Doing genealogy research can be a very expensive hobby. Everything from copies of birth, death, and/or marriage certificates to website memberships, the genealogist in you can end up spending a huge chunk of change obtaining basic information.
Ancestry, probably the most popular genealogy site, provides a lot of information, including scans of original documents, it is incredibly expensive. Currently, a 6 month membership (which is cheaper than a month-to-month subscription) is $199 for access to all records. For access to limited records on a world-wide basis, the 6 month membership fee is $149. That’s $298 per year! While Ancestry does offer a free 14 day trial, you have to put in a credit card number and must cancel before your 14 days are up, or you’ll be charged. Ancestry is incredibly expensive, and not necessarily worth it – especially when I’ve found there are other resources available that are free.
- Family Search – This is a great foundational website. You’ll have access to several copies of original documents that you can download. You do have to sign up for a members, but it is free.
- USGenWeb: This is one of the longer living websites, but it provides website resources on all the states in the United States.
- Western States: This is a great resource to find marriage information of western states such as Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Alaska, California, Arizona, etc.
- WA Digital Archives: Hands down, this is the best state digital archives I’ve every utilized. Not only does it give you a break down of birth, death, marriage, land, court, etc. records, but you get access to original documents in many instances.
- Cindi’s List: This resource is essentially a database of genealogy resources all around the world. It contains a good mix of free and paid resources, but Cindi’s List is always free.
- Findagrave: This is a grave site database. While it’s purpose is not to be a genealogy site, it often contains a wealth of genealogy information – everything from photographs to obituaries. And the links to spouses, sibilings, parents, and children within each grave listing provides rich content. I was able to track down my great grandmother (who died at 27 in 1929) via Findagrave. Just be aware that each grave listing is managed by someone who independently manages the information for that grave. If you reach out to that person, you never know what kind of response you’ll receive. I’ve had both really positive and horribly negative experiences.
- National Archives and Records Administration: This is archival information on a national level. While this website isn’t intuitive and is more difficult to navigate around, it’s resources are awesome.
- RootsWeb: Similar to USGenWeb, this website provides great information. Additionally, there are discussion boards that allow you to do outreach on a specific name, location, etc. However, it is owned by Ancestry.com. Often times, when you click on a link to follow through with information – an Ancestry membership login will appear (i.e. you have to pay to gain access to the information you want).
- Library of Congress – Historic American Newspapers: I love, love, love this website! I’m able to search newspapers over 100 years ago. I’ve found my 3rd great grandparent’s obituaries, as well as a series of articles on a distance uncle who disappeared (and was rumored to have been murdered).
- National Archives – Passenger Arrival List: This is linked to resource #7 but it has so much information on immigrating ancestors that it deserves a spot on it’s own. Unless you’re 100% Native American, chances are you have an ancestor (or several) who came over on a ship. Passenger records are a great way to determine who, when, where, and more.
Several of these resources have a “buyer beware” component to them. What this means is the information contained is based on research done by contributors (i.e. other genealogy researchers), so information may not be accurate. This is why it is important to not take information at face value (unless you can access original documents), but to do more follow up research. This is especially true when you access family tree information.