Searching in the USA
Submitted by Jan
In the US, much of the searching has to be done the old fashioned way - by personally checking records. (The original record is also usually the most authoritive source-Admin.) I would suggest googling out to find a site that has information on each state. US Gen Web is one site.
For birth, marriage and death records (civil), these are usually found in the city or town where the person was found and at a state archives. In some states, records are also held at the county level. Each state has its own address and information on prices/fees. (vital records offices on the local level aren't thrilled about helping to find records. Sometimes if you know the date, or at least the year, they will pull that book out and let you look at it. I usually use filmed records at the state archives).
As for church records, some are held at the local level, but records that go further back are sometimes held at a diocesan archives. More and more Catholic parishes are coming online so a person could see if a parish was online and then email to ask if a record was there. Usually, there is a fee for obtaining a record. Sometimes a kind priest will give information if the person just wants information and not a certificate. One of the difficulties with searching in parishes is that in recent years some parishes have closed because they have combined with other parishes. Sometimes the combined parish takes on an entirely different name.
Naturalization records are helpful. If the person doesn't know the date and port of entry, sending to the National Archives in Washington, D.C. does NOT help. I use REGIONAL National Archives repositories.
For those who have returned to Ireland but who are searching US records, sometimes, using LDS (Church of Latter Day Saints) films can help. On http://www.familysearch.com, a person can check the library catalogue.
(Note: We would like to hear of experiences that you might have had / sources / addresses you may have found that may be useful for others in their search. Send relevant information to firstname.lastname@example.org )