dollars and cents

Your Guide to
Subscription Database Sites

You can find a lot of free information on the internet but some vendors provide content for a fee. Usually the fee is a subscription for a specified period of time, but somtimes a site will offer the abilty to pay for a one time use. Some of these sites are paid for indirectly, with your tax dollar and you can find and use them only through a library that subscribes.

Often the data in these databases is more comprehensive than what you will find on free sites and almost always it is part of the "deep web." Search engine searches will not find matches if your ancestor is included in one of these sites; you must put data into a search engine on the site. Often the site will allow you to search for free to see how many matches you will find and sometimes a selected portion of the hits will be available at no cost to you.

If a site listed below is in bold, I have a subscription to it.

Accessible Archives

American Civil War Research Database:

(back to list of databases) & Library Edition


Blogs, webinars and more links :

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  • personal subscription, in-library access at some libraries (available in [some?] FHCenters)
  • some content is free and a "free" registration allows you to perform some interactive features
  • derived from resources at the National Archives; at some point in the future it will be available to the public at no charge.
  • breaks its data out into collections and includes, partially or completely such diverse materials as naturalization petitions, index to civil war pensions, FBI files, scanned images of full Revolutionary War pension applications and confederate amnesty files.
  • material of genealogical and historical interest
  • browse to see what is available, but it can be cumbersome.
  • or you can go through each title in alphabetical order (or in order added or updated)
  • searching allows * wildcard -- finds multiple letters, e.g. W*th*y finds Worthy.
  • has an advanced search, or you can can narrow results from a keyword search by a variety of options
  • can print or download from the viewer -- one page at a time. A 16 page document = 16 times.
  • downloaded images saved as .jpg

Some of the material is added due to historical rather than genealogical significance. Data is added on a daily basis. I have some quibbles about the interface and quality of display, but find it useful, especially if you are a historian as well as a genealogist.


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  • Subscription. -- annual or monthly; also available at some libraries as America's GenealogyBank.
  • Searching and Indexing
    • Historical Records:
      • Uses a keyword search (in other words, the names aren't indexed)
      • When you search for names it searches for the surname and firstname within 2 words of each other.
    • Recent Records (SSDI and Obituaries)
      • Indexed; searches for last name and first name
    • Search tips -- reading and understanding this will help you get better results !
    • You can sort results by "best matches" OR by oldest/newest (use dropdown). The former is the default display; I prefer to list them by date.
  • Historical Newspapers 1690-1977. Some part of this database is from NewsBank's Readex set of Historical American Newspapers parts 1-5, 1690-1922, which may be offered by your library as a database you can access for free.
    • adds content to the newspaper collection frequently -- although much of what it adds is recent obituaries. We'll need to watch to see how much the historical collections are updated.
    • You can search a specific state, city or newspaper.
  • Historical Books 1801-1900. I find this to be interesting, but of limited value. To see what it includes, click on "title list" at the top line of the Historical Books search page.
  • Historical Documents 1789-1980. Searches the full text of the American State Papers and some data from the U.S. Serial set. (fuller description) The Library of Congress makes the American State Papers available at no charge. as part of the American Memory Project. A portion of the U.S. Serial set is also available as part of this project, again at no charge, but both lack full text searching. However Heritage Quest includes the U.S. Serial Set in its searchable offerings.
  • America's Obituaries 1977 forward Some libraries offer this database at no charge; check your libraries list of online research resources to see if it might be available there.
  • Social Security Death Index-- Free. This is available free elsewhere on the internet too, but possibly not as current as this one, which is updated weekly. The search form allows you to narrow the search to a span of birthdates and/or death dates, which is convenient. Results add the day of the week to birth and death records and do the math to figure out age at death. You can easily search America's Obituaries from this page.


(back to list of databases) (personal subscription) offers four segements:

Genealogy Library, World Family Tree, The U.S. Census Collection and International & Passenger Records. It is owned by the same parent company that owns and has not been kept up as well as this second product. Much, if not all, of what is available on is also on, which also contains substantially more information.

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Godfrey Memorial Library:

  • membership
    • Basic (red) Subscription
      • The Godfrey Collection: searchable scanned images of genealogies and funeral sermons in the Godfrey library; this is also available in a World Vital Records subscription.
      • AGBI is scanned and available online in the basic subscription, but not searchable. Since it is in alphabetical order, you will browse the images the same as you would find an entry in the book.
      • Ed Laput Cemetery Collection -- a searchable database of entries from hundreds of cemeteries, mostly Connecticut, but some from other states.
      • Categorized links to helpful websites -- U.S. and foreign.
      • I don't know if this reflects on me or the webpage, but I have difficulty navigating it without it telling me I'm already signed in, but then giving me no option to go back to where I was. DON'T use the back button on your browser; use the buttons on each page -- which you often must look for.
    • Premium (gold) subscription
      • Includes access to basic, plus several premium databases, mostly newspapers. Because I don't have this subscription, I can't assess how well it functions, but assuming there aren't problems, it is an inexpensive way to subscribe to a package of databases.
    • Godfrey Memorial Library is in Connecticut and the collection leans towards Connecticut and New England content.

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Genealogy Today (subscription)

The largest fee based database is called "Family Tree Connection" and it consists of information extracted from a variety of sources ranging from church records to insurance reports to criminal records. The majority tend to be from publications that list memberships or affiliation and these records are unlikely to be found in other subscription databases. A search will bring up a results list that will help you decide it if worth the subscription price for you or not.

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Heritage Quest

Available only through a library-- personal subscription not available, but home access is allowed. If your library does not subscribe, request that they do.

  • Heritage Quest has 6 databases:
    • Census: images for all decades, indexes for only some; lack 1830-1850 and most of 1930. Indexes are head of household only, not full name. More fully covered on
    • Books: UMI's Local and Family Histories microfiche set; available on (but not Library Edition) Searching can be tricky.
    • Persi: available at (but not Library Edition). This may be superior search interface.
    • Revolutionary War Pension Files: selected files; Footnote offers full files.
    • Freedman's Bank records:
    • U.S. Serial set: Also on Footnote
  • The substantial information there is made less useful by a substandard search engine.
  • A nice feature is that it takes you to the first page of the section, so you can place your hit. You usually must hit the "next hit" arrow, upper right, to find the actual first instance of the hit.

Training outline for HQ

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National Genealogical Society (membership)

has "members only" sections of their web page, including

  • NGS Bible Records
  • National Intelligencer 1800-1850
  • Research Aids and Forms
  • NGS Quarterly Online
  • Search NGS Quarterly Index
  • NGS Member Ancestry Charts


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New England Ancestors (membership)

  • The name says it all. If you research New England ancestors, you will probably want to join the New England Historic and Genealogical Society, which will give you membership access to this site.
  • Strength: New England. Includes a separate portal for The Great Migration: A Survey of New England 1620-16:40 You must subscribe separately.
  • Other: Expanding to add New York and now have a separate page which is included with your subscription.
  • Includes access to two subscription databases:

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  • subscription indexed, digital images of full newspapers
  • browse available newspapers
  • Huge collection of newspapers; good search capability, you can manipulate results very nicely -- narrow down to dates, locations and even specific newspapers.
  • There will be many false hits to wade through.

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World Vital Records

  • personal subcription; also offered in some libraries, or include with Godfrey subscription)
  • You can search these free online databases there (and see results): Find A Grave Ellis Island and Small Town Papers
  • It also partners with, a company that sells digital images of census records online. Through WVR you can browse(but not search) census images for each census, but is not a complete rooster of schedules. For Michigan, 1860, for example, the only offering is Lapeer and Clinton counties. WVR plans to index all except the already incxed 1790. When? (more).
  • Another partnership is with Most books indexed and offered through that collection are passenger lists and immigration records.
  • Includes some subscription databases: (press release)
  • A partnership with allows it to present searchable, scanned images of funeral sermons and genealogies in the Godfrey collection.
  • As its name implies, it is international in scope. (Browse international databases available)


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Ingeneas (Canada)

(Search for free; fee for records)


Find my Past (UK) UK)

GenLines (Sweden)


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This page last updated August 15, 2015