Pursuing Genealogy has never been free.
There were costs and benefits to conducting family tree research before we had the internet; the costs of which manifested in very different ways over time.
We’re so lucky today because global resources are so easy to access over the internet through sites such as familysearch.org, Ancestry.com and many others, and most sites do charge either a subscription rate or a cost per item rate, or both.
Although we tend to think Genealogy was free in the past, that is not true. Before the implementation of the internet, it was much more difficult to pursue genealogy – and much more costly. One had to either physically visit the location of the records sought, or pay another to conduct the search (and pay to cover incidental costs such as printing, copying, etc.)
In my family’s case, our family tree research branches widely around the globe prior to 1900, but especially prior to 1850.
Around 1900 is when my husband’s mother’s family, the Gummesons, emigrated from Sweden to the United States and it’s when my father’s Turmaine ancestors were living in Ontario and Quebec, and my mother’s Melanson ancestors were living in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, all in Canada.
Passenger list showing Thomas, Charles and Robert Blythe.
The ancestors of my husband’s father were particularly mobile prior to 1857, when his great grandfather Charles George Blythe emigrated from Lincolnshire, England to the United States wtih his father and one brother.
Much further into the past is the Welsh migration of my husband’s ancestors in the 18th century and the Acadian settlement of Atlantic Canada of my own ancestors in the 17th century.
Costs of research prior to the internet to research my Acadian ancestry in Atlantic Canada.
First, here is an outline of the costs of traveling there to do my own family tree research during our driving tour of the area about 7 years ago. This is an estimated breakdown of the expenses of our two week trip from Ontario. Although there were four of us on this trip, I will show the costs if it were only one person (approximately $1800 – $2,650) here:
- Gasoline: $700 – $1000
- Campsites: $450 – $700 (hotels would be much more)
- Food, etc.: $200 – $300
- Entry Fees (museums, tours, etc.): $150
- Production costs (printing, photocopying, books, materials, etc.): $300 – $500
Costs of hiring a local researcher to conduct the family tree research on site.
I will be basing this estimate on the time and expenses for each individual item researched while we were there (estimated total of $925).
- Moncton University: 2 hours totaling $60
- Books: 2 totaling $100
- Photocopies: 100 totaling $10
- Ste. Anne University: 2 hours totaling $60
- Books: 1 totaling $30
- Photocopies: 50 totaling $10
- Ste. Anne Catholic Church: 4 hours totaling $120
- Grand Pré Museum: 1 hour totaling $30
- Digital Photos: 30 totaling $30
- Books: 1 totaling $20
- Pictures: 4 totaling $25
- Fort Edward: 1 hour totaling $30
- Digital Photos: 10 totaling $10
- Fort Beausejour: 1 hour totaling $30
- Digital Photos: 60 totaling $60
- Melanson Settlement: 1 hour totaling $30
- Digital Photos: 20 totaling $20
- New Brunswick Archives: 4 hours totaling $120
- Photocopies: 200 totaling $20
- Nova Scotia Archives: 4 hours totaling $120
- Photocopies: 200 totaling $20
Costs today to obtain the above information using resources available on the internet.
I have not been able to find some of the information online to this date. The estimated total using the internet is $415.
- Ste. Anne Catholic Church (not available online): 4 hours totaling $120
- New Brunswick Archives: Free
- Nova Scotia Archives: Free
- Moncton University of Moncton: Free
- Ancestry.ca annual subscription: $120
- Acadian GenWeb Sites: Free
- Books, etc. (same as above): $175
Irreplaceable benefits of traveling to do my family tree research in person and on site.
Fort Beauséjour ruins: foundations in the foreground and the still-standing supply tunnel in the background.
I love the ease and low cost of the resources available online for family tree research. However, I must say that there was no experience like personally visiting the historical sites, museums, universities and libraries during our trip to the research location, despite the expense incurred. Had we not traveled to the sites, we would have missed a great deal that I found so enjoyable and valuable, including:
- seeing Fort Edward and Fort Beausejour, the scenes of the imprisonment of my ancestors during the Acadian expulsion;
- seeing the Melanson Settlement heritage site, the town of Melanson, and Melanson Mountain, heritage sites of my Melanson ancestors;
- our wonderful bonus of finding the missing ‘aboiteau’ (dike used for draining the marshes for farmland during the Acadian settlement) at North Hill Museum and getting pictures; and
- consulting with the staff at Moncton Museum, Ste. Anne Museum, North Hill Museum, Fort Beausejour, Fort Edward, Port Royal, Fort Anne, and the Grand Pré Museum.
Most of all, a lot of the places we did end up visiting were not planned. Some of the sites we came upon accidentally after speaking with locals and site staff, some we learned about from the local newspapers, and some we came upon accidentally during our travels. The graveyard at Ste. Anne Catholic Church is one example of an accidental find, where we took numerous photos of gravestones; and the North Hill Museum where we found the aboiteau is another.
The interior courtyard of the fort at Port Royal.
Two sites in particular that proved to be particularly enjoyable were Fort Anne’s Graveyard Tour (you can see a photo of my kids listening to the presentation in the revolving images on this site) and Port Royal. The tour guide at Fort Anne was Alan Melanson and his brother was one of the guides at Port Royal. They turned out to be our Melanson kin, descending from two brothers who were sons of the original Huguenot immigrant Pierre ‘dit Laverdure’ Melanson.
We enjoyed the experience so much, we now discuss the possibility (more of a pipe dream) of traveling to Great Britain and Europe to conduct research into our British and Welsh ancestors, and the original French ancestors of the Huguenots who emigrated to Acadia.
The bottom line.
I find the convenience and lower cost of researching via the internet has a hidden cost, that of missing out on personally experiencing the sites, history and unexpected finds of conducting on-site family tree research.