Friday, 6 April 2012

Free Family History Resources

My last post was about genealogy TV shows, and how they can provide useful information and research tips. The great benefit of using TV shows in this way, aside from the entertainment value, is that the tips provided are free. In general, genealogy can be an expensive hobby to have, with subscriptions to sites such as Ancestry and Find My Past typically costing over £100 annually.

Other genealogy sites, such as Scotland's People, charge for credits which are used to view digitised images of records. This can also prove to be expensive, as the further back into your ancestry you go the more relatives you will find, and the more records you will need to view. As a result of the expense associated with genealogy I try to make use of free resources whenever I can, both in terms of finding records and developing my researching skills.

In addition to TV shows for tips, there is a very informative radio programme called "Digging Up Your Roots." It is produced by the BBC Scotland, and features the respected Scottish genealogist Dr. Bruce Durie. He is extremely knowledgeable when it comes to resources where information can be found. The BBC also has an excellent website on family history, which is of course free of charge.

Websites for learning are all well and good, but the whole point of family history research is to discover specific facts about our ancestors. As previously stated, most websites charge for viewing their records, with only a few notable exceptions. One of the most famous, and extensive, is the website of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They provide birth, death, marriage, and IGI records dating back for centuries.

Other sites to be aware of include FreeCen for census records, and FreeBDM for births, deaths, and marriages. The records provided on these sites are transcribed by volunteers, and they are therefore neither 100% accurate nor 100% complete, but they are free to view. Genealogy forums such as Rootsweb can also be a goldmine for information.

Finally, it can be worthwhile to google the name of an ancestor you are searching for. This method is hit and miss, but I have had some success with it in the past. Often search results pages will include links to the family trees of other genealogists who share a common ancestor with you. When you have hit a brick wall with your research this can be an effective way of giving you a new avenue to search. 

If you are just starting out in genealogy, free resources can be a great way of developing your family tree. You'll be amazed at how much you can discover at no charge.

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