A Checklist of Compiled Sources and Where to Find Them
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Proceed with caution
An original source record is often created at or near the time the event occurred and is the first report of the event. Exact copies are also considered originals. Copies or compilations that alter the record in anyway are considered derivatives.
To the extent possible genealogical research should try to rely on original records. This is not always possible and often, genealogists have to use derivative material. The term "compiled sources" does not describe a classification of the source, but refers to collections of the names of families and individuals, sometimes in the form of family trees but also including surname books, extracted records and other similar records. Compiled sources may include derivative records or authored sources.
All records must be evaluated for their accuracy. Any compiled record, such as a surname book, is suspect, especially if it does not contain citations to original or even other derivative sources. Any information obtained from such a compiled source should be evaluated and verified by additional and more reliable source records before incorporation in your own database.
In addition, it should be noted that many--far too many 19th and early 20th century published family histories have the tendency to contain numerous errors and should especially be used with considerable caution.
About this List
This article contains a list of online resources that may contain references to compiled sources. These compiled sources may or may not be verified or contain original source references for the information submitted or collected. Searches in compiled sources should supplement, but not replace, your genealogical researching in original sources.
Regardless of your experience as a family history researcher in using original records, and no matter how many years of experience in researching family trees, it is best not to forget that compiled sources may help you more comprehensively search for data already submitted about your family lines. Family history seekers are guaranteed a pleasant surprise as they strike ‘gold’ by discovering already completed research on at least one or some in-common ancestral family lineages. However, be careful not to accept any information for which there is not adequate citations to original or derivative sources.
It is also helpful to realize that additional information concerning your family lines may appear online at any time. It is a good idea to review this type of source from time to time to see if there have been any additions.
- Some of the following sources have compiled family tree information. Others contain digitized copies of surname books and other extracted records. On the other hand, some the links include sites with original source records and have been included because they also contain compiled records. In every case, any record found must be evaluated as to its reliability whether original, derivative or authored.
List of Sources
- WorldCat.org In the 'Subject' field enter the surname plus the word “family” e.g., Prescott Family. This searches the catalogs and displays the results from thousands of (especially) U.S. libraries at once. Some of the published compilations you may find on WorldCat can provide reasonably extensive details about families--particularly where they have been well researched, and where they have been well documented, with source citations from original and primary record sources.
- $ Periodical Source Index (PERSI) allows searches for a family name in over a million article titles in genealogical periodicals. If the Article “Results List” is too long, redo the search but in the Keyword field add the two-letter postal abbreviation for the state where they lived. Some libraries may have free access to HeritageQuestOnline.com, which contains the entire PERSI index.
- $ and Free: Google books type in the surname and another key word such as the locality, i.e. town, or county or state/province.
- Internet Archive The Internet Archive has a huge collection of digitized genealogical materials, many of which are transcriptions from primary source records and others are compiled genealogies.
- The FamilySearch Catalog Do a "Keyword" search. This searches one of the world’s largest genealogical library holdings for published works cataloged by surname.
- GenForum of Genealogy.com has 170 million names; quarter of million a week
- GenealogyBank has the USA's largest newspaper (obit) collection of which 227 million obits have been indexed. Over 7000 newspapers available online & billions of other record entries
- $ Ancestry.com has one of the largest databases of compiled data on families in their Public Member Trees. Currently they hold the largest databases for England's population centers--with London, Lancashire and Yorkshire transcriptions now available for some of the 17th to the 20th century. Their site is free at Family History Centers worldwide, and to members of the LDS faith (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints].
- $ Findmypast.com has over 2 billion records and newspapers from the US, UK, Ireland and New Zealand and Australia. Many of their English, Welsh and Irish records cannot be found elsewhere online. Free at Family History Centers.
- $ MyHeritage.com has billions of records, and family trees submitted by members.
- WorldVitalRecords.com (owned by Ancestry.com) has online secondary and primary sources.
- USGenweb.org or Canadagenweb.org or BritishIslesgenweb.org–numerous aids, databases online by state & county
- Genealogy.com (FamilyFinder) - has enormous databases (300m entries) for families; it is now a read-only website. Search the Family Tree Maker database for submitted family trees.
- Roots Surname Lists - "Subscribe" and send queries about records, local history and especially on specific ancestors.
- $ MyTrees.com (formerly Kindred Konnections) - a good site with numerous surnames
- $ www.GenesReunited.com - the largest UK site with over 650 million UK names; perhaps the most effective, powerful web site whose offerings allow researchers to find distant cousins working on in-common ancestry
- $ www.Lostcousins.com - a great site that provides access to hundreds of millions of UK-based names and other ancestral names from throughout many parts of the world. Also be certain to subscribe to Peter's wonderful--and one of the very best--biweekly UK e-newsletters for researchers and researching!
- $ www.OneGreatFamily.com has over 130 million names worldwide
- FamilySearch.org has thousands of free databases, millions of online genealogies, lineages, pedigrees, and thousands of published family histories and other records. Most are searchable online; published histories are mostly scanned, imaged, indexed as well.
- Guild of One-Name Studies with nearly 8,000 UK surnames registered
- $ New England Historic Genealogical Society - one of the largest and best research institution in North America. See their website for numerous online offerings
- Allen County Public Library - holds about the largest genealogical collections in the United Sates.
- Google on 1) family “surname”, 2) “family history” or “genealogy” and 3) “town” or “city” name
- Ancestor Hunt has numerous databases and links to databases for those seeking compiled data on families; a great website.
- $ Daughters of The American Revolution (DAR) has one of the most extensive listings for family Bibles available (online) anywhere; visit periodically for new listings.
- Roots UK has census and family links.
- Ancestral Findings has several offerings worth searching.
- $ Fold3 (formerly Footnote.com) works with US government agencies and provides hundreds of millions entries with data on families.
GenServ.com is a large gateway website with 1000s of website links to itsee the WayBack Machine at Archive.org for possible accessibility to the data for this now defunct website
- Rootsweb.com is a well-known site providing a search of nearly 300 million names with already completed data
- Newberry Library (Chicago, IL) online catalog - this library has one of America's largest published and manuscript family history collections available. Consider the Inter-library loan service for access.
- Repositories and libraries. Search those libraries and repositories holding the largest collections of compiled sources with online catalogs. Many of them especially hold published or manuscript family histories, genealogies, biographies and other compiled family and local histories (and many of which may have one and often more—internal alpha-arranged listing or index or related database[s]). If a publication is found, often you can order it through the Inter-Library Loan Service.
For additional compiled sources you may wish to check local, county, state or province and national libraries. For links to libraries see Archives and Libraries for each jurisdiction in the Research Wiki.
Search compiled sources or indexes in the host country of settlement
Key indexes and databases to original record sources to search can be found in the following record sources (clue: first search for "indexes" to each record-type; i.e., just about all 50 states and most Canadian Provinces now have some indexes available online. And nearly all have at least manuscript indexes to most of the following record-types!):
- vital (esp. death & marriage certificates; sometimes birth; i.e., see wiki.familysearch.org or fhlfavorites.org --see US/Can/ UK , etc.)
- church (see fhlfavorites, familysearch.org--search IGI and/or its FamilySearch Catalog [online catalog]
- obituaries (see fhlfavorites under i.e. USA)
- passenger lists (10% or less give specific birthplace; ancestry.com has largest database of immigrants)
- census (findmypast.com, Ancestry.com)
- Other "indexed" original records may include:
- naturalization (FamilySearch Catalog, Naturalization Indexes--USA
- local (county & county) histories
Search in indexes (and in the original record) sources in the country of origin
After tracing for and obtaining the specific place of origin, researchers can then access the following indexed sources to England's major genealogical records and with confidence, identify the name[s] of ancestors to find them in these sources:
- civil Registration
- city/county directories
- church records
- church records
- marriage indexes
- society: member interests
- county surname collections