Updated: Jan 28
In this blog I'm going to rave about HeritageQuest Online, one of the best genealogy resources available, where you can find census records, directories, local and family history books, research aids, maps, mortality schedules, the 1890 veterans census, and my personal favorite - Revolutionary War pension files. Many indexes and lists can be found in a variety of places but these are scanned images of the actual letters and applications pensioners and their widows submitted to the government. I have found several of my forefather's pension files here and they are thrilling to read.
It is an amazing tool and it is FREE but it is not like a typical website where you can just sign up and log in.
"Heritage Quest Online is available to patrons of authorized institutions. Your institution will assign you a barcode or other membership ID to access online resources like HeritageQuest Online. If you don't know what your barcode or ID is, please consult your institution's Web site for help. Only your institution can provide this information."
It would be to your advantage to get yourself a membership ID, if you're a genealogy addict, like me. If you have a library card, you may be able to access Heritage Quest online, as demonstrated in this old video I made a few years ago. My site looks different but accessing Heritage Quest is the same. In the video I show some of the great tools available.
You can try entering your library card number at HeritageQuest Online here. If you're having trouble, call or visit your local library to request information!
An Important Note about Census Records
Even if you're already using another site to find census records (FamilySearch or Ancestry, for example), if you're having trouble finding a record, try Heritage Quest. Some of the handwritten census records are hard to read and when transcribed and indexed there can be many variations based on the transcriber's best interpretation of the image. In my own experience, I had one ancestor I couldn't find on the 1850 census when I searched other sites. Finally, I tried Heritage Quest, and was shocked when he came up in the results. It had been transcribed incorrectly on the other sites, to the extreme that it didn't even show up under 'close results'. It's always good to try searching all the available options if you can't find a census you're looking for. Click here to see my links to places to find census records for free online here.
Where else can you find Military records?
Finding military records can be frustrating and disappointing but after searching for over 20 years, so far I've discovered 40 of my forefathers who fought in the military. It is disappointing that there isn't a central database containing the names of ALL the soldiers of the American Revolution and ALL of the soldiers of the Civil War in today's age of technology. Instead, the details are scattered across hundreds of resources, hiding in dusty old books, journals, fragments of muster rolls, in pension files, census records. I suppose we genealogists and historians are all playing a part in digging these old records out and bringing them to light. See my full list of places to find military records online for free here.
Believe it or not, some of your ancestors are named in old books
There are a number of sites where you can find historical books containing information about your ancestors, that you never had a clue about. Although there are several places to find historical books online, no one site has ALL the books. That's why if you really want to dig deep and find great material to add to your family tree, you'll want to search as many sites as you can. Search old books for your ancestors names, trying different variations in spelling, if applicable. Some sites allow you to narrow results, enter the name in quotes. Also, search for historical books and journals about the places they lived. Click here for my list of places to find historical books online for free. I've also started a collection of books I've stumbled upon pertaining to specific surnames. Take a look and see if any of your family's surnames are found. You could find a connection!
There are just a few of my favorite places to find old paper trails about my ancestors and their journey.