Top 10 Historical Records Sites

Historical documents and public records are some of the best ways to take a deep
dive into the lives of your ancestors. Here are the best historical record archive services.

 Last Updated May 2020

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Public Historical Records

A Brief history 

Recording events and milestones has been going on since the dawn of time. When one person decides to document an important incident or wants to record a family event publicly, it becomes a public record. Public records can be used to trace a person's life from birth to death. Known also as vital records, public records are useful in determining a person's origin and in commemorating a person's role in an historic event.

In ancient times important records were kept on clay tablets. These clay tablets were then made available to the public for examination. History records that have stood the test of time reveal interesting insights into the culture and social status of people groups that have vanished from the earth.

Popular Searches

History records are probably the most popular searches with many making the family connections to a period in history or an important event. For many this type of search is the catalyst for conducting a family history search. Curiosity of how their ancestors may have fared during a particularly hostile time period or the quest to connect family to a celebrity could also trigger an interest in learning more.

Anyone who has ever started a quest for these reasons knows that the joy of discovery is well worth the time and effort. Tracing roots for medical reasons is another reason for exploring public records.

Types of Public Records

Public records reveal a lot of information about a person. Birth records often include birth certificate that denote the date and time of birth; the location of the birth, the parent's name and location and other vital statistics. Birth records sometimes also reveal the baby's blood type, their ancestry and medical condition.

Birth certificates are important because government agencies often request them to initiate a Social Security Number (SSN) and for identification purposes. These vital records birth documents also often indicate the baby's health and offer clues to help those who need that vital information. It is important to note that most birth certificates are used to help the public decide on community resources.

The discovery of population growth at a particular time period is often cited as an overriding factor for utilizing the vital records birth documents.

The Joy of Discovery

Public records can help you make family connections. Learning about a long lost relative and reconnecting with the past is one of the many perks of exploring your family history. Some genealogical sites offer closure to a family mystery or provide avenues to discover your family's origins.

Marriage records often provide information about your maternal relations. If your mother and father divorced, divorce records can help you make sense of who your birth mother was. You might even be able to trace maternal ancestors through marriage records that usually have the maiden name.

Marriage certificates, military records, death records and birth records create a vivid picture of a person's life. Discovering that an ancestor may have arrived on the Mayflower or was a famous soldier makes a good conversation starter and creates a sense of family pride.

The Costs

When you first start researching your family ancestry, there are certain costs involved in the initial phase and in the other phases of the research. Some resources are free to use in the beginning, while fees are expected for services such as printing and photocopying.

Online record resources are available to help you research your family tree. US Census data, military records and marriage certificates are good starting points for your online record research. Some of these resources are free to search while some resources can cost you some money depending on what you are ordering. It is prudent especially when dealing with US Census data to utilize the free resources first before spending money to go deeper.

When ordering death certificates or birth certificates, there are usually some fees involved. So before you decide to order death records or death certificates, it is best to do an online record search first. An online record search will save you some money and headaches as many genealogical sites provide an online record of your family including divorce records.