Skip to content
  • Sign up
  • Start your family tree
  1. Blog Home
  2. Family Records
Tracing American ancestors

The 10 best resources for finding American ancestors

Did your ancestors chase the American dream stateside? Explore these rich records to discover their incredible stories.

Though American family records may not extend as far back as most British or Irish records, their breadth and detail is still impressive.

Find American ancestors

Discover stories of hardship and heartbreak, adventure and romance.

For such a relatively young country, its historical records are surprisingly rich, giving you an intimate look into the lives of your American connections.

The building blocks of any family tree, on Findmypast you can delve into millions of US births and baptisms, the largest online collection of US marriage records covering 360 years and more than 450 million names, and millions more deaths & burials.

US census records are unlike any other resource in terms of detail. In fact, the US was the first nation to make censuses a mandatory part of its constitution.

Martin Luther King in 1940

Martin Luther King in the 1940 US Census. See the full record.

The federal censuses, taken every 10 years between 1790 until 1940, are all available to search on Findmypast. That's almost 700 million records. Due to privacy laws, the 1950 Census won't become available until 2022.

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

If your ancestors were US immigrants, have a look in Findmypast's exclusive British & Irish Roots Collection. It features 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 in medal rolls and honours.

Was America really the land of opportunity? Discover where your ancestors worked or attended school in the US with our collection of school and trade records dating back to the 1500s.

Findmypast's US directories and social history collection will be of particular interest if you have Scotch-Irish ancestors. Highlights include Scots-Irish In North America Histories.

The PERiodical Source Index (PERSI) contains millions of names and details from thousands of historical, genealogical and ethnic publications, making it one of the most invaluable sources for tracing your US ancestry. This go-to guide will help you get the best from PERSI.

Catholicism is the largest religious denomination across America and Findmypast's unique Catholic Heritage Archive allows you to trace your family's Catholic roots across the states and back to the British Isles.

Only at Findmypast, you can explore online sacramental registers from the Archdiocese of New York, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Chicago and Baltimore and across the ocean to Britain, Scotland, and Ireland.

Try our collection of British and Irish newspapers for mentions of your American ancestors making headlines. These cover over 200 years of history, and often include passenger lists or stories covering immigration.

We often think of American ancestors from the perspective of their settlement in the new world but many also made lives for themselves overseas. Did they travel to Europe or the Caribbean? Did they live or work down under in Australia or New Zealand? Billions of international record collections on Findmypast could be hiding intriguing stories about ancestors who left America behind.

This is just a small sample of the records you can use to help piece together the American branches of your family tree. Have a rummage today and let us know what you unearth by tagging @findmypast on social media. We love hearing about your discoveries.