Genealogy with Lisa Marker: #4 It doesn't have to be expensive

Monday, June 27, 2011

Genealogy doesn’t have to be expensive - where to find free information
by Lisa Marker

It is a whole new world. You can sit in front of the computer at any time of day (or night) and find your ancestors.

Two things to remember, though: first, not all information is on the internet. You may still have to contact a county clerk, or archive, for example, to obtain a certificate of marriage or death. Many organizations just do not have the budget or staff to digitize their collections. Second: just because you find information on the internet does not mean that it is necessarily true! Particularly when looking at family trees that are user-submitted on various commercial sites, or on a website that is created by a person and is obviously their research, be cautious unless the information is well documented.

Given those two cautions, you can find a lot of information on the internet, much of it for free, and this is growing all the time.

One place to start is with a list that just came out (and no, they did not pay me to mention it). Search online for “101 Best Family History Sites.” This will bring up the very-recently published Family Tree Magazine list for 2011. In that case, some that they list are pay databases, but more are listed there, overall, than I will list here.

My favorite free sites (in no particular order):

The best starting point. You will find links for just about every topic related to genealogy. If you are just beginning, definitely take a look but don’t get overwhelmed. This is a fantastic site!

This is a large site, so it is easy to miss things within it. I suggest spending a bit of time clicking on the various links and seeing what is there. Some suggestions: Click on World Connect Project, and start your search from there. This searches user-submitted family trees. Also, try this site within Rootsweb

This will allow you to search by location. This is again, user-submitted information, but I found it hard to find from the home page, initially.

The home page for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints family research site. Too long an explanation to go into here, but anyone can use their site. I suggest looking under “Browse by Location” and choosing your location. This allows you to see what information they have for specific eras.

Click on the first link under “Find Graves.” Narrow down your search if you are able, especially if the name is common.

If you are researching anyone who lived in Washington in the last 130 years or so, give it a try.

A place to find others searching for the same people or places that you are.

Click on the state, then the county you are interested in. You may find transcribed information that leads you to an ancestor, or photos of tombstones, just as examples.

And for fun:

Unidentified photos looking for a home. Do you recognize anyone?

Do not forget to take advantage of your local library for help. Many databases that would cost you a lot for an annual subscription are free through the library online site. Also, those librarians are full of information and good advice!

So, go take a look, and remember, cite your sources!


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