Totally Free New US Genealogy Records Online

Among the totally free new US genealogy records recently put online are collections from 8 states: CA vital records and photos, GA Reconstruction oaths, IL photos, MA naturalizations, NY passenger lists, and digital newspapers from NJ, NC, NY and OH. Also: the Japanese-American experience, African American life on the West Coast and the Cumberland Gap in the Civil War.

Totally free new US genealogy records online

Check out these three important regional digital archives, followed by state-level collections of new US genealogy records from the East Coast to the West—and the South to the North.

The Japanese-American experience

The Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkley, has published the massive Japanese American Evacuation and Resettlement Digital Archive. According to a university announcement, this new online resource “includes approximately 150,000 original items including the personal papers of internees, correspondence, extensive photograph collections, maps, artworks and audiovisual materials.” This project, together with a companion study, “form one of the premier sources of digital documentation on Japanese American Confinement found anywhere.”

You can now search over 50 newspaper titles (1887-1944) from the Hoji Shinbun Digital Collection. It’s “the world’s largest online archive of open-access, full‑image Japanese American and other overseas Japanese newspapers,” according to digital newspaper website developer Elephind. “All image content in this collection has enhancements added where possible, thus rendering the text maximally searchable. The holdings of each title are also browsable by date, with each title cross searchable with other titles on the platform. This collection is planned to contain some sixty newspapers published in Hawaii and North America. Most publications present a mix of content in Japanese and English, with formats and the proportionality of Japanese/English often changing as a reflection of shifting business and social circumstances.”

African Americans on the West Coast

The Official California Negro Directory and Classified Buyers Guide for 1942-43 is now available for free on Internet Archive. According to this news article, it “contains residential and business listings for California, Oregon and Washington. The 1942 directory includes ads for both black-owned businesses and white-owned businesses that accepted black trade, similar to The Negro Motorist Green Book, a travel guide issued for more than 30 years to help African-Americans find hotels and restaurants that would accommodate them during a time of rigid segregation.”

The Civil War in the Cumberland Gap

The Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum in Harrogate, TN houses the valuable Cumberland Gap Byrnes Collection. According to the site, “The Cumberland Gap was a strategic location during the American Civil War and changed hands several times throughout the course of the conflict. The collection includes correspondence, cartes-de-visite, and artifacts from soldiers belonging to the 16th, 42nd, and 185th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, units that were stationed for a time in and around the Cumberland Gap area.” The collection is being digitized and uploaded to a free digital archive on an ongoing basis.

Free new US genealogy records online: State collections

California. The free genealogy giant FamilySearch.org has added over 667,000 indexed names to its existing collection of California, County Birth and Death Records, 1800-1994. According to the collection description, “Registers, records and certificates of county birth and death records acquired from county courthouses. This collection contains some delayed birth records, as well. Some city and towns records are also included. Records have not been acquired for Contra Costa, Imperial, Kern, Kings, Modoc, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Siskiyou, Solano, Tulare and Ventura counties. The name index for death records covers Stockton, Lodi and Manteca cities and San Benito and San Joaquin counties.”

The new Sonoma County Fires Community Memory Map is a new crowd-sourced digital archive that has come after a fast-moving wildfire burned over 100,000 acres of land across the county. According to the site, it “serves to provide a central place where people can share photographs and stories of the places that we lost overnight. Through the power of community, we aim to reconstruct a digital collective memory. Residents and visitors of beautiful Sonoma County can share their recollections of the places we no longer have.” Here’s a moving article about the story behind the site’s creation.

Georgia. A new post-Civil War record index has been published at FamilySearch.org. So far, Georgia, Reconstruction Registration Oath Books, 1867-1868 includes nearly 175,000 names. “Registration Oath Books [were] created by U.S. military officials stationed in Georgia following the Civil War,” explains the collection description. “Registers typically contain each voter’s name, county of residence, date of registration, race, and an oath of allegiance to the United States. The oath of allegiance was required in order to register. Registered voters would then elect delegates to the state’s constitutional convention.” Don’t forget to use your free guest login at FamilySearch.org for the maximum level of online access to records. Click here to learn more about this.

Illinois. About 1,700 digital images depicting the history of Rockford (Winnebago County), Illinois have been published in the Midway Village Museum’s Online Collections. According to the site, the images include: “postcards and photographs of central Rockford, Camp Grant, and local landmarks and businesses; photographs of community activities in the late 1800s and early 1900s; letters home from Rockford boys fighting in the Civil War; [and] transcripts from interviews done in 2007 with immigrants to Rockford and their children.”

Massachusetts. FamilySearch.org has published a new collection of early 20th-century naturalization records. Massachusetts, Naturalization Records, 1906-1917. Over 71,000 digitized record images are browseable on the site. Nearly 100,000 names have been indexed to date (more names will be added as they are indexed). These records are from petitions and records of naturalizations of the U.S. District and Circuit of Massachusetts.

New Jersey. Digital historical newspapers from New Jersey are finally being added to Library of Congress website, Chronicling America. Only one paper, the Perth Amboy Evening News, has been published on the site so far, but more are coming. “Upon the project’s completion, 100,000 pages of New Jersey newspapers will be available through the site,” states this news article.

New York. Over 1.6 million names have been added to FamilySearch.org’s free collection, New York Book Indexes to Passenger Lists, 1906-1942. This collection will continue to grow as more names from its 748,000 digital page images are indexed. You may browse unindexed pages: the indexes are grouped by shipping line and arranged chronologically by date of arrival.

Also, the Hudson River Valley Heritage Historical Newspapers project has now published issues from 34 newspaper titles dating from 1831 to 2013. Counties covered include Dutchess, Orange, Rockland, Ulster and Westchester. According to the site, “This collection contains 28,946 issues comprising 300,793 pages and 1,017,782 articles.”

North Carolina. The Digital North Carolina Heritage Center has added more newspapers to its free website:

  • The entire run of the Brevard News, a Transylvania County, NC newspaper. According to the site, “Previously, issues of the Brevard News only covered from 1917 to 1923, but DigitalNC now includes January 1924 through December 1932….It joins fellow Transylvania county newspapers the Sylvan Valley News, The Echo, and The Transylvania Times.”
  • 16 Wilmington newspapers spanning 1803-1901, including the Wilmington Daily Record. According to a blog announcement, “Some of the papers have several years of content available and several have just an issue or two. But together, they paint a rich picture of what life in Wilmington looked like during the 1800s and the wide variety of political viewpoints that were held in the city, and North Carolina as a whole. The papers shed light on a port town that was instrumental in the Civil War and in the politics of Reconstruction afterwards, which culminated in the infamous riots of 1898.”
  • More issues of a Warsaw, NC newspaper, The Duplin Times. The years 1962-1985 have been added to a collection for this title dating back to 1935. The paper covers primarily local politics and community issues and events.

Ohio. The public library system in Gallipolis (Gallia County), Ohio has put its entire local historical newspaper collection online. The collection spans 123 years of news (since 1895) and includes Daily Times, Sunday Times-Sentinel, The Gallipolis Daily Tribune and others. The digital publication of issues of some newspapers through 2017 is unusual and required the publisher’s permission. Access these at the Digital Archives of the Bossard Memorial Library.

Not free but still fabulous: 110 million more newspaper pages

Newspapers.com recently sent out a “Year in review” statement that is worth passing along. They report that in 2017, the site added nearly 1,400 new newspaper titles. “With an average of 9,203,918 pages added per month, Newspapers.com added 110,447,021 pages’ worth of new content last year!”

Additions in 2017 span 41 U.S. states, Washington D.C., the UK, and Canada. They added the most newspaper titles for Alabama (265), Kansas (187), Arkansas (151), Mississippi (126) and Utah (91). Breaking it down by the number of pages added, though, you can see they added substantial content for other states, too—with Utah making both lists:

  • Florida: 11,579,543 new pages
  • Indiana: 3,830,015 new pages
  • New York: 2,047,831 new pages
  • Pennsylvania: 4,827,196 new pages
  • Utah: 1,174,417 new pages

Newspapers.com now claims over 338 million total pages of newspaper content. If it’s been a while since you’ve last looked around the site, it may be time to visit again and explore your ancestors’ lives in print.

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!

About the Author: Sunny Morton

About the Author: Sunny Morton

Sunny is a Contributing Editor at Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems; her voice is often heard on the Genealogy Gems Podcast and Premium Podcasts. She’s  known for her expertise on the world’s biggest family history websites (she’s the author of Genealogy Giants: Comparing the 4 Major Websites); writing personal and family histories (she also wrote Story of My Life: A Workbook for Preserving Your Legacy); and sharing her favorite reads for the Genealogy Gems Book Club.

New Records Include German and Holocaust Records Online

You can now find more Holocaust records online. Read here about the 1939 German Minority Census and Polish and Czech Holocaust records. Also featured this week: German vital records, new collections from Belgium and Estonia, and an update to the US War of 1812 pension files.

New Holocaust records online at MyHeritage

Among new Holocaust records online is the German Minority Census, 1939 at genealogy giant MyHeritage.com. The collection contains “the names of all individuals listed in the 1939 census of Germany who lived in a household where at least one person in the household had a Jewish grandparent.”

According to MyHeritage, “Many of these people were killed in the Holocaust and this census is the last written trace of them. These approximately 410,000 individuals come from the supplement census cards that recorded each person’s Jewish background. Information listed may include: name, maiden name, birth date, birthplace, residence, death date, death place, place of imprisonment, deportation or emigration, and whether they were a Holocaust victim. Some of this information comes from the original census cards, and some of this information was researched and annotated much later. This collection is provided in partnership with Tracing the Past.”

German vital records

Genealogy giant Ancestry.com has added or updated the following German collections

More Holocaust records online

Two free Holocaust-era databases at Ancestry.com are also worth mentioning, as one is new and one has just been updated. Note: these collections are free to search because the indexing was done by World Memory Project contributors from the digitized holdings of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM). Collection descriptions below come from the USHMM website:

  • Poland, Łódź Ghetto Transportation Lists, 1939-1944 (new) “consists predominantly of the records of Chaim Mordechai Rumkowski, the Eldest of the Jews in the ghetto in Łódź, Poland, and of his administration. Included are letters, announcements, circulars, charts, publications, reports, essays, name lists, and photographs.”
  • Prague, Czechoslovakia, Selected Holocaust Records, 1939-1945 (updated) consists of “records generated by German occupational institutions and Czech auxiliary agencies dealing with matters of internal security and racial policy, especially anti-Jewish measures. Includes reports regarding aryanization of Jewish businesses, questionnaires of Jewish properties, lists of Jewish workers, documents regarding situation in Theresienstadt (death statistics), Lety camp, and deportation of Jews to Theresienstadt. Also includes lists of art objects in Sbirow castle (including Jewish art), information regarding Jews, Roma and Sinti (Gypsies), and Russians in Gdańsk, Poland, and various propaganda materials.”

More European genealogy records online

Belgium

Google Translate provides this translation of a January 17, 2018 announcement at internetgazet for Neerpelt, Limburg, Belgium: “The municipality has digitized all civil status documents and makes the documents that are more than 100 years old publicly available via dept. Neerpelt.be. That was announced today. Through this website you can view, save and print birth, marriage and death certificates from 1797 to 1917. Thanks to a search function, you can easily look up the birth, marriage and death certificates of residents of Neerpelt and SHLille.”

Estonia

Also new at Ancestry.com is Estonia, Census, Tax and House Lists, 1784-1944. This collection for this northern European country spans over 150 years’ worth of “various lists of residents of Estonian towns and rural municipalities,” according to its description. “These documents serve as population registers and contain personal and family information about inhabitants of each administrative unit, regardless of their social status or religion. The collection covers two historical eras: Estonia under the Russian Empire (the period until 1917, in which records were kept in German and Russian) and during the Estonian Republic (1918-1940, in which records were kept in Estonian language). The structure and format of the records vary between regions and over time. There are also gaps in certain periods and places, as some of the municipal archives have not been preserved.”

Update to free US War of 1812 Pension Files at Fold3

The growing collection of free War of 1812 Pension Files at Fold3 is now 2/3 complete, after a January 17, 2018 update. Because pension eligibility for veterans or their widows was extended decades after the war, you may find valuable family history information dating for many years after the conflict ended. Documents vary but among them, you may find declarations of pension/widow’s pension; Adjutant General statements of service; questionnaires completed by applicants; “Pension Dropped” cards; or marriage, death or discharge certificates. These may have information on the veteran’s age, residence, service details, and death, as well as identifying details about soldiers’ widows who applied.

A note from the site states, “Although digitization of the War of 1812 pension files was previously temporarily paused, Ancestry, the National Archives, and the Federation of Genealogical Societies are working in cooperation to resume digitization. The first of these newly digitized pension files are already available for free on Fold3, with more to be added to the site in installments throughout 2018 and beyond. So if you don’t see your ancestor’s pension file yet, keep checking back!”

Help put more Holocaust records online

Volunteers power millions of new online genealogy records every month–including Holocaust records. For example, you can help curate a growing collection of Holocaust-related newspaper articles from your local newspapers for the History Unfolded project of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Do it on your own, or with your local genealogical or historical society! Click here to read more about how you can help.

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!

Sunny Morton

Sunny Morton

Sunny Morton is a Contributing Editor at Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems; her voice is often heard on the Genealogy Gems Podcast and Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast. She’s especially known for her expertise on the world’s biggest family history websites (she’s the author of Genealogy Giants: Comparing the 4 Major Websites); writing personal and family histories (she also wrote Story of My Life: A Workbook for Preserving Your Legacy); and sharing her latest favorite reads for the Genealogy Gems Book Club. Sunny is also a Contributing Editor at Family Tree Magazine and the NGS-award-winning Co-Editor of Ohio Genealogy News.

Mayflower Ancestors and More in New Genealogy Records Online

Discover your Mayflower ancestors–or more about your family history from around the world–in new and updated genealogy records online. Among them are the Welsh National Book of Remembrance for WWI and various records for Indiana, Massachusetts, Montana, Ireland, New Zealand, Sweden and Venezuela. Also: all Missouri adoptees may now order original birth certificates.

United States: Discover Your Mayflower Ancestors

In anticipation of the 2020 commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower’s voyage, the New England Historic Genealogical Society (aka AmericanAncestors.org) has launched a new website, Mayflower 2020. This interactive website features the world’s first online gathering of Mayflower descendants, along with in-depth information about Mayflower passengers and their family trees, resources for finding Mayflower ancestors, and information on “Mayflower 2020” announcements and events.

The National Library of Wales has published online the Welsh National Book of Remembrance for the First World War. According to the NLW website, the book “contains the names of 35,000 servicemen and women, as well as members of Welsh Regiments, who lost their lives in the First World War. These individuals are listed according to regiment and battalion alongside the names of those who might well have died alongside them.” The original gilded volume contains about 1,100 pages of names, with about 40 names scripted in calligraphy on each page. The commemorative book was created as a “roll of honor” and companion to the Welsh National War Memorial in Cathays Park, Cardiff, which doesn’t include names of the deceased on it. Search or browse the gorgeous volume at the National Library of Wales digital archive.

U.S. state-level genealogy collections

Indiana. Over a million records appear in MyHeritage’s new collection, Indiana Newspapers, 1847-2009. According to MyHeritage, “This collection is a compendium of newspapers published in various cities and towns in the state of Indiana from the 1840s until 2009. Newspapers are an important resource for genealogy and family history research as they contain obituaries and other vital record substitutes such as birth, marriage, and death notices. Additionally, society pages and stories of local interest contain rich information on activities and events in the community and often provide details about the persons involved.”

Massachusetts. New at AmericanAncestors.org is Suffolk County, MA: Probate File Papers, with nearly 22,000 Suffolk County probate cases (1630-1800). According to the site, “The probate cases include wills, guardianships, administrations, and various other types of probate records. The complete Suffolk County File Papers collection will eventually cover cases 1-94,757, which includes all years through 1892. The cases are indexed chronologically, which allows us to present them in sections while digital photography occurs. Photography is expected to continue through 2020. We will add cases as they become available.”

Missouri. A new Missouri law, the Missouri Adoptee Rights Act, now gives all adoptees access to their original birth certificates. Adoptees born prior to 1941 were already eligible to request copies of their original birth certificates as of mid-2016. On January 1, 2018, this right was extended to adoptees born in or after 1941. According to a local news report, the state representative behind the new law, Don Phillips, is himself an adoptee and was among the first to receive a copy of his own certificate when the new rules went into effect recently. If you would like to order a non-certified copy of an original birth certificate from the Missouri Bureau of Vital Records, click here to fill out the online application.

Montana. Ancestry.com has published Montana Birth Records, 1897-1919. The collection includes birth certificates that typically include the following information: name, gender and race of child; date and place of birth; and parents’ names, ages and birthplaces.

Free on FamilySearch: More global genealogical records

FamilySearch is always free, so take a quick peek at the newly-indexed names added to the following collections. Maybe your ancestors’ names have finally appeared!

Ireland. Look up your Irish ancestors in Ireland Civil Registration, 1845-1913. More than 653,000 names have been added.

New Zealand. Nearly a million indexed names have been added to New Zealand, Civil Records Indexes, 1800-1966. Search this index to official government records of births, marriages and deaths. Tip: see the collection description for important information about ordering copies of original records.

Sweden. Over 36 million indexed names have been added to a mammoth collection of digitized record images in Sweden, Household Examination Books, 1880 – 1920.  Other Sweden collections have been updated at FamilySearch, as well: Sweden, Göteborg och Bohus Church Records, 1577-1932; index 1659-1860, Sweden, Kopparberg Church Records, 1604-1900; index 1628-1860 and Sweden, Västernorrland Church Records, 1501-1940; index 1650-1860.

Venezuela. Nearly 800,000 indexed names have been added to Venezuela, Archdiocese of Mérida, Catholic Church Records, 1654-2015. These parish or diocesan records include “baptisms, confirmations, parish censuses, marriages, pre-marriage investigations, marriage dispensations, deaths, and indexes.”

Get the most out of FamilySearch.org

Of all the “Genealogy Giants” we cover in-depth here at Genealogy Gems, FamilySearch is the only one that’s totally free. It’s also an enormous site with multiple places to search for your ancestors’ names in old records and even additional resources for finding offsite or even offline records you want. So it’s worth a little investment to learn how to use FamilySearch effectively. For that, we recommend Unofficial Guide to FamilySearch.org by Dana McCullough. In it, you’ll find step-by-step strategies for searching their millions of historical records and family trees, and how to maximize all the site’s valuable resources.

Sunny Morton

Sunny Morton

Sunny Morton is a Contributing Editor at Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems; her voice is often heard on the Genealogy Gems Podcast and Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast. She’s especially known for her expertise on the world’s biggest family history websites (she’s the author of Genealogy Giants: Comparing the 4 Major Websites); writing personal and family histories (she also wrote Story of My Life: A Workbook for Preserving Your Legacy); and sharing her latest favorite reads for the Genealogy Gems Book Club. Sunny is also a Contributing Editor at Family Tree Magazine and the NGS-award-winning Co-Editor of Ohio Genealogy News.

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!

The Christmas List that Continues to Speak to My Heart

Some family Christmas traditions carry over easily from generation to generation, and some don’t. Here’s one tradition I tried passing on to my children, and how it has played out. It reminds me that traditions themselves can be unexpected–which ones have staying power and how each generation reshapes heritage in its own way.

McClellan family Christmas traditions

That’s me in the green coat, between my grandma and my mom. My dad stands on the left, with my four younger brothers in the back of the truck.

I grew up with several family Christmas traditions: making candy cane cookies, tromping through the snow to cut a live tree and, on Christmas Eve, re-enacting the Nativity with my brothers as my dad read from the Bible. Over the years, my husband and I have tried several of these traditions. Some traditions have translated well into our lives, and some haven’t. (Though I loved it as a child, the year I walked a mile into the woods in heavy borrowed boots while pregnant was my last for cutting a live tree.)

One holiday tradition that has rooted itself in my children’s lives surprised me. It’s not exciting or tasty. Yet they have adopted it fully–and they’ve even started documenting it.

A family Christmas tradition that lives on

My mom always loved putting up the Christmas tree. She planned a made-for-memories event each year, hoping to have joyful carols, hot chocolate and pictures worth putting in the Christmas letter. What she got from me and my five brothers was usually less idyllic. We sang plenty of carols, loudly, but they were more likely to be “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” than “Silent Night.” Pictures always had someone sticking out a tongue or elbowing a brother. And my mom often had to wrangle us into putting up the tree and stringing up the lights first, which was guaranteed to make some of us grumpy.

But every year, my mom made sure we each had a new ornament to hang on the tree. Sometimes she made or bought it. Sometimes another relative sent us ornaments. I don’t know how she always had these ornaments amidst the chaos of Christmas preparations for six children. But she did it. She even labeled them with our names and the year.

When I left home, she gave me a box of my ornaments–along with a list, year by year, of which ornaments we received and extra notes about some of them:

Morton family Christmas traditions moms list

About six years ago when decorating our tree with my husband and children, I pulled out my box of childhood decorations with my mother’s list in it. For some reason, that year, her list especially spoke to my heart. I knew I wanted to do this for my own children. So I divided up the ornaments I’d given Jeremy, Alex, and Seneca over the years. I added a couple of ornaments for years that didn’t have them. I started lists. They weren’t fancy lists: just a piece of notebook paper, like my mom’s on yellow legal paper. I figured if I waited until I found holiday stationery, it would never happen.

Morton family Christmas traditionsThe following year, I presented my children with cute boxes for their ornaments. I slid my lists into sheet protectors and taped them inside each box. They were actually delighted to hang their own ornaments! No cajoling was necessary.

In fact, we had so much holiday cheer that my husband decorated his ear with an ornament. My oldest son Jeremy began snapping pictures. Seneca launched herself at Jeremy, Alex pounced, and they all dissolved into a pile of giggles on the floor, their Santa hats somehow still intact.

Morton family Christmas traditions playing

Since then, the kids have gone looking for their own boxes of ornaments each year. Some years I am more prepared than others: this year, they will get their 2017 ornaments on Christmas Eve.

I love that my children have come to own this tradition. Alex has actually begun documenting his new ornaments himself. You can see how he picked up where I left off:

Morton family Christmas traditions Alex list

Now that I’m a mom, I can’t help but look at my mom’s list a little differently. It’s a chronicle of a mother’s love, steady and shown in little things and relatively unappreciated. Across the top of her list, she wrote, “DON’T LOSE!” She was probably thinking of her carefree young adult children who might not appreciate this box of ragtag ornaments and what it represented to her. Today, I think her message is more than a warning not to lose the ornaments she so carefully tracked and packed away each year. It’s about never losing hold of her love for us–the heritage that matters most.

In our family, at least, the adoption of any tradition is a little messy and uncertain, especially now that I have teenagers. I never know whether’s it’s going to “take,” who’s going to roll their eyes or rebel, whether they will feel and respond to the message behind the time we spend together and the rituals we create. My solution is to try a lot of traditions. To not be afraid to change things up to suit my own little band of a family–even to create new traditions on the fly. To be flexible with my expectations–they may very well wrestle instead of sing “Silent Night” as they hang their ornaments, and that’s fine. As long as they are laughing and creating memories of the ways their family shared its love.

May you enjoy creating or reliving your own holiday traditions this year! Feel free to share any with us on the Genealogy Gems Podcast Facebook Page.

Merry Christmas to your family from mine, and from all of us here at Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems.

Common Surnames: How Unique is Yours?

Common surnames can make genealogy research more challenging. But learning more about your last name (including how common it is) can also enrich your family history. Check out 4 free online tools for learning more about your family’s surnames. Then share what you learn the next time your relatives get together!

common surnames

If you have common surnames on your family tree, you may have become frustrated at times trying to determine whether the “John Williams” or “Elizabeth Smith” you’re looking at in a record belongs to your John or Elizabeth. Would it make a difference if you discovered they lived in an area where there very few folks by those names during that time period? It would. Furthermore, it would probably also be nice to know things like where else in the world–or within England, for example–that surname is found now (or was in the past).

The enormous amount of census, vital records, and family tree data now online is making it easier to answer questions like these. Below, find free online tools for mapping common surnames (and less-common ones, too) across time. They include surname search tools hosted by a couple of our Genealogy Giants, Ancestry.com and MyHeritage.com. What can you learn from the following sites? Do they agree with one another? Check them out!

Your surname in the 1990 and 2000 U.S. censuses

common surnamesThe US Census Bureau has created databases of last names that appear in recent censuses. You can look at the results a couple of ways:

  • Click here to search for your surname among the most common 150,000 surnames from the 1990 and 2000 censuses. These surnames cover about 90% of those who participated in the census.
  • Click here to view a list of all surnames that appear 100 or more times in the 2000 census. (Smith, Johnson, Williams, Brown, Jones, Miller and Davis all top a million occurrences!) According to this webpage, the top 15 surnames have remained fairly steady in the most recent three censuses with one exceptional trend: Spanish-origin surnames are starting to make the lists.

common surnames england walesCommon surnames of England and Wales

Find out how common your surname is today in England, Wales, and the Isle of Mann. The Surnames of England and Wales – the ONS List has a searchable database of almost 270,000 surnames shared by 54.4 million people (it excludes surnames occurring fewer than 5 times in the total database of nearly 60 million people). The list compiled between 1998-2002 does have some duplication and misspellings: “experience suggests that multiplying the result for your surname by 0.93 will give a good idea of the living population for your surname.”

What’s in a name? Ancestry.com answers

Ancestry.com hosts this fun and free tool for those with roots in the U.S., England, Scotland, and Wales:

Remember, it’s not a precise genealogy research tool. But it can prove interesting. When I ran this search for the married surname of our Genealogy Gems DNA expert, Diahan Southard, I was shown (among other things) this interesting map illustrating how the Southard family was spread across the United States in 1920:

common surnames

Surname directory at MyHeritage

MyHeritage.com hosts a searchable surname directory taken from data found on its site. To search the surname directory, choose the first letter of the last name from the alphabet shown below the search screen. (If you enter a name in the blue search boxes, you’ll be taken into their record-searching area, which isn’t the same):

common surnames

You won’t find all names surnames here, though you may find variant spellings of yours. (I never knew McClellan could be spelled in so many different ways!) Here’s a map of how they find my husband’s surname, Morton, scattered across the globe:

common surnames

Looking for more surname distribution maps? Click here to find a list organized by country.

Next Steps: Try this with your common surnames

common surnames Google search strategiesIf you’ve taken a DNA test…Thousands of people are compiling their same-surname DNA test results into surname projects. Click here to learn more about how to “social network” your yDNA test results in a surname project.

If you’re a Genealogy Gems Premium subscriber…you can watch Lisa Louise Cooke’s fabulous video tutorial, Common Surname Google Search Strategies. Use her tips to find even your most commonly-named relatives online! (Not a Premium member? Click here to learn more–for one low price, you’ll get a year’s access to hundreds of Premium videos and podcast episodes!)

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