Featured Database: HeritageQuest Online

In today’s blog, we’ll explore the HeritageQuest Online database. Thanks to the efforts of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, HeritageQuest Online is available from Texas libraries through the TexShare database program. It’s also accessible away from the library to residents with a Texas library card. If you want to access it from home, you’ll need to request TexShare login information from whichever library you obtained your library card.

HeritageQuest Online is a comprehensive treasury of American genealogical sources, rich in unique primary sources, local and family histories, convenient research guides, interactive census maps, and more. It provides genealogical and historical sources for more than sixty countries, with coverage dating back as early as the 1700s. All titles are fully indexed and searchable. Search using First and Last Name, Event Year (e.g., birth year), Event Location, and Keyword (e.g., publication title, occupation, or religious affiliation). Hit terms are highlighted on the page images.

Inside this genealogical treasure chest you’ll find several outstanding collections:


This collection contains over 700 million records from the US federal census from 1790-1940, and national censuses including Argentina, Netherlands, Czech Republic, and several other countries. The US federal census contains over 140 million names and includes every-name indexes and grayscale/color images. The search form allows users to look for exact matches for the name entered in the first or last name search fields. You will not see these options until you begin to populate the field. Soundex variations, phonetic variations, and similar variations are also options for searching census records. The search form from each decade differs and is indicative of information collected in the corresponding census period.

Actor Clark Gable and wife actress Carole Lombard enumerated in the 1940 census, Los Angeles, California. Their home is valued at $40,000. In today’s dollars it would be valued at about $826,025.


In this collection you’ll find over ten thousand family histories and lineage books, and over thirteen thousand local histories, compiled genealogies, documentary collections, church records, military records, vital records, and more. Unique family and local history content here spans five centuries!

The Rucker Family Genealogy by Sudie Rucker Wood, is one of hundreds of family histories found in HeritageQuest Online.

Wills and Probate Records

This collection has more than 170 million pages from the largest collection of wills and probate records in the US, with searchable records included from all fifty states spread over 337 years (1668-2005).

Administration of Peter P. Pyeatt of Polk Co., Missouri, 1884, with will annexed. This is one of many types of US probate records you’ll find in HeritageQuest Online.

City Directories

Here you can search over a billion records in US city and county directories from various years and various states between 1821-1989. These directories are a must-use if you have urban ancestors. My people were in Boston and several New York City boroughs, and directories allowed me to track them over several years because these books were published annually. Within some directories, you may find street listings arranged alphabetically, showing who lived at an address during that year and who the neighbors were.

Waltham, Massachusetts City Directory, 1930. City directories are indispensable resources for genealogists whose ancestors lived in cities and towns.

Military Records

HeritageQuest Online has over two million records from selected state and country military records, including the US Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files 1800-1900, US Records of Confederate Prisoners of War 1861-1865, US Remarried Widows Index to Pension Applications 1887-1942, and many others. For example, in the Revolutionary War pension and bounty-land warrants, information of genealogical interest includes the application itself, which can provide the soldier’s name, rank, unit, time of service, age, date of birth, residence, and sometimes birthplace. A widow’s application may also include her maiden name and date and place of her husband’s death. Applications by heirs will typically indicate ages and residences. Additionally, files might contain affidavits, service records, records of commissions and discharges, wills, receipts, diaries or pages from family Bible records, military orders or muster rolls, newspaper clippings, letters, marriage certificates, account books, and even one book of contemporary lyrics.

Andrew Carnahan’s affirmation of his stated service in the Revolutionary War, contained in his pension application file, 1833. Note his actual signature at the close of his statement.

Freedman’s Bank Records

This is a great source for genealogists researching their African American heritage because of the amount of personal information recorded for each individual in it. It contains an index and original images of the Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company’s registers of signatures of depositors from 1865-1871. The Company was incorporated in 1865 by an act signed by President Abraham Lincoln to create an institution where former slaves and their dependents could place and save their money.

Some information that may be found in this index includes:

▶ Name of depositor

▶ Date of application/deposit

▶Name of employer

▶ Name of plantation

▶ Age

▶ Height

▶ Complexion

▶ Name of father and/or mother

▶ Whether married

▶ Place of birth

▶ Residence

▶ Occupation

▶ Names of children

▶ Names of brothers and sisters

Not all entries will contain all of this information, since forms changed over time and differed based upon the bank branch’s location. Registers of  twenty-nine of the thirty-seven branches had records have survived and been microfilmed. They contain forms required by the bank for each depositor to fill out. The exact questions asked on each form varied between years and branches.

The United States Congressional Serial Set

This collection, commonly referred to as the Serial Set, began publication in 1817. It contains more than 140,000 private relief actions, memorials, and petitions drawn from the records published “serial” fashion from the US Senate and House of Representatives from 1789-1969. More than 480,000 pages of information are available. It also includes content from the American State Papers, the predecessor to the Serial Set.

The reports are usually from congressional committees dealing with proposed legislation and issues under investigation. Documents cover a wide variety of topics and may include reports of executive departments and independent organizations, reports of special investigations made for Congress, and annual reports of non-governmental organizations.

Page from the claim by the estate of Andrew Atkinson, deceased, enumerating losses incurred during General Andrew Jackson’s foray into East Florida in 1812 and 1813.

Maps and Photos

This includes US Indexed County Land Ownership Maps 1860-1910, US Enumeration District Maps and Descriptions 1940, US Indexed Early Land Ownership and Township Plats 1785-1898, and the Library of Congress Photo Collection 1840-2000. A helpful resource here is the digitized book Map Guide to the U.S. Federal Census, 1790-1920, which provides access to information about historical US censuses, published statewide censuses and indexes, county-wide census indexes, non-population census schedules, and census forms.  On the “home page” of the Map Guide,click on your state name and look at the county boundary changes from the state’s first federal census through 1920 by clicking on each census year.

From the Early Landowner and Township Plats 1785-1898 collection in HeritageQuest Online, highlighting Pyeattsville, a town in Warrick Co., Indiana

US Social Security Index, 1935-2014

The Death Master File from the Social Security Administration (SSA) currently contains over 94 million records. This file is created from internal SSA records of deceased persons possessing social security numbers and whose deaths were reported to the SSA. You can also make a paying request for a copy of a deceased person’s Social security application from this page, which can be invaluable to your research; the form was filled out by the applicant and included parents’ names (including mother’s maiden name) birth date, address, employer, and a signature.

The US Public Records Index

This is a compilation of various public records spanning all fifty states in the US from 1950-1993. You can search for your more recent ancestors in this collection.

Search Records in Other Locations

HeritageQuest Online also includes various records in certain parts of the database from South America, Central America, Caribbean, UK and Irish, Canada, India, Europe, Russia, Africa, Asia, and the Pacific Rim.

Research Aids

You’ll also find helpful research aid topics, such as tips on getting the most from census records, top 10 search tips, African American research, and things you should know about “’black sheep” ancestors.

We hope you take advantage of all that HeritageQuest Online has to offer. Whether you use it from your library or living room, it can help you expand and document your family history.

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