Genealogy Research Guide

Welcome to the Smithsonian Libraries and Archives' Genealogy Research Guide. This guide identifies a select list of resources of digital collections, subscriptions, print and online resources relating to American biography, family history, genealogy, and local history. Please feel free to contact us at with suggestions for additional resources or with questions.  

Subscription-based Electronic Resources

This list highlights some of the subscription-based electronic resources available to researchers from the Smithsonian Libraries and Archives. Databases that require SI network for access are indicated by "SI staff." For information about remote access see Off-Site Access to Electronic Resources​.

  • African American Newspapers Series 1 (1827-1998) (SI staff): A collection of African Americans newspapers published during the 19th and 20th centuries, chronologically grouped by the eras in the history of the Caribbean, U.S. Presidential eras, and eras in American history.
  • American Civil War: Letters and Diaries (SI staff): A digital collection of more than 100,000 pages of diaries, letters and memoirs written by 2,009 authors.
  • American National Biography Online (SI staff): A database of more than 19,000 names of Americans and foreign nationals; accompanied by paintings, sketches, etchings, drawings, and photographs (when available) from the pre-colonial era to present day.
  • American Periodicals (SI staff): A database of periodicals published between 1740 and 1940, many of which included more than 300,000 family histories, genealogies, or subjects related to genealogy and local history.
  • Ancestry Library Edition (SI staff): Largest subscription and fee-based family history website with billions of records, photos, family trees, historical newspapers, and publications. Also provides genealogy research and publishing services.
  • Archives Unbound (Gale) (SI staff): Topically focused digital collections of primary resources and historical documents dating from the Middle Ages to the twentieth century. Includes thousands of published and private family histories, genealogies, and biographies.
  • Artemis Primary Sources (Gale) (SI staff): A single interface that supports cross-searches of all available Gale digital archives of historical records, manuscripts, journals, and newspapers. Includes thousands of genealogies and family histories.
  • Biography and Genealogy Master Index (Gale)(SI staff): An international database of more than 20 million biographical citations on more than 6 million persons, living and deceased, spanning 2,000 years of recorded history.
  • Fold3 Complete Collection (SI staff):  Digital collections of military records, photos, stories, and personal documents. International in scope, but largely focused on documenting conflicts from the American Revolution to the Iraq War.
  • JSTOR (SI staff): A database of more than 12 million international academic journal articles, books, and primary sources, including studies on genealogy, family history, local history, and biography.
  • Nineteenth Century U.S. Newspapers (Gale) (SI staff): A database of 1.8 million pages of nineteenth century American newspaper; includes local history and genealogical content.
  • North American Immigrant Letters, Diaries, and Oral Histories (ProQuest) (SI staff): A collection of letters, diaries, oral histories, interviews, and narratives of immigrants who came to North America between 1800 and 1950.
  • North American Women’s Letters and Diaries (ProQuest) (SI staff): An indexed collection of 150,000 pages of diaries and letters documenting the experiences of 1,325 North American women from the 18th century to the 20th.
  • ProQuest (all collections) (SI staff): Portal to 21 databases containing scholarly journals, books, videos & audio files, dissertations & theses, newspapers, and manuscripts, including genealogies, biographies, and local histories.

Archives, Libraries, Research Institutions

Bibliographies, Reference Guides, and How-To Guides

DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy

  • GEDmatch:  Provides a free web-based platform for comparing autosomal test results from multiple DNA testing companies.
  • The Genetic Genealogist:  Provides information and services on combining traditional genealogical techniques with genetic research.
  • International Society of Genetic Genealogists:  Society that advocates for and educate about the use of genetics as a tool for genealogical research. The site includes a beginner’s guide to genetic genealogy and testing options.  

Ethnic Genealogy

  • American Family Immigration History Center (AFIHC) Ellis Island:  Maintains database of 65 million searchable records on the immigrant experience in America. Provides genealogy services, and supports the collection of immigrant stories.
  • The Robert Frederick Smith Center:  Assists visitors in learning the basics of researching African American genealogy through virtual genealogy research sessions. The center also hosts public programs, lectures, and workshops on African American genealogy and family history.
  • Trace Indian Ancestry:  Resource created by the U.S. Department of the Interior. Includes research tips on conducting research, information on the tribal enrollment process, and links to the Tribal Leaders Directory to federally recognized tribes.
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigrations Services Genealogy Program:  A fee-for-service program that provides researchers with access to historical immigration and naturalization records of deceased immigrants.

Genealogy Societies and Professional Organizations

  • Association of Professional Genealogists:  Not-for-profit professional organization dedicated to the growth and enhancement of the genealogical profession. Maintains a Code of Ethics and Professional Practices and Member Directory of nearly 3,000 genealogy professionals; advocates for records access and preservation; facilitates networking amongst professionals in the field, and supports education initiatives.
  • Board for Certification of Genealogists:  Non-Profit organization that promotes standards, competence, and ethics among professional and lay genealogists through programs of outreach, publication, and education.
  • Genealogical Speakers Guild:  Society that facilitates better communication between genealogical speakers and societies. Maintains a directory of members organized by name, specialty, or lecture style.
  • Hereditary Society Community of the United States of America:  Promotes historical education and compiles a list of hereditary societies.
  • International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists:  International credentialing organizations dedicated to testing an individual’s competence in genealogical research.
  • National Genealogical Society, and Federation of Genealogical Societies:  A recently merged organization (2020) that supports individual genealogists and genealogy societies to connect their families to the past and for the future. Supports genealogy education and professional development through annual conferences, online courses, genealogical publications, and online resources.
  • Preservation Organizations and Resources:  Online resource for historical preservation, building restoration, and cultural resource management in the U.S. and Canada. Directory identifies more than 4,500 historical societies, 7,000 history museums/house museums, comprehensive guide to grants and funding sources, jobs, and preservation professionals.

Software and Technology

Last Updated October 6, 2023