Free genealogy is alive and well

free genealogy

When I first launched my book 52 Weeks of Genealogy, I saw several comments from people who felt that the era of free genealogy was over.  I think many people have the notion that Ancestry.com is the only game in town and without a subscription you can’t really climb the family tree.

To some extent that’s true. Ancestry.com has really corralled records that are difficult to find any other place. However, that doesn’t mean the world of free genealogy is gone. For me, it’s quite the contrary. Here’s my thinking:

    1. FamilySearch.org is constantly adding new (free) records to their website. If you click on this link you’ll see a list of all 2000+ collections. Many collections now have images or index summaries.
    2. The USGenWeb is still my go-to site when I’m starting a new branch of the family tree. IF you’ve never used this site you’re missing out. It’s organized by states and then by county. Each county has a volunteer county coordinator. Depending on the coordinator you’ll either find a lot of county resources or few. However, most counties have a place to leave a query or ask someone locally to do a look-up for you.
    3. Although I promote certain genealogy products on this site, the site itself and all of the information on it are totally free. And I’m just a speck in the ocean of genealogy bloggers.
    4. Networking. The idea of message boards has been around about as long as online genealogy. It may be considered somewhat old-fashioned, but it’s still valuable.  GenForum has more than 14,000 message boards, divided by surname, locale and genealogy topics. I cracked the case on one of my difficult surnames thanks to another researcher I found on GenForum.  We networked to both of our advantages.
    5. Out-of-Print books. If you haven’t joined my mailing list, please do. This will get you access to my Resource Library. One of the resources is a video on Google Books. This is another of my go-to resources as I’ve found family mentioned in several free books that I’ve downloaded as a PDF. If you don’t know how to use this resource, watch the video.
    6. Family Tree Magazine – Although the magazine itself isn’t free, the website is loaded with free articles, tools and resources.
    7. Find-a-Grave  I love this website as I’ve located several ancestral graves using it. Again, it’s totally free. Other free burial sites include Billion Graves and Interment.Net.
    8. General Land Office Records  I could go on and on about this site, but instead I promise I will write a how-to article about it sometime in the next month.
    9. States, genealogical societies, and historical societies are now putting genealogy information online, for free.  Do a little searching and I think you’ll be surprised at what’s available without spending a dime. Google terms like “Shelby County Indiana genealogy”
    10. Looking for photos of hometowns, military regiments or special places? Go to USA.gov and start searching. Just for fun, enter “Civil War” as a search term to get an idea of what’s available. Again, I think you might be surprised.
    11. American Memory from the Library of Congress. A great source for photos, documents, and images. One of the maps from the collection was drawn by George Washington. It’s his “A plan of my farm on Little Huntg. Creek & Potomk. R.” (Click on the map below to enlarge)
    12. FreeBMD:  Freely searchable database of civil registration index of births, marriages and deaths for England and Wales
    13. Ellis Island: Immigration records, free indexes and original records, fee to download copies

If you think the era of free genealogy is over, I’ll have to disagree. I found a huge amount of genealogy resources online long before I ever had an Ancestry.com subscription. If you have other free genealogy sites you’d like to recommend, leave a comment and I’ll start creating a resource list.

Free Family Story Cheatsheet

Free genealogy cheatsheet

 

42 comments

  1. How do I join your mailing list? I’m sorry, but I can’t seem to find anything to sign up for this on your site.
    Thanks!
    Kristy

    1. I have been researching my family for just about a year(seriously) and have hit a road block. So any tricks of the trade or insight from those with vastly more experience would be appreciated. Could I join the group mailing list. Please.

      1. Hi Kathy, Oh-those-roadblocks! I’ll add you to the list this morning and I hope future newsletters will be of help. Nancy

    1. Tim,
      Thanks for your comment. And thanks so much for the link to your site. Always lovely to have more information about England and Wales genealogy collections.

      Nancy

  2. Just sort of stumbled onto your web site. Haven’t done any recording on paper but have information on my mother’s side and for some weird reason there is one family member name, Sheldon Nichols, that keeps showing up. He must have had a bunch of kids, who had a bunch of kids, etc. Also just found siblings for a great, great grandfather, Azariah Theodore Crane Pierson, that were never mentioned in his obit. Is there a way they can be confirmed? Also, have responded to the family member updating information and only one responded – he was in his 20’s. Going to do some “snooping” thro the publications you mentioned. Thanks

  3. Hi Nancy

    If you could add me to your mailing list I would be greatly appreciative.

    Thank you
    Have a wonderful day
    Cheers
    Lynne

    1. Hi Larry, I’m going to add you to the list this morning. And best of luck in your Irish research!
      Nancy

  4. Nancy, I just discovered your site and can’t wait to read your newsletter.
    Would you please add me to your newsletter list? Thank you!

    1. Hi Alice, Happy to have you here! I’ve just added you to the newsletter list. Let me know if there’s any way I can help in your research. Nancy

  5. Could you please add me to your news letter list also. Often times I use Roots.com to help me. I am not sure how many records they have but there has only been a handful of times that there was no record for me. Roots.com was a free part of Ancestry the last time I used it. I have been researching for 10 years and I am finding new info all the time. Sallie

  6. Hello, thanks for the great info. Its a start. Could you Plz add me for your newsletter. Could use all the help I can get. Thanks have a great day

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