My mother’s side of the family worked their way from New England, through the Midwest and finally on to California over the last three-hundred-and-some years, leaving me with a long trail to follow. Luckily, a lot of them stuck around and kicked the bucket in states or areas that have made many resources available online. I have an active subscription to Ancestry.com that I use often, but I’ve found it’s sometimes just too broad to cover what I really want to know. Ancestry.com is trying to be everything to everyone, and that doesn’t always work.
In the course of my research, I’ve come across some fabulous sites that I use on a daily basis now. I’ve been lucky in the counties I research in the MidWest, but not everyone may be. Still, it’s worth sharing my favorite ways to research in the MidWest online. Some of them may be familiar. Hopefully, one or two will be new and help you out as well!
1. FamilySearch.org – This is a given; if you haven’t been here yet, you’re missing out. Extensive, free and fabulous. But don’t just go straight for the search box! Instead, click on the ‘Browse’ options for various locales beneath the search box. Many of the projects are still being indexed (which you can assist with here), and it’s worth spending the time looking at the state-specific offerings. I used them to find guardianship records and probates in Illinois. The other thing I love about it is that you can search death records for some states and search by parents – as long as you’re flexible with spelling options, it can be a wonderful way to find daughters who got married and you never knew their surname.
2. The Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center – This is a fabulous website that offers a large variety of resources about Ohio and the Civil War, some of it online, other available for research. It’s definitely worth a look. What I primarily use it for, though, is looking for Ohio Obits. Under ‘Obituaries’, click on ‘Search’ and it gives you the option to enter a surname. The actual obits are not online, but it does tell you how to order them when you find what you want. It made finding my Ohio Hagues much easier.
3. Illinois State Archives Databases – I am in love with Illinois for its archives and variety of online indices. Statewide Marriage Index? Check. Statewide Death Index (restricted years)? Check. Clear indications of where to find military, probate, various court records, etc.? Check. Not every county is covered, but a few of mine were and that has me coming back to this site almost daily for my Fraziers, Willards, and McDaniel/McDonalds.
4. DeathIndexes.com - Though not restricted to MidWestern states, I’ve had good luck with it for that, so I thought I’d list it here. Clicking on Iowa, for example, you get a listing of various burial, cemetery or obit records broken down by county. I had ancestors in Poweshiek county and the obituaries available through the Drake Community Library Obituary Database helped me break through a brick wall in my McDaniel/McDonald line! Maybe it can help you, too!
Did you have some luck with any of these sites? Have others I should be looking at for my MidWestern Dead Folks? Please let me know!
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