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Introduction to Genealogy: Online Resources

Are you ever curious about your family history? Genealogy is a fascinating topic but it can be hard to know where to start. This brief guide will explain basic steps to get you started tracing your family history.


The Library offers patrons access to Ancestry Library Edition for free. Users log in with their library card and PIN to access this database on the library's public access computers, or bring your own device to access it over the library's wi-fi. Records available through Ancestry include census records, family trees compiled by other users, immigrations records, and more.

Ancestry also offers all of the records previously found on Fold3, including Civil War service records, Revolutionary War service records, World War I and World War II service records, and military pension records, among others. This database is not available to at home users. Please visit a library location to access this resouce.

This free website is a good resource for additional information regarding marriages, deaths, and births. Some actual certificates are also here. This database is maintained in part by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and utilizes a combination of volunteers and institutional partners to digitalize records from across the country for the future. A selection of information available on Ancestry can also be found here.

This website contains a great selection of additional resources including the Newspaper Active Collection, Alabama Land Patents, and My Heritage Photos. For researchers working outside the library, lots of information available on Ancestry may also be found here. This database is available from home with a valid library card and PIN.

The HMCPL Obituary Index is a joint effort between staff and volunteers at the Huntsville-Madison County Public Library system, located in northeast Alabama. The goal is simple, but far-reaching: to go back through HMCPL's treasure trove of microfilm and microfiche, cataloging the name, date, and location of every obituary they can find in all of the newspapers archived at the library. Users have the option of requesting a copy of an obituary listed in the index online for a $5 fee. The index is still being complied and may not include every obituary in the library's collection at this time. Inquiries about obituaries not listed in the index can be sent to the Special Collections Department via email at has a very helpful step-by-step guide to walk you through getting started in your genealogy search. Author Kimberly Powell is a course coordinator and instructor at the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh, as well as an instructor at the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. In addition to the getting started guide, there are several other articles on focusing on a variety of genealogical topics.


Don't Have a Library Card?

Some of our databases are only available to Huntsville-Madison County Public Library cardholders.

Membership is free to all residents of Madison County and students of institutions located in Madison County. Residents of Limestone County who live within the city limits of Madison and Huntsville are also eligible. Valid photo ID, with correct name and permanent address, is required to obtain a library card of any type.

Adult Cards: Ages 16 and up

Young Reader Card: Ages 15 and under (signature of a parent or legal guardian required)

Non-Residents: $20 annually for individuals, $35 annually for families

Public Computer Use Only Card: Free to residents and non-residents; no items may be checked out with a computer user card