Genealogy from Home!

Just because the BPL is temporarily closed doesn’t mean you can’t still work on your family tree! The BPL offers several resources that can be used from home, and there are many free websites for genealogy research available.

BPL Resources


  • Ancestry Library Edition - Thanks to the generosity of our vendor, Ancestry Library Edition will be available remotely for the duration of our closure. This database contains millions of records from all over the world including vital records, Census records, immigration records, city directories, yearbooks, and much more.
  • Discovering Your Roots: An Introduction to Genealogy - From the Great Courses Series via Kanopy, a comprehensive 15-part introduction to the basics of genealogy research. While we are closed, users can borrow 8 titles per calendar month.
  • Gale In Context: Biography - Good for researching more well-known people, it contains full-text biographies covering a wide range of people from many fields.

To access these resources, you will need your BPL card number and PIN. If you don’t have a BPL card and you are a resident of Massachusetts, you can get a free eCard here.


  • Digital Commonwealth - Great for finding pictures of houses and other buildings in Boston. Also contains other material of local and historical interest from the Boston Public Library and other libraries, museums, archives, and historical societies in Massachusetts.
  • HathiTrust Digital Library - A good resource for finding published family histories. Contains digitized books, government publications, and other documents from libraries all over the world.
  • Internet Archive - Another good source for published family histories. Contains digitized material from the BPL and other institutions from all over the world.
  • Open Library - Over 100,000 eBooks available for borrowing and reading in-browser or on mobile devices using Adobe Digital Editions, including many published family histories. Creation of a free account is required for borrowing.

Other Free Websites

The links below are provided for informational purposes only. The BPL is not responsible for the content of these sites, and cannot vouch for their accuracy.

Online Records

  • Boston Historic Burying Grounds Initiative - A database containing transcriptions of all the legible graves from sixteen different burying grounds in Boston, ranging from 1630 to 1841.
  • CastleGarden - A free database of information on 11 million immigrants who made their way through Manhattan's Castle Garden immigration station between 1820 and 1892.
  • Ellis Island Foundation - Has made available more than 25 million passengers and members of ships' crews that entered the United States through Ellis Island and the Port of New York between 1892 and 1924. Free registration required.
  • Family Search - From the Church of Latter-Day Saints, includes millions of digitized records. Free registration is required.
  • Find A Grave - A crowd-sourced website with millions of grave records, many include photos and some include obituaries.

Collections of Links

  • Cyndi’s List - A categorized & cross-referenced index to genealogical resources on the Internet.
  • Olive Tree Genealogy - Provides links to free genealogy records including searchable transcriptions. Also provides free tutorials and research guides.
  • Linkpendium - A 10,000,000+ resource directory to everything on the web about families worldwide and genealogically-relevant information about U.S. states and counties. Covers free and subscription sites.
  • U.S. Gen Web - Hosts volunteers that provide free online genealogy help and information for every U.S. state and county.

Online Courses & Other Tools

  • - Free research guides from genealogy experts on a variety of topics, as well as a Video Library, which can be accessed with a free guest registration.
  • Relationship Calculator - From, assists in determining the names of complicated familial relationships.