Genealogy and Local History

Good Starting Points

More genealogy resources, including Ancestry Library Edition and HeritageQuest Online.

  • Beginner's Guides
    Each of these sites provides useful tips for family history research.

  • Comprehensive Sites

  • Preservation

    • Caring for Your Treasures
      Guides to preserving family heirlooms from the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works.

  • Specialized Sites

    • AfriGeneas
      A major site for African American genealogy and history, with links to a large array of resources including chat rooms.
    • Blacksheep Ancestors
      Selected prison, court and asylum records for the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.

    • Ethnic Groups and People
      Cyndi's List provides links to genealogical information on ethnic groups, nationalities, countries, immigration and migration.

    • Find A Grave
      Owned by Ancestry, this site provides information supplied by more than 400,000 contributors on the final resting place for people from around the world.
    • Gallaudet University Archives
      Deaf students from across the nation and around the world attended Gallaudet University in Washington, DC. This site strives to preserve the memory of the nationwide Deaf Community. This searchable collection includes lists of alumni, vital records information from insurance policies, images of The Silent Worker newspaper, and personal and organizational manuscripts.

    • Jewish Resources

      • Consolidated Jewish Surname Index
        Avotaynu, a publisher of books and magazines on Jewish genealogy, presents an index to information on nearly 700,000 surnames that appear in forty-two different databases. Names are indexed by sound rather than spelling.

      • Holocaust Memorial Museum
        Washington, DC's Holocaust Museum includes links to archives and tracing services for Holocaust victims.

      • International Tracing Service
        The archives of the International Tracing Service documents the fate of Holocaust victims.

      • JewishGen
        Databases, mailing lists, discussion groups and more. Be sure to try the Gazetteer, which will help you locate towns in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, even if you don't know the correct spelling.

    • United Kingdom Resources

    • The WorldGenWeb Project
      A growing effort to provide genealogy links for points near and far, with helpful links for region-specific research.

  • Surname Forums and Message Boards

      A free search of message boards by surname, locality or topic.

    • GenForum
      Search message boards by surname, place or topic.

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Genealogy Libraries and Archives

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Local History and Genealogy

More links from the library's list of Local History and Genealogy Websites.

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Primary/Secondary Resources

  • Good Starting Points
  • African American Resources
  • Military Resources
  • Passenger Ship Lists

  • Good Starting Points

    • Chronicling America — Historic American Newspapers
      Search digitized copies of American newspapers from 1836-1922, or use the US Newspaper Directory to find information about American newspapers published from 1690 to the present. Chronicling America is sponsored jointly by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress.

    • National Archives Digitized Records
      A list of records at the National Archives that have been digitized by their commercial partners. Records from's Library Edition database are available on site at all Fairfax County Public Library branches. (These may be different from those available on

    • The Official Land Patents Record Site
      The Bureau of Land Management provides access to millions of Federal land title records for public lands both east and west of the Mississippi River. Includes images of original documents.

    • Online Searchable Death Indexes & Records
      Online death indexes by state and county. Included are death indexes, obituaries, probate indexes as well as cemetery and burial indexes.

    • PERSI, the PERiodical Source Index
      Fill in the Who, Where or What Else? fields at the top of the page to search thousands of genealogy and history magazines. Narrow your results with the filters on the left. This is not a full-text search; instead it searches broad subjects or keywords assigned to each article. With the title and year of the magazine, you can ask for a copy of the article through the Interlibrary Loan service. If you don't live in Fairfax County or the City of Fairfax, ask for the service at your local public library.

    • Social Security Death Index
      Send for a copy of the deceased's social security application, which provides the names of parents and birthplace. Click on "Advanced Search," then choose Database "Social Security Death Index." Enter the person's name in the first name and last name fields (put a check mark in exact search if you are sure of the spelling); do not enter birth or death year in any field. Results list can then be sorted by year.

    • Tombstone Transcription Project
      Prepared by USGenWeb volunteers. Includes a link to their Tombstone Photo Project.

    • US Railroad Retirement Board
      The US Railroad Retirement Board administers a federal retirement benefit program for the nation's railroad workers. The Board will provide information from its records on deceased persons for the purpose of genealogical research. The records begin in 1937, but the site includes links to other information sources about railroad employees.

  • African American Resources

    • Free African Americans of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland and Delaware
      This online version of Paul Heinegg's book includes family histories, colonial period tax list and census data, as well as photographs.

    • Freedmen's Bureau Online
      The Freedmen's Bureau, established in 1865, supervised all relief and educational activities relating to refugees and freedmen. Among the records selected for this site, are lists of residents at refugee camps, marriages, orphans, employment and crimes against residents. Records for Fairfax County and Northern Virginia are listed under "Washington, DC" rather than Virginia.

  • Military Resources (National)

    See also the military resources listed under local area genealogy and history resources.
    • American Battle Monuments Commission
      The commission maintains lists of those interred in American military cemeteries overseas and those Missing in Action from World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam. In addition, information describing commission-administered cemeteries and war memorials worldwide is available.

    • Civil War Soldiers & Sailors System
      This National Park Service database contains information from 6.3 million soldier records from 44 US states and territories. The data was taken from the General Index Cards in the National Archives and Records Administration's Compiled Military Service Records. Navy records will be included in the future, although about 18,000 African American sailors are already cataloged. The site also has information such as regimental histories and links to descriptions of nearly 400 significant battles.

    • Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships
      More than 10,000 ship histories, from the earliest days to Vietnam and beyond. Includes some Coast Guard vessels, revenue cutters and the Confederate Navy.

    • National Personnel Records Center
      The National Personnel Records Center, Military Personnel Records is the repository of millions of military personnel, health and medical records of discharged and deceased veterans of all services during the 20th century.

    • National Registry of Service
      The Library of Congress Veterans' History Project was created to honor our nation's war veterans for their service and to collect their stories and experiences. The project focuses on World War I (1914-1920), World War II (1939-1946) and the Korean (1950-1955), Vietnam (1961-1975) and Persian Gulf (1990-1995) wars, and includes all participants in those wars — men and women, civilian and military.

    • Nationwide Gravesite Locator
      "Search for burial locations of veterans and their family members in national cemeteries, state veterans cemeteries, various other military and Department of Interior cemeteries, and for veterans buried in private cemeteries when the grave is marked with a government grave marker." Burials in private cemeteries include only those from 1997 to the present. From the US Department of Veterans Affairs. Arlington National Cemetery records can be found at the ANC Explorer.

    • Official Records of the War of the Rebellion
      Formal reports, both Union and Confederate, of military operations in the field, with the correspondence, orders and returns relating to the action. The full text is completely searchable.

    • Old Naval Hospital, Washington DC
      The Friends of the Old Naval Hospital plan to transcribe the estimated 20,500 pages of records of patients admitted and treated in the Naval Hospital from 1866 to 1906. The site currently includes almost 500 images of these handwritten records, for patients admitted in 1866 and 1867, as well as photographs and historical information.

    • Prisoners of War and Missing Personnel
      The list of unrecovered service personnel from WWII, Korea, the Cold War, Vietnam and the 1991 Gulf War. It includes those from all military services, including the Merchant Marine.

    • Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War
      The National Graves Registration Project of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War is a searchable database of both Union and Confederate burials.

    • Vietnam Veterans Memorial
      This interactive memorial to veterans allows users to view names and summary records for any of the 58,256 veterans killed or missing in the Vietnam War.

    • WWII Registry
      The World War II Registry is part of the National World War II Memorial. It includes veterans, those killed or missing in action and some civilians on the home front. It is not a complete listing of WWII soldiers.

  • Passenger Ship Lists

    • American Family Immigration History Center
      Database of Ellis Island arrival records that have been transcribed by Latter Day Saints volunteers. Be sure to try various spellings and permutations of both the first and last names (including just using a first initial), and bear in mind that errors have been found in the transcriptions. Note: Free registration is required.

    • Castle Garden offers free access to information on 10 million immigrants who arrived in New York from 1830 through 1892, the year Ellis Island opened. Alternative search strategies for this database are available at One-Step Webpages by Stephen P. Morse.

    • Directory of Passenger Ship Arrivals
      This database pulls together the data from various passenger ship lists published on the Internet. Search alphabetically, by vessel name or by US port of arrival.

    • Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild
      Though still a work in progress, this database of passenger lists transcribed by the guild is a truly invaluable resource. Search passenger lists by date, ship's name, port of departure or arrival, or even passenger's or captain's surname.

    • One-Step Webpages by Stephen P. Morse
      Steve Morse offers indexing and search strategies for accessing data in the passenger lists of Castle Garden, Ellis Island, Baltimore, Boston, Galveston, Philadelphia and San Francisco.

    • The Ships List
      A growing list of resources for those seeking the details of their ancestors' ships: passenger records, contemporary immigration reports, newspaper records, ship wreck information, ship pictures, etc. Seeks to present information not included in other immigration sources. Includes an excellent Frequently Asked Questions section that explains the basics of immigration searching.

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Reference Works/Tools

  • Antiquus Morbus
    Decipher causes of death found on old death certificates and mortality lists. Provides definitions of archaic medical terms and their modern day equivalents.

  • Federal Population Censuses

    • Indexes to the Soundex and Census Schedules Microfilm
      The National Archives and Records Administration has produced these online indexes to the microfilm copies of the federal censuses. Use them to identify the microfilm publication and roll numbers you will need in your research.

    • The Soundex Indexing System
      Describes the coding rules for this system based on the sound of a surname as opposed to its spelling. It is used to index the post-1880 US census records.

  • FuneralNet
    Addresses and phone numbers of funeral homes and cemeteries in the United States and Canada.

  • Historical and Genealogical Societies of the United States

  • Historical Atlases and Maps of the United States Each state's page contains rotating animated maps showing all of the county boundary changes and all of the county boundaries for each census year. Past and present maps of the United States are overlaid so that you can see the changes in county boundaries.

  • Nickname Index
    Social Security's list of names and nicknames for men and women can be a clue to finding relatives whose legal name may be different from the name they commonly used.

  • USGS Historical Topographic Map Explorer
    Historical topographic maps from 1884 to the present. Maps can also be downloaded for free

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