Free online data is usually available thanks to the kindness and hard work of individual volunteers. One of the best examples of volunteerism at work is the USGenWeb, a massive site with individual pages for every U.S. county–all maintained by volunteers. Goodies vary per county, but many contain transcriptions of bibles, wills, census and tax roll records.
In the last several years, governmental agencies have gotten into the act by posting historical data in free, searchable online databases. Some, like the Illinois State Archives have gone the extra mile, transcribing and uploading more than a dozen different databases of Illinois-related material, including death indexes, land transactions, marriages and military veterans.
If you’re trying to keep your research costs at a minimum, try using search engines to locate the many free databases, which are popping up all over the Web.
How? Use a variety of search terms like “Kentucky deaths” or “kentucky death index” or “Kentucky databases” until you either find the database or are certain it’s not online. I used Google.com, typed in “maine marriages” and found an online index of Maine marriages from 1892 to 1996.
When I searched for “Missouri births” I turned up a surprising hit: the Missouri Secretary of State’s online abstract of the birth, stillbirth, and death records recorded before 1909, available on microfilm at the Missouri State Archives. Why was I surprised? That site wasn’t there the last time I looked.
Bottom line: Don’t forget to do a recheck of sites every six months or so.