Genealogy, the study of one’s ancestors, can be immensely satisfying. It can also be incredibly time consuming and potentially expensive. That being said, sometimes the best results are the easiest to find and the least expensive.
Here are 5 ways to find FREE basic genealogy information.
1. Old newspaper clippings. One of the easiest ways to trace your family history is to head to the local library of your ancestors and pull up the microfiche.
Obituaries, wedding announcements and birth announcements were often printed in the local newspaper and many libraries still have copies of this material. Of course if you’re researching anyone born before newspaper printing, then you’ll need to rely on other free resources.
2. City Directories. Many major metropolitan cities have comprehensive city directories which contain a lot of basic information including addresses, businesses owned and/or worked at, and of course basic family information like who was married to whom. Most older city directories are stored in libraries, so check your library for these while you’re there looking through the old newspapers.
3. The Social Security Death Index [United States ONLY]. This index provides the dates of birth and death of the deceased, the city and state of last residence, the social security number, and the state in which the social security card was issued. The only caveat to finding this information is that the person has to have been around when the Social Security Act was instituted, after 1935.
4. Gravestone and Cemetery Records. Believe it or not, you can search cemeteries around the world; internment.net is a free service that allows you to search databases of more than 5000 cemeteries. And if you know where some of your family were buried, you can actually find a wealth of information about descendants by visiting the cemetery.
5. Census records. Some census and voting records date back to the early 1800s… and in the United States 1700s. One example is Family Research’s website which by becoming a member of their website you may obtain access to their records. Many of these types of services offer a free trial. Or you can visit the National Archives.
Additionally, if you’re at a National Archives facility you can access the online services free of charge, without having a membership. You can also access the microfilm catalogs online before you get started to help you narrow your search.
Perhaps one of the best ways to gain insight into your family history is to go straight to the source. Ask your family members what they know about your heritage. Make sure you contact the oldest relatives too, because they will have the oldest information, and maybe even some of the old documents you are looking for.
Researching and compiling your family tree can be an incredibly interesting and satisfying experience. It’s nice to know where you came from, and to see your family’s position in history.
Before you fork out hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars to hire a professional or pay for resources, try some free basic genealogy first. You might be surprised what you find.
Do be aware, many online documents will need to be verified. But just knowing the document(s) will cut your time down considerable researching for them.
Next article: Understanding Birth Records in Genealogy Research
Internet Specialist by trade and passionate about my family's history, I set out to try and reconnect the many lost connections with my paternal family.
Your tombstone stands among the rest
What is Genealogy?
Why is Genealogy Important?
What to do When You Have a Common Surname
Do I Need The Help of a Professional Genealogist?
Understanding Birth Records in Genealogy Research