- Family and Parenting
How to Make a Family Tree for Free
Conduct Genealogy Frugally: Researching Your Family History without Going Broke
Researching your family history and filling in your family tree can be very expensive. We need so much information about each ancestor, and each fact is generally recorded on one record, i.e. birth date and birthplace, marriage date and place of marriage, death date and place of death, burial information, military information, census information. It just goes on and on. That is a lot of records for just one individual.
What makes it even worse is that there are so many ancestors. Each time you go up a generation, you have twice as many ancestors, and the number of records increases accordingly.
How Can You Conduct Genealogy Without Going Broke?
There are many ways you can research your family history without going broke. Many of these tips will help you save time and frustration, while they are saving money.
Look in Your House
Make sure you write down everything you know. You probably remember more than you think you know, and writing it down will help open the floodgate. You already have some records, such as your own birth certificate, your marriage certificate, your husband's military certificate, your son's birth announcement in the newspaper and your grandfather's obituary. I recommend photocopying them, or preferably scanning them, specifically for genealogy purposes. By taking the time to gather these records and properly documenting them, your genealogy will be off to a great start, with documentation and reliable sources.
Maybe not everyone, but if you ask your family members and their friends for information, you will be able to obtain the information faster. If you know an estimated time period and county a couple got married, for example, it will be much easier for you to locate the certificate, than if you estimate a twenty year period and a particular region of the country. If your search is too broad, you may wind up finding several people with the same name, and having to do additional research on each to find out which one is your relative.
These people may have certificates, photographs, newspaper clippings, and documents you can copy, and can give you big leads that will help you do your research. Be sure to ask for copies of these items. The more documentation you can get from relatives, the fewer records you have to find at a repository. As a bonus, you will learn rich family stories and get to know your family members.
Use Free Internet Resources
Genealogy is an addictive hobby, and many people have fed their addiction by volunteering to serve the genealogy community by indexing records and providing a great deal of information for free online. Simply search for names, locations, and topics that interest you on a search engine. You may be surprised at what you can find. Many of these sites have free forms you can use to organize your genealogy data. Here are some free sites that have helped me a great deal:
FamilySearch.org - online records. They also have free software you can use to keep track of all of your ancestors and relatives.
Cyndislist.com - huge list of genealogy resources
USGenWeb - lots of information presented by volunteers
Findagrave.com - burials. You can volunteer to add burial records, and ask volunteers to take photos of burial markers for you.
Genealogy Books on Amazon
Read Some Basic Genealogy Books
It is very helpful to read some basic genealogy how-to books, so that you can learn about the best ways to conduct your family history research efficiently. Instead of stumbling around in the dark, you will be able to map out a precise path, and learn the shortcuts. Be sure to read recent books first, so you learn the latest developments, but also read the older books because they might have that tidbit of advice that you need to break through your brick wall.
Genealogy has changed a great deal over the years. No longer do you have to look through an index in a book, or figure out the soundex code, then find the microfilm, and crank through the pages to find your ancestor in the census. Sometimes it is as easy as typing your ancestor's name on the search form at Ancestry or Family Search and let the computer find it for you.
Go to the Library
There are many repositories of genealogical information, such as public libraries, the state library, state, county, and city historical societies, and specific special interest groups. By talking to the librarians, you will learn some tips and tricks about the records that are available, and will be able to get the information faster and easier than tracking each piece of information down from the courthouse or health department.
Many libraries also have subscriptions to Ancestry, Heritage Quest, Genealogy Bank, and other subscription sites that you can use for free. Trying out the services there will help you determine what kind of information is available at each site and will let you know if it is worth getting your own subscription.
There are also Family History Centers in various areas that also house genealogy records, and can bring records to you from their main site in Salt Lake City.
Find a Cheaper Way
Just as you would comparison shop for your toothpaste, sometimes you can even comparison shop for the records. Sometimes the same record is housed in more than one place. For example a census record is at the library on microfilm, but it is also available on the computer through their subscription through Ancestry. It is also available from the comfort of your home from Familysearch.
Death records are available from the state vital records office, but they may also be housed at the county, and the state historical society. Sometimes they are also available online for free. Be sure to check your local library, Redbook, and other sources so you know your options.
Even the price of photocopying differs. At one time, I went to three different places that had three different prices for photocopies: free, ten cents, and twenty-five cents. Whenever possible, I tried to find the records where the the photocopying was free first, before moving on to the next place. In this way, I was able to get a great amount of information at a reasonable cost.
Even if the same record is not available elsewhere, like the social security card application, you may be able to find another source, or group of sources, for the information you need, like a birth certificate or census record. While it is nice to get as complete a picture as possible, you really don't need to get every available record for each individual on your tree. If you have the facts you need, you can simply do without the other records.
Instead of paying someone to do your research in another locale, you can often find a volunteer who will do basic searches for free. They simply ask you to pay it forward by helping someone else with their search.
There are lots of blogs that will keep you abreast of the latest happenings in the genealogy world, and provide tips on how to conduct your family history research. Instead of paying for a subscription to a genealogy magazine, you can look for the information on the internet for free. It is also likely to be more timely on the internet.
Conduct Genealogy Frugally
Here are some more tips for you.
- You can keep your research focused only on your direct ancestors, for example, or just the immediate households of the direct ancestors. Getting information on collateral relatives may be necessary if you hit a brick wall, but you can save a great deal of money by keeping your search focused.
- You can buy your genealogy supplies when they are on sale.
- Space out your purchases. You don't have to order all the records you need all at once, to avoid having a large cash outlay all at once. Take your time and just get one or two. As a bonus, you will be able to make sure you have the right family, and know that the record has the information you need.
- If you can find a cousin or someone else in your family that also has the genealogy bug, you may be share your research with each other to avoid duplication. You may also be able to split the cost of an expensive record that you both need, or take turns ordering records.
- Keep abreast of the genealogy community. There are times when the big subscription sites open some of their records to the public for free. Ancestry, for example, has offered military records on Veterans Day, and other collections during other times of the year.
Genealogy can be an expensive hobby, but it really doesn't have to be. By applying the tips outlined in this hub, you can do your family history research without going broke.