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The 10 Best Resources for Finding American Ancestors

The 10 most useful resources for finding American ancestors and learning more about their lives

Though the US records may not extend as far back as most British or Irish records, their breadth and detail is still impressive. For such a young country, these historical records are surprisingly rich, giving you an intimate look into the lives of your American connections.

The building blocks of any family tree. Search over 20 million US Births & Baptisms; the largest online collection of US marriages covering 360 years and more than 450 million names, and over 141 million Deaths & Burials.

US census records are unlike any other in terms of detail. In fact, the US was the first nation to make censuses a mandatory part of its constitution. The censuses taken every 10 years between 1790 until 1940 are all available on Findmypast. That's almost 700 million records. Due to privacy laws, the 1950 census won't become available until 2022.

The US passenger lists contain records dating as far back as the 1600s. If your ancestor emigrated to the US between the mid 19th and the mid 20th century, you'll likely find them in our collection of 21 million New York Passenger Lists & Arrivals. Don't forget, if they headed to America from the UK you may also find them in the Passenger Lists Leaving UK 1890-1960.

If your ancestors were US immigrants, have a look in the US Migration and Naturalization collections. These can contain everything from passport applications to photographs.

Our US military collection contains entries from World War 1, World War 2 and the Vietnam War among other conflicts. You can also see if your ancestor was decorated for their bravery with the Medal Rolls and Honours records.

Did your ancestors launch a successful business? Discover where they worked or attended school in the US with our collection of Education & work records dating back to the 1500s.

For those of you with Scotch-Irish ancestry, the US Directories & social history collection will be of particular interest. Sets include Scotch-Irish People- their influence in the formation of the United States.

The PERiodical Source Index contains over 2.5 million entries from thousands of historical, genealogical and ethnic publications, making it one of the most invaluable sources for tracing your US ancestry.

5 Helpful Tips for Searching PERSI

Search nearly 120 million pages from newspapers published in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., Panama, and the Virgin Islands. Titles include a variety of local papers, as well as national publications, including the New York Times and the Washington Post.

If you can't find your ancestors in the US newspapers, try our collection of British and Irish newspapers. These cover over 200 years of history, and often include passenger lists or stories covering immigration. You might just find your US ancestor mentioned as an employee on a cruise ship.

This is just a small sample of the kinds of records you can find in our US record collection. Take a look and see what you discover