After you have written down all you know about your family, contacted relatives for their information and maybe even picked a computer program to keep it all straight, now it is time to start your outside research. Remember to work from the known to the unknown. Always place the most trust in primary records and documents and keep close track of all the sources you check, even if you do not find anything. Primary records are the original documents (or copies) as opposed to secondary (compiled or transcribed) records. Secondary records can be used as clues to guide your research to find the primary records. Always check all possible sources. Good hunting.
Where do you go to start your research in central Florida? The sections below should give you some ideas, compliments of your fellow researchers in the Central Florida Genealogical Society.
For those starting out in genealogy or needing a refresher see our Genealogy 101 section that contains a Getting Started section along with links to useful forms and charts.
CFGS maintains a list of our past meetings with links to speakers, topics and websites that were discussed. These can be found on our General Meeting Notes and Computer Group Notes pages. In some cases an email link is provided for you to obtain additional information on a particular meeting or topic.
The genealogy collection of the Orange County Library has been moved to the West Oaks Branch in Ocoee and is now the Genealogy Center. Please check their blog for more information and updates. The Center is open 7 days a week, with plenty of free parking. A professional genealogist is on staff.
West Oaks Branch 1821 E. Silver Star Rd., Ocoee, FL 34761 (407) 835-7323 Location Map
This library has one of the finest genealogical collections in the Southeast and an online guide to the Genealogy Collection is available.
Microfilms of the U. S. Federal Census from 1790 to 1930 and their extant printed indexes are available, along with the immigration indexes for New York, Philadelphia, Boston, New Orleans, Galveston, and Baltimore.
Additional extensive print, microfilm and microfiche resources are available.
In the book area you will find most standard immigration indexes as well as substantial collections on most states, Canada, and the British Isles.
There are also thousands of family and county histories in the book collection.
Also, you may "Ask a Librarian" online or call QuestLine 407-835-7640 with your Genealogy questions.
Also online are Heritage Quest, which includes Revolutionary War Pension files, PERSI, Freedman Bureau records and US census records; and the Gale Genealogy Connect that includes over 500 reference e-books on genealogy-related topics. These are available at the library and from home through the Virtual Library.
Genealogy classes are also available, such as "Tracing Your Ancestors" and information on these can be found on the CFGS Calendar or call the Libaray (407) 835-7381 for a schedule of classes and how to enroll.
The Orlando Sentinel and its predecessors, the Orlando Reporter and the Orlando Star, are available on microfilm from 1907 until the present. An obituary index is available for 1949-1992. The Sentinel from 1985 to the present is available online through their Virtual Library (library Card required). (Orlando Sentinel recent Central Florida obituaries). These were not moved and remain in the downtown library.
City Directories for Central Florida are also at the downtown library.
This library has "how to" books, Internet access (SCPL library card or fee required), and some Federal Records in the general collection that might be useful in specific cases. The Orlando Sentinel is available on microfilm from 1966 -1995, and the New York Times is on microfilm from 1940-1997. Online access to a variety of genealogical resources is available at all internet computers, including the library version of Ancestry.com, Heritagequest, America's Genealogy Bank newspaper archive, and America's Obituaries. All but Ancestry.com are also available through the library's free Wi-Fi connection, or from home (with a SCPL library card). Select branches also offer free Genealogy 101 classes monthly from September through December. The Main Branch of the Library is located at 215 N. Oxford Rd., Casselberry, FL 32707. (407) 665-1500. Location Map
The majority of the genealogy holdings are held at the branches in Cocoa, Melbourne and Titusville. These three collections vary in size and content. AncestryPlus® is available at all Brevard County Libraries on their computers.
Central Brevard Public Library, 308 Forrest Ave., Cocoa, FL 32922 - (321) 633-1794, Holdings include:
A large passenger list collection, New England, NC, SC, VA.
Approximately 350 CD-ROM’s and 3,000 books.
Various old local newspapers.
Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps.
Florida Vital Records Indexes covering Deaths, Divorces and Marriages.
Brevard County Records Collection that include Brevard County deeds, marriages, probate, delayed births, naturalization and military discharge records.
Also there are 1,500 volumes and other genealogy materials from Brevard Community College.
Melbourne Public Library, 540 E. Fee Ave., Melbourne, FL 32901 - (321) 952-4514 Their collection includes:
The Melbourne City Hall collection.
The Arlyn Gantz Michigan Collection.
The Hartford Times Index.
The complete set of The War of the Rebellion.
North Brevard Public Library, 2121 S. Hopkins Ave., Titusville, FL 32780 - (321) 254-5026 (maintained by volunteers) - Approximately 900 volumes
The UCF Library has limited resources for primary genealogical research. The historical collections of books and journals in the UCF Library may be of some interest to those seeking information about places and events. Genealogists will find the National Union Catalogue of Manuscripts and the printed card catalogue of the Library of Congress useful. It is available through the early 1980s. For local researchers, they have the Carey Hand Funeral Home records, 1891-1952. This is also a patent depository, with access on US and foreign patents. There are also extensive indexes of periodicals on the main campus of UCF, Alafaya Trail and University Blvd., (407) 823-2756. Some of the holdings, including Carey Hand records, are available online.
The University of Florida Digital Collections (UFDC) hosts more than 300 outstanding digital collections, containing over 8 million pages, covering over 78 thousand subjects in rare books, manuscripts, antique maps, children's literature, newspapers, theses and dissertations, data sets, photographs, oral histories, and more for permanent access and preservation. Through UFDC, users have free and Open Access to full unique and rare materials held by the University of Florida and partner institutions. There are also some Orlando / Orange County Directories available online here.
The DeLand branch has considerable holdings on Florida and the Deland area. This collection is located on the second floor of the library, 130 E. Howry Ave. DeLand, FL 32724. (386) 822-6430. It includes:
City directories from 1944-1994
Notebooks on local deaths from 1920 to 1978.
Newspaper obits since 1986.
Holdings for States in the Northeast
The Pennsylvania Archives from 1871 to 1888.
Massachusetts Revolutionary War Records.
The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, 1847-1982.
DAR lineage books.
Census indexes from 1790 to 1850 for most states.
The IGI through 1992 is available on microfiche.
CD's include the Family Tree Maker Master Index and the Social Security Death Index.
This is a small but growing collection that started with civil war and veterans records and grew with donations from individuals with roots mainly in the eastern United States. Printed passenger indexes are also available. This library is located at 211 E. Dakin Ave., Kissimmee, FL 34741 (407) 935-0777.
FAMILY HISTORY CENTERS (FHC): The Family History Centers are operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints (the Mormons), these centers are free and open to all and give you access to the tremendous genealogical collection they have amassed at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. Volunteers staff the centers and hours vary. Each FHC has free access to Ancestry.com, Fold3, MyHeritage.com, Find My Past, Newspaper Archive and other commercial genealogical websites. Some FHCs like the one on Par Ave. in Orlando periodically offer free classes. You may also order microfilms from FamilySearch.org and have them sent to a FHC so you can view them. Verify schedules as they may change.
The Family History Centers are a part of FamilySearch website which provides access to the Library catalog as well as online access to millions of records. The “Get Started” area of the website offers classes, advice and a Wiki for information on all genealogical subjects. Utilizing the free registration for the site is recommended.
The Orlando Family History Center on Par Street is currently open Tuesday and Wednesday 6 to 9 pm, Thursday 9:30 am to 1:30 pm and Saturday 9:30 am to 1:30 pm. *NOTE: THIS FHC WILL BE CLOSED STARTING JUNE 18, 2016, FOR APPROXIMATELY 6 MONTHS!
ORANGE COUNTY REGIONAL HISTORY CENTER: Located in the restored 1927 Orange County Courthouse, the history center uses artifacts, exhibits, educational classes, re-enactments and multi-media shows to present the historical development of Central Florida. Location: 65 E. Central Boulevard, Orlando, FL 32801, across the street from the OCLS Main Branch. Phone: 407-836-8500 or Toll Free: 800-965-2030
The Joseph Brechner Research Center is located on the 5th floor of the Regional History Center. There is an online guide to the genealogical collection. Appointments are encouraged, but not required. The stacks are closed, so materials must be requested. Informing the staff of the materials you plan to use will allow them to be ready for your visit.
THE SANFORD HISTORICAL SOCIETY: The purpose of the Society is to foster interest in the preservation of information and artifacts related to the history of Sanford and the surrounding area. The museum was established in 1957 as a memorial to the city's founder, Henry Shelton Sanford. The museum was expanded in 1974 and again in 1994 to allow for the collection and exhibition of items of local historical interest. Today the museum collects and exhibits historical material relating to the development of Sanford from its earliest times to the present day. The museum's collections include a local history archive, a Sanford photograph collection, a reference library covering the history of Central Florida, the Henry Shelton Sanford Papers, a 19th century decorative arts collection, local business ephemera and a local sports collection. The Sanford Museum is located in Fort Mellon Park at 520 E. First Street, Sanford, FL 32772. (407) 688-5198. Hours: Tues-Fri: 11am-4pm; Sat: 1pm-4pm. Their website has a listing of local cemeteries and prominent names from local newspapers.