Publisher of Quality Genealogy Materials
Volume 9, Number 3 Mountain Press, P.O. Box 400, Signal Mountain, Tennessee 37377, 1-423-886-6369 February 22, 2017
Publisher's Notes In this article we discuss lowering the cost of our genealogy searches. It is always a trade-off between time and money. I enjoy going to the libraries and state archives to find more information, but you may find it easier to do most of your research online. It is always so fun to find new bits of information!
As always, we enjoy your comments after the articles.
James L. Douthat
RESEARCH REASONABLY When we all started doing our research, no matter if it was last week or last century, we never thought about the cost of the project. It is only after we are deep into the search that the cost rears its head. By the time this happens we are too deep into the process to back out, so we push ahead because we want just one more fact, one more date, or one more name. Friends, there is light at the end of the tunnel!
There is “no free lunch” as they say, but there are bargains out there if you know where and how to look. We are all too familiar with the pay websites that tell you they have everything available. They will never have everything you need, but they will have a great deal of information that can also be found elsewhere. So where do we go?
The first place is your local library. It is a fact that many of our local libraries have gotten on the genealogical bandwagon. They realize that many of their patrons are into the search, so they want to make access available to everyone. Check out your local library to see if they are subscribers to some of these pay sites and find out how to access them. Many people may not have access to a county library, but hopefully they have a great “big” city library that is not too far away. The catch is you have to be a part of their system - a card carrying library patron. If you live in the city it is usually free to join, but the county residents may have to pay a fee to become a member. Bad set up in my opinion, but it helps raise money for library. You can usually use the computers at the library to access the sites or if you are a “card carrying patron” many times you can access at home with the codes provided.
If your library does not have access, then you might want to join forces with a relative and you can split the cost of membership. While this is not free, it will help lower your cost. Another possibility is that the county genealogical society or historical society is willing to underwrite the library having the access. You can join that group and help them raise the money for the monthly premium that the sites require. This helps a lot of patrons as well as yourself in this effort. It is always better to spread the love around. Many of our societies are looking for projects that are of benefit to the majority of their members. You might explore the use of some system for those who live out of town to access the website as well. It may not be possible, but it is worth a try.
There are other cheaper approaches that you might explore. Many counties and county societies have put their records online themselves. Explore all avenues of approach to the problem of “lots of time - little money” to find those facts you wish to have in your tree. Of course, the best approach is to go to the county in question and explore their records firsthand. It is amazing what can be found by looking at the original records. I was at the State Archives a few days ago and had real problems with the transcription of a piece. Those who transcribed the original used the word “Siberia” four times in their transcription. This was a man who was freeing his slaves in the 1840s and offered to pay their passage back to “Siberia”. I doubt if he even knew where Siberia was at the time and I am certain the slaves had no idea either. They had to choose going there or being sold on the open market. In checking out the original word, it read “Liberia” very clearly four times in the work. This was confirmed by a number of staffers at the Archives. This made sense. Liberia was set up to receive returned slaves back to Africa. Look at the original as much as possible!!!!
Another approach to finding the information you desire, but at a more reasonable cost is to look into the various websites of the area of interest. Many local societies have put on their sites many of the records that are of interest to researchers. If what you need is not there, you might contact the society itself and see if someone there will search out the facts you need for a reasonable fee. Remember that many of the societies use the fees to keep their websites up and running, so don’t try to be too cheap. This may not be free, but just remember it is cheaper than a trip from California to Maine to find one fact.
Even with foreign countries, there are hundreds of sites available to allow research in their country for free and online. Explore all possibilities. The big drawback here is that many of these sites are written in their native language and unless you read Swedish, you might have a little trouble with a Swedish ancestor. Don’t let that stop you, however, give it a try.
Good luck and “cheap hunting”.
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