In my last post, I mentioned that my cousin’s wife had become interested in genealogy. I then offered her a few pointers about how to begin:
- Start with yourself and your immediate family and work back in time, generation by generation
- Ask lots of questions, take lots of notes, and think outside the box. Develop a method of saving and organizing what you learn, whether by using pen and paper or with genealogy database software. There are many excellent and free programs available (ROOTSMAGIC!).
- Talk to your family now. Don’t put it off.
Ok, so you have your pen & paper/computer in front of you, you’ve got a stack of notes, pictures, and documents that you’ve gathered from your immediate family, and you have begun to view that data as more that dates and places… It is now becoming the story of you and your family!
Guess what? You are hooked! Genealogy had gotcha!
Do you find yourself asking more questions? Craving more information? Where do you go from here?
To get you started, there are many free resources available both online and in the real world:
- Your local library. Most libraries have Ancestry.com available for the price of a library card (free!). Use the libraries’ computers to access it or bring your own laptop. My Chromebook is perfect for this. I can use my local library’s wifi and connect to Ancestry and it doesn’t cost a dime. For more information, you will probably have to go to a larger regional library. The Central Branch of the Fort Worth Public Library, for example, has old editions of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and Gazette newspapers, city directories and phone books, marriage data, school yearbooks, and cemetery indexes, and more. Access to these holdings is free, although you’ll probably need some pocket change for the copying machine.
- In Fort Worth, we are fortunate to have a branch of the National Archives: “Our facility is for Archival as well as Microfilm research. We also have Public Access Computers. Our historical records housed date from the early 1800s to the late 1900s, and include letters, photographs, maps, architectural drawings, and other documents received from over 100 Federal agencies and courts in Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas.” Again free to use.
- There are a lot of free genealogy and history websites where you can find scanned or photocopied original documents and photographs pertaining to your ancestors, including FamilySearch.org, the Bureau of Land Management, Find A Grave, Chronicling America, and the Portal to Texas History, Internet Archives (U. S. Census!), to name just a few.
- Several times a year, the “pay” genealogy websites, such as Ancestry.com, Fold3, and Findmypast, offer free access, usually tied to holidays such as Memorial Day or Independence day, or to some big genealogy event, such as the recent RootsTech 2016 conference. As you go through your family tree, make list of what you need. An example would be to make a list of any ancestors that you know or think were in the military. Then when Fold3 has their next free access weekend, usually around Memorial day, you will be ready to jump right in, list in hand, and find hopefully find some of your folks in Fold3’s vast collection of military records.
- And finally, if you haven’t already, sign up for Facebook. Really! Then join groups such as Geneabloggers, RootsMagic Users and RootsWeb Genealogists. You will meet a lot of knowledgeable and helpful genealogists on Facebook. Do a search for “genealogy” on Facebook and start counting. As of 1 Feb 2016, the Genealogy on Facebook List contains over 6000 links! It is a wonderful resource. Plus, there are lots and lots of cat videos to watch. 🙂
One last word: blog. A Google search for “genealogy blogs” returns 650,000 hits! Pick a few that interest you and subscribe to their RSS feeds or email updates. People just like you and me run these blogs, and they love to share. You might even decide to start your own blog…