In almost twenty years of genealogy research, I have found a considerable amount of the sources, data and images on free genealogy databases online. They still exist in large numbers and can be very valuable.
You might ask, “Are free genealogy databases a thing of the past?”
You might think so, but if you learn how to use the search engines and ‘mine’ links on sites you visit, it is possible to find some gems.
The tough part in some cases is finding them, as most sites created by amateur genealogists and website owners are not optimized for the internet and therefore may not rank well in Google searches.
Be sure to sift through as many links as you can. If the site entered from a Google search result links to other sites, then by all means check them out. It’s important to bookmark any sites you find valuable as it’s very likely that days, weeks, months or even years down the road, you may never be able to find it again.
One tool I find very helpful for finding free genealogy databases is the Google Genealogy Search Tool at the Ancestor Search website. Scroll to the very bottom for the search tool, just one of many on the page. This tool incorporates most of all the search types above it. Just proceed to the next search results once you’ve waded through a set. This is very quick, easy and fruitful.
It is also important to search by other means than just names, such as location, topical sites (i.e. military service, war records, births, deaths, etc.) and dedicated surname websites.
When you begin to study genealogy, the resources that you have are few and far between. Most of us don’t go out and purchase expensive books or buy memberships in larger sites to get the information that we want. We tend to rely more on our own experiences and family members, but the truth is that those resources, while good, won’t carry you back through too many generations before you need some additional help.
Frustration can be an integral part of genealogy research. When it gets to the point where I’m very frustrated and feeling blocked, I create a ‘to do’ note on the person’s record in my genealogy software and turn to a different item. I find when I return later, either with a fresh, clear mind, or having given the database time to make updates, I will find something useful.
While you’re working online on your family tree, the free genealogy database will very often be a life saver. Those of us who don’t, or can’t buy the online access to the many paid databases, use the free ones religiously to find our way through family members. While you may not find all of the things that you want to know, you will find a great deal of information that will point you in another direction you weren’t even aware that you had to explore.
Even paid genealogy sites offer some specific databases for free access. These sites include Ancestry.com , and Fold3.com, amongst others. To search for free records on any given paid genealogy site, find the search link, go to advanced search, and enter the keyword ‘free.’ Most sites will produce a list of all free databases on the site. Also, try a general ‘free database’ keyword search on Google. Be prepared for thousands of search results, but at least it’s a place to start.
It is also important to subscribe to the blogs or newsletters to learn of any time limited free database promotions that may be coming up.
For all of you who thought the free genealogy search was a thing of the past, and that nothing worth having was free any more, take heart. There are literally thousands of free genealogy database sites out there that are waiting for you to come and pick through them and get what you can for your own genealogy.