range. In fact, half of the indexed titles were published between 1880 and 1909. Virtually all of the subjects were born in the nineteenth century. A second part, of comparable size, primarily covers more recent persons.
The selection of sources in ABI is quite broad, geographically and by scope. The set complements the Biography and Genealogy Master Index (BGMI), described later in this section, very well because many state and regional sources were used, thus identifying thousands of obscure persons of only local importance. Approximately two-thirds of the sources in ABI are not indexed in the BGMI. Even fewer are indexed in the Library of Congress Index to Local History Biographies (described later in this chapter). It appears that less than ten percent of the individuals included have more than one entry. Therefore, approximately 275,000 distinct individuals are cited in part one alone. The geographic coverage is also very broad. Virtually every state is represented by at least one title, several by two or more.
The index is actually a tool to access the same company’s American Biographical Archives, which is a microfiche collection of the indexed biographical sketches. Many major research libraries have the microfiche collection, but the index fully references the original publication, so access to the microfiche is not needed. The same company has also created biographical archives and indexes for many areas of the world. The index to the entire collection is termed World Biographical Index.
American Genealogical-Biographical Index (AGBI) (Rider’s Index)
The largest and most comprehensive index to published, book-length family histories is Fremont Rider’s American Genealogical-Biographical Index (AGBI). This work is also known as Rider’s Index. It contains references to more than 4 million individuals, primarily in family histories.
The AGBI is an extensive personal-name index that excludes only persons mentioned incidentally or those unrelated to the subjects being indexed, such as witnesses and authors. The primary emphasis is on family genealogies published before 1950, but other valuable genealogical collections are included, such as the Boston Transcript (a genealogical column with a wide circulation), the complete United States 1790 census, and published revolutionary war records from most of the colonies.
Each entry contains the subject’s complete name, year and state of birth (if known), abbreviated biographical data, and the book and page citation. Every volume contains an explanation of the index. Full bibliographical citations for the sources indexed are in volumes 1, 10, 34, and 54; a supplement is in volume 70. More than 850 sources are indexed. Printed volumes of this index are available at major genealogical libraries, as well as public and university libraries with large genealogy collections. The index is available online at Ancestry.com, and was also published on CD-ROM by Ancestry in 1999.
Ancestral File, part of FamilySearch.org (sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS)), is a lineage-linked database that contains significant genealogical information on more than 35 million persons. First released in 1989, Ancestral File offered genealogists a way to share their findings about their ancestors with others. The initial data in the file came from nearly 200,000 family group records submitted by LDS church members. Most of these records were microfilmed; the submission code is listed with the submitter’s name, helping the user determine the sources of the information. Millions of subsequent entries have been contributed by thousands of genealogists from throughout the world, both members of the LDS church and others.
Ancestral File was an attempt to create a merged file, which would constantly improve as researchers corrected previously submitted, incorrect information. However, the ease of the correct and merge functions, along with the lack of genealogical experience of many users led to many records being linked to incorrect relatives, and accurate data being replaced by out-dated, less accurate information. By 2001, the sponsors decided not to accept any more additions or corrections to Ancestral File, making it a closed file. Much of the data is still quite good and it provides, like any other collection of electronic family trees, clues for researchers to verify in other records.
Ancestry World Tree
Part of Ancestry.com, the Ancestry World Tree collection of family trees, with about 400 million names, is the largest such collection on the Internet (see figure 2-2). Over 300,000 separate databases mean that the same person may appear several times, often with different information. It also includes the names from the RootsWeb WorldConnect Project, where this same data can be accessed. Both sites have excellent search engines.
The files were all contributed by Ancestry.com subscribers and visitors. There is no cost to submit a file, or to search and download the information. The quality of the information will vary from database to database. Some include sources, but most do not. A few do not permit downloading of the submitted GEDCOM file.
MyTrees/Kindred Konnections <www.MyTrees.com> claims to include more than 150 million names in their Pedigree Archives collection of electronic trees. Using the index to the collection is free, but viewing or downloading the actual trees requires a subscription. However, researchers can earn limited free access by submitting a new electronic family tree, or participating in the various record extraction projects that the company operates.
Biography and Genealogy Master Index (BGMI)
At least 3,000 nationwide collective biography volumes exist and have been indexed by Mirana C. Herbert and Barbara McNeil in the Biography and Genealogy Master Index (BGMI). It is an ongoing indexing project; a five-volume index first appeared in 1980. Supplemental volumes have been issued every year, with accumulations occurring every fifth year (1985, 1990, 1995, 2000, and 2005). Each cumulative set and supplementary volume contain one alphabetical sequence. The index gives the name ofthe subject of the biographical sketch, years of birth and death (if known), and an abbreviation for the source of the sketch. It is an invaluable tool for locating more than 13 million references to notable people. It concentrates heavily on the twentieth and late nineteenth centuries and includes many living people, making it valuable for locating distant cousins. However, significant numbers of early Americans are also included. The BGMI is also available online in many academic and large public libraries, and at Ancestry.com.
The 1790 census is included in the American Genealogical-Biographical Index discussed earlier. Also, Century of Population Growth 1790–1900 includes a table of names from the 1790 census, grouped by similar spellings, showing in which states each name appears; it thus serves as a quasi-index for 1790. Some Family History Centers still have the 1984 microfiche of the census indexes from Accelerated Indexing Systems (AIS). This includes all U.S. federal census indexes for 1850 and earlier, but few for later years. The AIS index is divided into nine searches. Searches one through four cover the entire United States for, respectively, 1607 to 1819, 1820 to 1829, 1830 to 1839, and 1840 to 1849 (a few state and colonial lists are also indexed). Search 7a covers the 1850 census into one alphabet.
Two competing, commercial companies have posted census indexes on their subscription Internet sites with powerful search engines. Searches can be nationwide, or can be restricted to a state or county. Some permit Soundex searches, while others permit searches by age or birthplace of the person indexed. Each company, Ancestry.com and Heritage Quest Online, has also posted images of each census at their site. Because of the ever-evolving nature of Internet resources, a specific summary here of their differences would quickly be out of date.
It should be noted, however, that competition has produced improvements in census indexes. Both companies have also produced their census indexes on CD-ROM.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sponsor of the Family History Library, has also completed its long-term project to transcribe the significant information from the 1880 U.S., and 1881 British and Canadian census records. These abstracts include the name of every person in the census, with their age, birthplace, occupation, and family relationships. The powerful search engine allows researchers to search almost any field at almost any geographic level. All of this information is available at FamilySearch.org.
Since censuses remain one of the most popular genealogical sources on the Internet, continued improvements to indexes can be expected.
Civil War Indexes
Statewide indexes exist for those who served from specific states in the Civil War (both Union and Confederate), but the major indexes are in the National Archives or gen-ealogical libraries that have purchased microfilm copies. The three-by-five-inch card index to Civil War pension applications is the largest single index for this war: General Index to Pension Files 1861–1934 is available at many major genealogical libraries. It covers only those who served the Union cause, or former Confederate soldiers who changed sides. Most of these cards have been indexed by Ancestry.com, where researchers can search the electronic index, and then view an image of the cards for more information, such as pension file numbers. Other indexes to Civil War soldiers are also available at Ancestry.com.
Compiled service records have also been indexed for every known soldier—not only those who applied for pensions. However, they are arranged by state. A consolidated, nationwide index of service in the also Civil War exists. Called the Civil War Soldier’s System, it contains the names taken from 5.2 million General Index cards. Sponsored by the National Parks Service, and aided by the Genealogical Society of Utah, the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS), and other organizations, the project can be searched at the National Parks Service website.
Family Group Records Collection
The Family Group Records Collection is a manual, lineage-linked database. It is a microfilm collection of family group sheets submitted by members of the LDS church from 1924 to 1978. The almost 10 million family group sheets represent approximately 40 million people, living and deceased. Many of these names also appear in the IGI or in the Ancestral File. The collection is divided into sections.
The Patron Section
The patron section includes 2 million sheets submitted from 1962 to 1978 for people born since about 1850 (the last four or five generations). It includes many duplicate family sheets submitted by different genealogists who descended from the same families. Comparing all of the different versions will reveal names and addresses of potential cousins who share the same ancestors; references to family Bibles, letters, and diaries in the possession of living family members and personal accounts written by family members now deceased; clues to family naming patterns, spelling variants of surnames, migrational routes, and places of residence for family members; and exact dates of birth and death known only by the families. Variations of family traditions can also be discerned in these sheets. Most of the sheets in the patron section pertain to the immediate ancestry of American LDS families.
The Main Section
The main section includes approximately 8 million sheets, most of them for deceased persons born before 1870. These sheets were submitted between 1942 and 1969. While documentation was called for on the sheets, the documentation cited is often limited. Often, “family records” was indicated if the information was based on personal records or knowledge. Sheets based on research usually rely on printed family and local histories and parish registers. Some of these family group sheets are the products of professional research by the former Research Department of the Family History Library.
Asterisks (*) mark cross references to show if other group sheets exist (or once existed) for a person as a member of another family. For example, an asterisk on a parent’s name might indicate that a sheet showing him or her as a child is or was available. This feature makes the Family Group Records Collection a manual, lineage-linked database.
Though these family group sheets were submitted by members of the LDS church, they document families from which any researcher may have descended. The names and addresses of those who submitted the sheets are also recorded on them, though this contact information is likely to be outdated.
Both sections file the group sheets in strict alphabetical order by the name of the husband of each family, and chronologically by date where there are two or more sheets showing husbands with the same names. There is limited duplication between the two sections. The original group sheets for both sections are available on microfilm at the Family History Library and its Family History Centers. Microfilm numbers are listed in the Family History Library Catalog under the title “Family Group Records Collection.”
The Family Groups Record Collection is an alphabetized, compiled source, making it a manual database—not an index. The information in it is only as accurate as the care used in compiling the records. Some family group sheets are known to have errors, especially those for colonial American lines going into England and Europe. Sources are usually given at the bottom of group sheets; however, a careful analysis of the data will show that not all entries came from the sources listed.
Family Tree Maker User Pages
The most popular genealogy software of the 1980s and 1990s was Family Tree Maker and the company invited their software users to establish free personal genealogy websites, called “user pages” at the company site. Many responded by posting their own Family Tree Maker data on such sites. Access to the various sites is free for both researchers and the software users. However, it is not possible to download the electronic trees into a software program. Researchers can contact the users to request a GEDCOM copy of the file.
The best way to search these pages, now at Genealogy.com, is to use the company’s “Internet Family Finder” to search for a name. This makes the search routine somewhat basic, and does not allow significant advanced searching functions. This program has not been promoted much in past years, so most of the files seem fairly static, with few new files being established. It is difficult to determine the current size of this collection of trees. Earlier statements claimed at least 12 million names, and at least 150,000 files.
Genealogical Periodical Annual Index (GPAI)
Since 1962, the Genealogical Periodical Annual Index (GPAI) has been a boon to genealogists. Several editors have accepted the task of producing it over the years. This index is in virtually every genealogy library. It is not cumulative from year to year, so each year must be searched separately. It is not an every-name index and includes a personal name only when the individual is the subject of an article. Book reviews and other articles, such as those concerning research methodology, are also indexed. Approximately 300, or roughly one-half, of the genealogical periodicals currently available—specifically, those periodicals that are provided to the indexers at no charge—are indexed. While most major periodicals are included, many small, local periodicals are not. The most recent edition covers periodicals published in 2001.
Genealogical Research Directory
An annual query book published since 1981, each issue of the Genealogical Research Directory contains approximately 100,000 new entries from all over the world. Edited by Keith A. Johnson and Malcolm R. Sainty, this source is available at most major genealogical libraries, although most of the purchasers are individual researchers. Any researcher may pay a small fee to list the individuals being sought. (Purchase of the book is not required for a listing.) Its worldwide scope makes it especially useful for finding researchers in other countries who are interested in the same family. Back issues usually remain in print for from three to five years. Similar books exist specifically for England, Germany, and for some other countries.
An eclectic, private and free website, the GeneaNet site claims to have access to over 80 million entries, most of which appear to be electronic family trees. Most of the indexed material is apparently not housed at the site, meaning that it helps provide access to material scattered throughout the Internet.
One of the oldest collections of electronic family trees on the Internet, GenServ focuses on attracting many “mom and pop databases” which allows them to claim they have information not found elsewhere on the Web. They do charge a fee, primarily to cover the cost of the server. A smaller, low-budget operation, the search engine is adequate to access the approximately 30 million names on the site.
A relative newcomer to the collections of electronic family trees is GenCircles, a collection begun in 2000. Their Global Tree includes millions of names submitted by users, at no cost. The search engine is fairly robust and includes unique matching software that finds persons in other databases who are apparently the same as the current query.
An index similar to the Old Surname Index (described below) is The Greenlaw Index of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, compiled by William Prescott Greenlaw. Greenlaw was the librarian of the New England Historic Genealogical Society from 1894 to 1929. The citations refer only to works carrying a family through three or more generations in books published from 1900 to 1940. The more than 35,000 entries are arranged alphabetically by surname and given names on three-by-five-inch cards reproduced in two large volumes. The citations also include the ancestor, residence, time period, and source. This index is similar in size and scope to the Munsell Index.
Since 1983, the Center for Immigration Research at the Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies in Philadelphia has been publishing transcripts of nineteenth century passenger lists by ethnic group. Groups include Irish, German, Italians and Russians. Each volume has its own complete every-name index. A master index to these transcripts is indirectly available through Genealogy.com as part of their Immigration subscription. Most of these volumes have been published on CD-ROM as well, permitting indexed searches through that medium as well. In addition, others have extracted and published the data from the earliest years of these arrival records and, as of 2006, all extant passenger lists through 1850 (and some later) are available on CD-ROM, with their attendant indexes. For more information on the publication of immigration records, and their indexes, see chapter 14, “Immigration Sources,” in Printed Sources.
Another 20 million or more names of immigrants are indexed through the database of Ellis Island arrivals. Covering arrivals at the New York port of arrival from 1892 into the 1920s, these abstracts of the passenger lists can be searched by any of several versions of the immigrant’s name. The search can be further restricted by timeframe, even down to the name of a specific ship. The original passenger manifests were difficult for the volunteer extractors to read, and many of the foreign names were difficult to read, so creative search techniques and spelling variations will improve the researcher’s chances of finding the right family. Available at EllisIsland.org, the electronic database is also linked to images of the actual arrival lists. Ancestry.com also has indexes of passenger lists for several ports, including New York, from 1851 to 1891.
Index to Genealogical Periodicals (Jacobus’ Index)
One of the foremost modern genealogists, Donald Lines Jacobus, saw the need to access the information hidden in periodicals. He published three volumes (1932 to 1953) as a partial index to major genealogical periodicals. A 1983 edition combines the seven separate indexes of the three original volumes into two: name and place. The index includes approximately 20,000 references to people, places, and records appearing in periodicals from 1870 to 1952, by surname, given name, and locality. However, Jacobus did not index periodicals that had their own comprehensive indexes, and he only indexed articles by their main subjects; therefore, his work is not an every-name index (for example, the family record of the Wilsons of Newport is indexed as: Wilson; Family Record, Newport). No individuals are specified. Jacobus’ intrItalic textoductions in each volume are invaluable for understanding the scope of the index.
Individual Periodical Indexes
The publishers of many long-lived genealogical periodicals have created, or permitted others to create, comprehensive, cumulative indexes for their own magazines. While most publish annual indexes, those with cumulative indexes are more helpful to the genealogist. Some of these indexes were created as part of a project to publish back issues of the journal on CD-ROM, or even the Internet. A partial list of such periodicals and the volumes covered in each cumulative index follows. Because many indexes are being digitized and placed on the Internet, it’s a good idea to visit the Web pages of the organizations to check the status of publications.
- The American Genealogist, vols. 1–60 (subject index).
- Daughters of the American Revolution Magazine, vols. 1–84, then every five years to vol. 104 (“Genealogy Index”).
- Detroit Society for Genealogical Research Magazine, vols. 1–10, then every five years to vol. 30.
- Genealogical Journal, vols. 1–16 (subject index).
- Mayflower Descendant, vols. 1–34 (“Index of Persons”).
- National Genealogical Society Quarterly, vols. 1–50 (topical indexes).
- New England Historical and Genealogical Register Index of Persons, vols. 1–50, 51–148. The Society has published a CD-ROM version of their journal, through 1994, with consolidated index.
- New Jersey Genealogical Magazine, vols. 1–30, 31–40, 41–50.
- New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, vols. 1–110. An every-name index was published on CD-ROM in 2003.
- Notes and Queries Relating to Pennsylvania, 7 vols. 1st–4th series. See Eva D. Schory’s Every Name Index to Egle’s Notes and Queries.
- South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine, vols. 1–40, 41–71.
- Virginia Genealogist, vols. 1–20.
International Genealogical Index (IGI)
The International Genealogical Index (IGI), begun in 1970 by the LDS church, is an international personal-name database (though it is called an index) of birth, christening, and marriage information about persons now deceased. As of 2006, this database included more than 400 million entries.
Although it is one of the most used sources, the IGI is often misunderstood, or its advantages not fully utilized. Almost every one knows that the IGI is a mammoth database of births and marriages, that it covers dozens of countries, and that it is available online at FamilySearch.org and at thousands of Family History Centers.
In its most simple definition, the IGI is, indeed, a world-wide database of birth and marriage information.
Always maintained as a computerized file of genealogical information (indeed, its original name was the Computer File Index), the database was first published on microfiche. As such, it was distributed to the hundreds of Family History Centers supported by the LDS church, and was available for purchase, and therefore found in some genealogical libraries. With the launch of FamilySearch.org in May 1999, the IGI was the major database at that site, making it readily available for individuals around the world.
On the Internet, the divisions of the IGI can be searched collectively or individually. Searchers fill out portions of a “family tree” with as much information as they desire. The results list returns entries matching only what was queried.
Therefore, as with most databases, include just enough information on the search screen to provide a list of matches which is not overwhelming, but also will not overlook possible matches. Typically this is just the person’s first and last name. For common names, include the year of birth or marriage.
Recently, improvements to the online IGI increased the amount of information displayed for many entries, including siblings in some situations. While these changes improve its use, they do not significantly change the nature of the database. Now that updates are happening almost daily, there will be more names to search, making the IGI a tool of growing importance.
The Origins of Names in the IGI
Where did all the names in the IGI come from? Primarily the names come from two sources: individual submissions by researchers and extracts from original records. It is estimated that perhaps a little more than half of the names came from extracts of original records. It is precisely these extracts from parish and other records that are of particular interest to the family historian.
The IGI was not designed originally as a genealogical research tool. Therefore, it does not provide some of the features researchers have come to expect from such tools. For example, it does not claim to have included every name in the sources it derives data from. It also does not always fully identify the sources, or the contributors, of the information it contains.
While it is important to know, where possible, the source of the data in the IGI, the information is still useful, even without knowing the source. The data is, at least, a statement about a person’s birth or marriage, in a specific place. Usually that place is a town or parish. As such, these statements are subject to genealogical verification, using standard research techniques.
The key to understanding the source of an IGI entry is the batch number, or film number, provided with most entries. Batch numbers which are all digits (such as 7324512), as well as those beginning with an A-, F- or T- were submitted by researchers, typically members of the LDS Church. Entries beginning with most other letters, commonly C- or M-, come from various extraction (indexing) programs. When you encounter an extraction batch number, you know that the information was taken directly from an original record (discussed in the next section).
Film numbers are also available for most entries in the IGI, and the source of that entry is on that microfilm. However, without understanding the batch number, finding an entry on that film may be difficult. For extraction projects, the batch may only be a portion of the records on the film. Within that portion, the records are often chronological. For patron submissions, the batch number often acts as a kind of page number to identify where on the film the entry is found. Submissions after the early 1990s primarily come from patron submissions, and the film only includes a computer printout of the information in the IGI. No source or submitter’s name is provided.
A few of the entries are not birth or marriage records. Virtually all of these are patron-submitted entries, and may come from a variety of sources, including census records, wills, cemeteries, death records, and similar sources. If an age is provided in the record, the entry is described as a birth, although it was not based on an actual record of birth or baptism. Where there is no indication of a birth year, the death date is used, and, although flagged as such, the database treats that date like a birth date for indexing purposes.
Extraction (Indexing) Programs
From the early 1960s to the early 1990s, the LDS Church added millions of names to the IGI that were taken from a series of “extraction” programs administered by the Church. Begun originally by paid staff, the program focused first on extracting birth and marriage information from English parish registers. Soon, Scottish parishes, and various U.S. records were added to the program.
In the early 1970s, the processes had been worked out well enough that the Church began using volunteers. They extracted the data and prepared it for data entry in to a mainframe computer. Volunteers were primarily members of the Church. They typically would go to an extraction site housed in a church building (often the same building with the local Family History Center), receive some training, and then work their way through the handwriting of the parishes. Non-English records were soon added, including German, Scandinavian, and Mexican records.
The extracted records were drawn from the collections of the Family History Library; those outside of the United States were primarily church (parish) registers. Thus, entries in the IGI that trace back to extraction batches can be reviewed in the original record on microfilm. In the United States government vital records, as well as church registers, were used where they were available and fit the criteria.
Obviously there are limitations to such a program. The extractors were volunteers and as such, some excelled while others did not. For some, the reading of old handwriting came easily, while others struggled. Of course mistakes were made, but they are relatively rare, perhaps due to the devotion of those who agreed to volunteer.
With the advent of personal computers, the LDS church extraction program became home-based in the late 1980s. Volunteers received paper printouts of the microfilmed records, and entered the key information into a template on their home computer.
One significant concept is that of “key information.” Although called an extraction project, it was never designed to “extract” all of the information from a record. For example, parish register extractions do not include the names of godparents (witnesses or sponsors), or the age or occupation of the parents, even when it is given in the record. Therefore, it is best to think of these as “abstracted” records, and use the IGI as a database which points to sources that will have additional information. The information should be sufficient for you to decide if the person(s) you find are of interest to your research.
Joel Munsell’s Index to American Genealogies is a surname index to major American genealogical periodical titles, genealogies, and selected local histories. The reprint edition includes the Supplement, 1900 to 1908.
New England Marriages to 1700
Torrey’s New England Marriages to 1700 is a manual database that was created by Clarence A. Torrey, an accomplished genealogist. He spent much of his lifetime searching every genealogy of New England families published prior to the 1950s for evidence of marriages that took place before 1700. The result is this list of 74,000 New England adults of the seventeenth century. It probably identifies more than ninety-five percent of the marriages for that place and time. Although appearing as a set of marriage records (or evidences), this database serves to alert the researcher that a published genealogy exists for an ancestor. It includes almost every couple from more than 2,000 published New England genealogies.
Torrey’s New England Marriages serves as an index to his files; however, the source of the information is not given in the book index. Rather, the researcher must search Torrey’s handwritten notes, which are arranged on seven rolls of microfilm alphabetically by the groom’s name. The original notes are at the library of the New England Historic Genealogical Society; microfilm copies of Torrey’s files are available from that society or the Family History Library. The notes include cryptic, abbreviated references to published genealogies. Torrey made no attempt to evaluate the information in the genealogies; hence, the index, and his notes, may contain conflicting information. The researcher must determine which, if any, of the sources are correct.
After many years of work, Torrey’s notes were also transcribed and published with the index on CD-ROM by the society. This makes accessing the sources of his findings even easier. Three supplements to Torrey’s index were created by Melinde Lutz Sanborn and published by the Genealogical Publishing Company of Baltimore in 1991, 1995, and 2003.
Old Surname Index
From its early years, the Family History Library, like many genealogical libraries, indexed articles, genealogies, and family histories in periodicals as well as books. By around 1964, however, it was no longer feasible to analyze the articles and chapters in the new books the library was receiving, and this indexing project was ended. The original index cards, now available only on microfilm, were arranged alphabetically by surname. Approximately 100,000 cards were created, most of which apply to early American and English families. Each card includes the surname and sometimes the given name, the source and page number where the article was found, and an old library call number. Use the library catalog where you research to determine if the indicated source is available. Each source is available at the Family History Library, and most should be available through the library’s Family History Centers.
An attempt to create a collection of family trees that incorporates the best of both merged files (like Ancestral File) and unmerged collections spurred the development of OneGreatFamily. The unique approach has attracted some 70 million names from 200,000 users in this collaborative file. The sophisticated software program compares the researcher’s family tree to others which have been submitted by other subscribers. Where it finds possible connections with other users that suggest pedigree additions, it shows them to the researcher, who can then opt to accept those additions to his or her tree or not. It does not change any other family tree, just the researcher’s tree. Thus, it has fewer duplicate trees and names than other collections, since it requires interaction with the researcher. Viewing the index is free, but the matching software program requires an annual fee.
OneWorldTree is just one of the online family tree offerings from Ancestry.com. Its unique search tool looks through the thousands of user-contributed trees in the Ancestry World Tree collection and RootsWeb WorldConnect project and combines probable matches into one search result that is linked to all sources. OneWorldTree allows users to edit the information they find. The change will affect the researcher’s tree, but also acts as a “vote” for what information will be displayed in the community tree. If you do not have an Ancestry.com subscription, you can view search results that include an individual’s name and locations for birth, marriage, and death, but you will not be able to see the entire tree.
You can also use OneWorldTree to create your own family tree online. Building the tree is free, but you must be a registered user. As you add individuals to your tree, OneWorldTree will search its databases for other trees that seem to match yours and alert you when it finds them. If you find records in Ancestry.com databases for family members in your tree, you can link these records directly to an individual.
Other Name Indexes
There are several other indexes and lists of indexes that can be a boon to the genealogist. A sampling follows:
Anita Cheek Milner, Newspaper Indexes, 3 vols. (Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1977–82), indicates where newspaper indexes are located and their scope. It is arranged by state and subdivided by city or county. See also Milner’s “Newspaper Indexes,” Genealogical Journal, 8 (Dec. 1979), 185, and chapter 12, “Newspapers,” in this book.
Ronald V. Jackson, Jr., Early American Series (Salt Lake City: Accelerated Indexing Systems, 1981–84) is a set of personal-name indexes in book form, much like the company’s well-known census indexes. These indexes are statewide and typically cover the colonial and early periods. Tax lists, state censuses, and passenger lists are included in the indexes. Unfortunately, the books do not identify the sources of the data very well, so the information can be cryptic and difficult for less experienced researchers to deal with. Many of these books are available at large genealogy libraries. Electronic versions of these indexes are available at Ancestry.com, along with their other census indexes.
Betty M. Jarboe, Obituaries: A Guide to Sources, 2nd ed. (Boston: G. K. Hall, 1989), identifies 3,547 published collections and indexes to death notices and cemetery listings throughout the United States and some foreign countries. An appendix identifies obituary card files in eighteen states.
Pedigree Resource File
In a very real sense, the Pedigree Resource File is a successor to Ancestral File that overcomes the principle problem with that merged file. Operated by the LDS Church and begun in 1998, this collection allows persons to contribute their electronic family trees without fear of them being changed by someone else’s merge or “corrections.” The trees are preserved on CD-ROM for presumed long-term storage and security. The trees are not posted on the Internet, but a database of the information is online at FamilySearch.org. That index does identify spouse or parents, if they are in the same family tree, but does not display family groups or pedigree charts, as do virtually all other such collections.
Periodical Source Index (PERSI)
The Periodical Source Index (PERSI) is an indexing project of the Historical Genealogy Department at the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana. This library has long been known as having one of the best genealogical collections in the United States. The first volume of the index appeared in 1987; it covered periodicals published in the calendar year 1986. Subsequent annual volumes were published. The library has also published a sixteen-volume retrospective PERSI covering periodicals published from 1847 through 1985. The last of its four sections was published in 1995.
Like most major indexes, PERSI is not an every-name index. Rather, it is a subject index; only the subjects of the articles are included. Because families and individuals are often the subjects of articles, many of the citations are for given and family names. PERSI also indexes articles dealing with sources in localities, which are the staple of local periodical publishing. Updates to the index are made regularly, and it currently indexes almost one and a half million articles.
The data in PERSI is filed in five separate parts: U.S. Places, Family Records, Canada Places, Foreign Places, and Research Methodology. Each of these parts includes the same information for the index entries:
- The place or surname covered by the article.
- The type of record (except the Surname section), such as a census or a will.
- Title of the article (often a descriptive title, not always the full title of the article).
- Name of the journal, with volume number, issue number, month, and year. The page number of the article is not provided in the index.
PERSI indexes more periodicals than any other genealogical periodical index—mostly covering the United States, but also including many foreign periodicals from Canada, Germany, England, and other countries. Both historical periodicals and genealogical periodicals are included. Most researchers access PERSI through HeritageQuest Online, a subscription service available through many libraries. The PERSI book volumes are available at most major genealogical libraries. The Allen County Public Library has also published a comprehensive Bibliography of Genealogical and Local History Periodicals With Union List of Major U.S. Collections. This list serves to more fully identify the titles indexed in PERSI and also identifies which of several significant libraries throughout the United States have copies of the periodical. It also includes citations for hundreds of family and surname periodicals not included in the index.
Revolutionary War Index
For each colonial state, there is at least one volume (often more) identifying its citizens who served in the Revolutionary War. Many of those volumes are indexed in the American Genealogical Biographical Index discussed previously. Many of those books are also now available online at various websites. There are, however, three nationwide indexes of note: The Index of Revolutionary War Pension Applications in the National Archives is an alphabetical index of all those who applied for a pension or who received bounty land based on Revolutionary War service (some see references are included). The index thus includes only those soldiers and sailors who lived until pension laws went into effect and widows who could prove their husbands’ revolutionary war service—approximately 80,000 names. The index is available in most genealogical libraries. The original pension files are in the National Archives. The Family History Library and many other repositories have microfilm copies.
In 1991 and 1992, Virgil White published Genealogical Abstracts of Revolutionary War Pension Files in four volumes, providing indexed abstracts for each of these files.
The Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Patriot Index Centennial Edition is a list of more than 125,000 people who aided the cause of the American Revolution with one descendant or more who joined the DAR by 1990. In most cases, lineage papers are available showing some documentation for the patriot and family. An updated, combined index is being prepared by the society. The Index of Rolls of Honor in the Lineage Books may also help identify a patriot ancestor. See appendix D, “Heredity and Lineage Organizations,” for more information on lineage societies.
Statewide Indexes to Genealogical Periodicals
The following indexes provide subject coverage for many periodicals within the state indicated.
- The Connecticut Periodical Index and a collection of more than 200 periodicals are at The Pequot Library, 720 Pequot Ave., Southport, Conn. 06490.
- Bell, Carol Willsey. Ohio Genealogical Periodical Index: A County Guide. 4th ed. Youngstown, Ohio: C. W. Bell, 1983.
- Buckway, G. Eileen. Index to Texas Periodicals. Salt Lake City: Family History Library, 1987.
- Finnell, Arthur Louis. Minnesota Genealogical Periodical Index. Marshall, Minn.: Finnell Richter and Assoc., 1980.
- Grover, Robert L. Missouri Genealogical Periodical Index: A County Guide, 1960–1982. Independence: Missouri Territory Pioneers, 1983.
- Quigley, Maud. Index to Family Names in Genealogical Periodicals. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Western Michigan Genealogical Society, 1981.
- ———. Index to Michigan Research Found in Genealogical Periodicals. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Western Michigan Genealogical Society, 1979.
- Swem, Earl Gregg. Virginia Historical Index. 2 vols. in 4, 1934–36. Reprint. Gloucester, Mass.: Peter Smith, 1965.
- Trapp, Glenda K., and Michael L. Cook. Kentucky Genealogical Index. Evansville, Ind.: Cook Publications, 1985.
- University of Arizona Library. The Arizona Index: A Subject Index to Periodicals About the State. 2 microfilms. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1978.
U.S. Social Security Death Index
The federal government is one of the largest creators of records in the United States. Several government agencies have information about persons who have lived in the United States. One of the most important collections of information is kept by the Social Security Administration. Charged with providing Social Security benefits to all eligible citizens, the agency has had to keep track of millions of Americans. While their records of living persons are protected by rights of privacy, records of deceased persons are available. The Social Security Administration has developed a computer database with minimal information about individuals in its files, and the records of deceased individuals in that computerized file have been released as the Social Security Death Index. Several commercial and nonprofit organizations have made these records available online or on CD-ROM.
The Social Security Death Index includes information about more than 70 million people who lived in the United States and had a social security number. Virtually all of the persons in the database died after 1961. There are very few records for persons who died from 1937 to 1961. Government updates are available every quarter year, but some publishers update their versions less frequently.
The information provided by the Social Security Administration includes the name of the individual, the complete birth date (day, month, and year), the month and year of death, the state where the Social Security number was issued, the state and zip code for the person’s last known residence, and where the death benefit was sent (if all of this information was in the file). The person’s residence at the time of death may not appear in the file, especially if the person died before receiving any Social Security benefits or died at a place other than the legal place of residence. Although the data used by different publishers is the same, each presents the data in different ways. Most convert the zip codes into specific places, but some omit the zip code (in favor of the place name) in their output. Others include information about where a death certificate can be obtained. Most publishers allow the information to be printed or downloaded to a diskette in ASCII and/or GEDCOM formats. Many major genealogy Internet sites include versions of this database, and some smaller sites do as well.
Although the Social Security Death Index contains some 70 million names, not all post-1962 deaths are listed. Many persons were not eligible for Social Security death benefits, including federal and state government workers (who had a different retirement program), many self-employed persons (including farmers), young persons, and spouses who did not earn incomes. Other persons are not in the index because their deaths were not reported to the Social Security Administration, they died before the records were computerized, or incorrect information was in the files.
As with every database, the SSDI is not perfect; yet it is the largest of the databases and indexes available for deceased U.S. residents.
Vital Records Index (VRI)
Although the IGI is the largest genealogical database, a similar, smaller, but no less important collection is the Vital Records Index (VRI). Several years ago, the Family History Library stopped adding extracted entries to the IGI, but the extracting continued. Since the year 2000, these records have been released as a series of “resource files” on CD-ROM. Most notable, perhaps, was the 2001 release of the entire 1880 U.S. Federal Census (discussed elsewhere). The VRI files are somewhat smaller in the number of entries, and have been released with less fanfare over the past few years, but they are the results of continuing extraction of birth and marriage records. Two VRI files, those for Scandinavia and Mexico, are also available on the Internet at FamilySearch.org. Eventually other VRI files will be available online as well.
The Western Europe volume of the VRI is a good example of the Vital Records Index. It includes twenty-two CD-ROMs with 9.7 million birth (baptismal) entries and 2.4 million marriage entries from nine major continental European countries. Over half of those entries are for German states, including over one million from Wuerttemberg. Other volumes in the VRI series, released to date, include North America, Australia, Scandinavia, and Middle America—Mexico.
The VRI database can search birth (or christening) records either by the name of the individual or by the parents’ names. For the individual search, you can include many search details, or just a few. The search template allows you to enter the given and surname, the year of birth (with a range of up to five years on either side), and the locality. The default search seeks phonetic variants of both the given and surname, but you can choose to search only the exact spelling. The locality can be the entire region (such as Germany), the state (such as Wuerttemberg), the district (county), or the town (city). You can even include the father and/or mother’s given and/or surname.
Remember, the more details you provide, the smaller the “results list” will be, and it may even exclude the person you are seeking, if the information you entered is not part of the entry.
A researcher can do more with the VRI besides a simple search for individuals. The VRI discs contain a list of every parish included, and any number of them can be assigned in a “collection” to be searched. Thus a researcher can search just certain parishes, such as those in neighboring areas. The listing includes the years covered, microfilm numbers of the original registers, and even the total number of birth and marriage entries extracted from every parish. This helps in evaluating how complete the extraction was. For some parishes, several thousand entries are in the VRI, while others are represented by less than a hundred.
As with any extracted record, researches should be cautious when using the VRI. Most extractions in the field of genealogy are done by volunteers. This can be a special problem when dealing with records in foreign languages, as is the case with most of the regions in the VRI. Some records are faint, poorly written, or in other ways difficult to read.
The best an extractor can do is to write exactly what is in the record, but sometimes the records have mistakes as well. Extraction projects are rarely complete. Sometimes a collection is published before all the parts have been extracted. This is a particular problem with many Internet databases, most notably cemeteries and some vital record collections. With the VRI, some parishes in some countries were extracted years ago and appear in the IGI. Therefore, consider the VRI, in that sense, as a supplement to the IGI.
World Family Tree
The first really large collection of electronic family trees was created by Family Tree Maker. Users of the popular Family Tree Maker software were encouraged to send in their databases to the company where they were published on CD-ROMs, each called a volume of the World Family Tree. By 2004 there were more than 230 million names in the 168 volumes of the company’s CD-ROMs. Users can search the online index for free, but access to the complete data requires either purchasing the CD-ROM, using it at a library or other repository where it can be found, or subscribing to the World Family Tree collection on the Internet. The company’s “Internet Family Finder” is the search engine which identifies which CD-ROMs have the names of interest.
- General Index to Pension Files 1861-1934 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives), microfilm T288, 544 rolls.
Old Fulton Post Cards - http://www.fultonhistory.com/Fulton.html For those with ancestors from New York State, and especially the Central New York area, this website can be a valuable resource. They scanned microfilms of numerous newspapers from around New York State, some dating back to the early 1800's and others as late as the 1980's. As of April 2011, they had over 15 million scanned pages available as PDF files. With its search interface (rudimentary but adequate), one can search for news articles on ones relatives and uncover old obituaries, wedding announcements, or other forms of information that would have been published in a newspaper. Such information can be invaluable, as it often leads to other relatives, discovering maiden names, as well providing accurate dating of births, marriages, deaths, or other events.
Immigrant Ship Transcribers Guide - http://immigrantships.net/newcompass/pcindex.html This site provides databases of passenger lists, ships, and links to other resources associated with the emigration and immigration experience.
Internment.net - http://www.interment.net/ This site provides some cemetery interment information primarily from around the US, although a few records from other countries are also available. The data for the US is organized by State and then by county. As much of the information is provided by volunteers, it is far from complete, but can be valuable none the less.