Databases on CD and the Internet

Richard S. Wilson takes a look at the information available on CD-ROM and the Internet.

NOT VERY MANY YEARS ago, if you wanted to conduct genealogical research, you had to go to a library, archive or courthouse.
         Over the past few years things have changed considerably. The first event was the introduction of CD-ROMs with genealogical data. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints developed the Family Search program. Then Automated Archives came out with CDs with census indexes, vital records and linked pedigrees. The use of CD-ROMs for genealogical data has proliferated ever since. There are currently many databases and reference materials available on CD-ROM, and dozens more companies are joining in the development of CD-ROM databases.

Genealogical Databases on CD-ROM
There are currently many genealogical databases and reference CD-ROMs available, and more are being added every day. There is no way to list everything that's available, but here are a few of the better items.

Ancestry Reference Library - It contains five major genealogy books. The Source, Ancestry's Red Book, The Library of Congress, The Archives, The Library. A great resource because you can search over 3,100 pages of all these references with one simple search. It also includes American Marriage Records 1699-1854 and the 1854 Gazetteer of the United States on CD-ROM. Suggested retail is $59.95. 1-800-ANCESTRY.

Automated Archives CD-ROMs - These have been replaced by the Family Archive CDs from Brøderbund Software. However many are still available at reasonable prices. These include databases of Census Indexes, Marriage Records, Birth Records, Tax Lists, Military Lists, Social Security Death Index, and Linage Linked Pedigrees. To search these CD-ROMs you have to use the GRS software that was provided on some of the CD-ROMs. Once you learn it, the program is quite easy to use. BLM Land Records - The US Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management for the Eastern States has recently released CD-ROMs containing data on land patents, homesteads and cash sales dated before the early 1900s. Disks are available for Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin with more to come. The dates range from 1790 to 1907.These are very easy to use and cost only $15 each, including postage. Once you locate a record on disk, copies of the original documents can be obtained by mail for $1.25 each. Order disks from: Superintendent of Documents, PO Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954.

Census View CD-ROMs - Contains digital images of the actual census pages, not just indexes. You can select by page number, so you can use existing indexes. It gives you unlimited zoom, lighten, darken, and you can even invert the image. They haven't completed every state and census, but the ones they have done are a great aid for genealogists. The only state and year they have completed is the 1850 Arkansas census.

Family Search Program - One of the first genealogical databases on CD-ROM. Available in almost every local Family History Center. Still in the home beta testing phase, once complete it may be sold for home use. Contains the following databases: Ancestral File, International Genealogical Index (IGI), Social Security Death Index (SSDI), Military Index, Scottish Church Records, and the complete Family History Library Catalog.

Family Tree Maker, Family Archives - Replaced the Automated Archives CD-ROMs. These also include databases of Census Indexes, Mortality Indexes, Marriage Records, Birth Records, Tax Lists, Social Security Death Index, Military Lists, Land Records, Book of Emigrants, Church Records and Linage Linked Pedigrees. To search these CD-ROMs you have to use the family archive viewer software that is included on the Family Tree Maker CD-ROM and also available separately. Running the viewer from the Family Tree Maker program also lets you choose someone in your own database to search for on the CD-ROM.

Handy Book for Genealogists - This CD includes the entire book as well as a series of maps that shows 120 major migration trails, railways, and canals in the United States when your ancestors were moving across the country. It includes its own search engine.

In Search of Our Acadian Roots - Includes over 1/2 million names/ pedigrees, at least 95 percent of which are Acadian and/or French Canadian, as well as built-in search/seek software prepared specifically for the CD, which allows the User to compare his/her own GEDCOM against the complete data base on the CD and obtain a "probable match" report. In addition, it contains hundreds of Acadian reference texts, including censuses and all of Peter Berlo's "Acadian History/Tidbits." Cost $49.00 US, $69.00 CDN. Inquiries should be sent to: yvon l cyr, Village By The Arboretum, 2 Ashcroft Court, Guelph, Ontario, Canada N1G 4X7, E-mail:

Territorial Vital Records 1800s-1906 - The information on this CD covers the Utah Territory (AZ, CO, UT, WY, ID). Includes information from Deseret newspaper vital records, Justice of the Peace marriage records, wills, guardianships, divorces, marriages in wards, and branches of the LDS church. The problem with this CD-ROM is that it is only an index, the most information you can find is the Family History Library film or book number.

World Family Tree - This series of CD-ROMs is also put out by Family Tree Maker. They are more lineage linked pedigrees of records people have submitted to them for inclusion on the CD-ROMs. They are currently up to Volume Seven. Each volume holds millions of names all linked into family trees. Some records contain source notes or biographical information.

Genealogical Databases on the Internet
Today we see an even greater development in the genealogical database field. The advent of the wide use of the Internet has given us yet another source for these databases. Although the Internet has been around for many years, the development of the World Wide Web has made it a useable resource for even beginning genealogists. Since the development of the web genealogists have discovered how valuable the Internet can be for genealogical use. I will cover some of the genealogical resources and databases on the Internet.

Ancestry Search - sponsored by Ancestry, Inc. ( Includes the following databases available FREE on the World Wide Web:
* Social Security Death Index: Gives vital information for nearly 51 million Americans.
* American Marriage Records: Lists nearly 75,000 American marriages before 1800.
* Geographic Reference Library: Identifies current and/or past names for every place in America.
* Early American Immigration Library: Names nearly 1,000 people who immigrated before 1674.
* Worldwide Genealogy Message Archive: Includes recent e-mail messages from online mail lists:
* GENNAM-L Mailing List Surname searching list.
* ROOTS-L Mailing List General genealogy discussion list.

Books We Own Project ( Books We Own is a list of resources owned/ accessed by ROOTS-L mailing list members and others who are willing to look up genealogical information and e-mail or snail mail it to others who request it. The books are separated into categories. The categories are general information, surnames, various countries, the states listed by county and more.

Cemetery Listing Association ( Cemetery Listing Association (CLA) was founded so that genealogists would be able to access cemetery records instantly and freely world-wide. The CLA database currently contains 90 cemeteries and 6830 graves.

Everton Publishers Site ( Access to Everton's Genealogical Helper online. Social Security Index - this database contains over 60 million records. You can also try a free trial of two of their subscription databases. Their subscription includes: Roots Cellar (free trial available), Family File (over 80,000 group records), Pedigree File (over 50,000 pedigree charts), GEDSRCH (free trial available), Vietnam Memorial Database, PhotoFind Database, and EPI Photo Database. The subscription prices are: One Month - $15.00, Six Months $29.50, One Year $49.50.

Family Tree Maker's FamilyFinder Index ( The FamilyFinder Index contains approximately 123 million names from census records, marriage records, social security death records, actual family trees and more. About 20 percent of people who have ever lived in the US are listed here. However, this site only shows which of their CD-ROMs you need to buy to be able to view the data. This index contains no actual genealogical data.

Geographic Name Server ( Great site for genealogists. You can find the county name for any city in the US. All you do is input the city and state and it will give you the county where that city is located.

GENDEX - WWW Genealogical Index ( This site indexes hundreds of web databases containing genealogical data for over two million individuals. It provides you with the ability to locate and view data of interest to you on any of these databases, without having to go and visit each database separately.

Genealogist's Index to the World Wide Web ( This index locates any name, or surname you search for. It indexes the USGenWeb Queries as well as hundreds of GEDCOM files online. It now has some new features, including SOUNDEX searching as well as searching by state and county.

GenServ - Genealogical GEDCOM Server System ( The GenServ System started in 1991. It contains a collection of GEDCOM family history databases which have been sent to them by the subscribers of their system. They have over 6,980,000 names in over 5,350 GEDCOM databases online. Although they offer a one-time search for free, they charge a fee for access to this database. The subscription fee is $12.00 per year or $ 6.00 per year for students and seniors 60 and older.

Illinois Land Records (gopher:// library/libdb/landsale): This archive contains transaction data for approximately 545,000 public domain land sales in Illinois, supplied by the Illinois Secretary of State and the State Archive to the University of Illinois at Chicago's University Library and Computer Center. The majority of transactions date from the year 1815 to about 1880.

Index to Passenger Lists ( This site contains an index to many early American ships' lists. Including: Definitions of Early Ships, Palatine Ships to Pennsylvania, Dutch and Huguenot Ships to New Netherland (New York), Ships to Nova Scotia, Miscellaneous Ships, Irish Ships to Boston, Ships to the Carolinas, Ships to New England and Connecticut, Huguenot Ships to Virginia, Ships to Virginia 1625-1626 and 1635, and an Index of all Ships arranged by year of sailing.

Lacy's Genealogy Gateway 5 to the Web ( Claims to be the largest on-line newspaper obituaries listing on the web! They have access to more than 140 Obituary Search links! The information you receive from each site varies.

Library of Virginia Archives and Manuscripts Database ( The Archives and Manuscript Database includes approximately 8,700 catalog records for most materials received since the late 1980s. Several retrospective cataloging projects have been completed, including the cataloging of 4,700 family Bible records and the records of the state Auditor of Public Accounts. A project to catalog the Personal Papers collection was begun in 1995. Researchers should also consult various published guides to the archival collections, the Research Notes series and online finding aids available through the Electronic Card Indexes.

Mayflower Passenger List ( This is a complete passenger list for the Mayflower. It is based on the passenger list made by William Bradford in his journal published under the title Of Plymouth Plantation; but this list also includes subsequent research in primary source records in England and America to fill in names Bradford did not give in full. The passengers are listed alphabetically by surname. Each head of household has a link, which will take you to biographical and genealogical information about that passenger and his family.

National Archives and Records Administration (NAIL) ( NARA Archival Information Locator (NAIL). Currently, the searchable database NAIL contains only limited genealogical data: descriptions of 52,000 case files of Cherokee, Creek, and Seminole applications for enrollment to the Five Civilized Tribes (Dawes Commission) between 1898 and 1914 and descriptions of 50,000 Fort Smith, Arkansas criminal case files. Files are updated weekly.

Online Genealogical Database Index ( The Genealogical Database Index contains links to all known genealogical databases searchable through the Web. It is limited to searchable databases and does NOT include links to sites devoted to a family unless a database is available for searching. The site is maintained by Tim Doyle.

RootsWeb Genealogical Data Cooperative ( The RootsWeb project has two missions: (1) To make large volumes of data available to the online genealogical community at minimal cost. (2) To provide support services to online genealogical activities such as USENET newsgroup moderation, mailing list maintenance, surname list generation, etc.

RootsWeb's online search engines ( They allow you to search: The 207,972 Name Roots Surname List (RSL); The Roots Location List (RLL); Arkansas Databases; California Databases; Louisiana Databases; South Carolina Databases; South Dakota Databases; Tennessee Databases; Vermont Databases; Wisconsin Databases; Search Usenet Newsgroups; and Search the ROOTS-L Archives.

USGenWeb Archive ( The USGenWeb Archive was developed to present actual transcriptions of public domain records on the Internet. This huge undertaking is the cooperative effort of volunteers who either have electronically formatted files on census records, marriage bonds, wills, and other public documents, or are willing to contribute by transcribing this information. The table of contents is broken down by state. The state table of contents are broken down by county.

USGenWeb Project ( A well organized effort to organize the genealogy materials on the Internet. This project is supported by hundreds of volunteers all across the county. Basically, the system is organized by states, and counties with each county having a coordinator responsible for maintaining a site of resources which are available for that county. You'll also find files of genealogy records, also organized by state and county.

US Surname Distribution ( Are you curious where other people with your same last name live in the US? Just enter any surname into a form, and you'll see a map of the US showing the distribution of people with this surname within the 50 states. This database contains the 50,000 most common surnames in the US.

World Genealogy Web Project Headquarters ( A well organized effort to organize world wide genealogy materials on the Internet. This project is supported by hundreds of volunteers all across the county. Basically, the system is organized by states, and counties with each county having a coordinator responsible for maintaining a site of resources which are available for that county. You'll also find files of genealogy records, also organized by state and county.

This article originally appeared in our May/June 1997 issue.

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