Carol Sanderson, Editor
Charles Hansen, Technical Advisor
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In the December issue of the Eastern Washington Genealogical Society Bulletin is an article called Genealogy Is Not Free, Dani Lee McGowan writes on the various costs of doing genealogy. Some people seem to believe everything on the Internet should be free, but the Internet is not free. Thousands of volunteers on Rootsweb and the various GenWeb sites have put a lot of data on the Internet that is free, but a lot of databases cost money so someone has to pay to put them on the Internet..
One of the questions that seem to be common to a lot of new genealogists is, "Should I subscribe to Ancestry.com, Genealogy.com or Heritage Quest, so I can research online"? Heritage Quest actually is not available to individual subscribers, only libraries, but Genealogy.com has subscribed as a library so you can access Heritage Quest from Genealogy.com. It may take some work to find it but most or all of the information in those databases can be found other places.
Check to see if your local library subscribes to one of these services before you subscribe. My local library subscribes to Heritage Quest, so all I néed to access Heritage Quest online databases is a library card from my library. Dani Lee pointed out that even if you access these services or just go to the library your taxes are paying for the subscription and the materials in the library so they are not free, but there is no reason to pay for a service twice.
Before the Internet, genealogists would mail out queries to courthouses, genealogical societies and libraries. That is still a way to do genealogy, but even that costs, postage and copy fees at the courthouses, research fees and copies at the genealogy societies, and libraries usually have copy costs also. Probably the least costly research method is to use inter-library loans. You can request newspapers and many other resources to be sent to your local library where you can research these resources yourself.
A great place to do research is in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. Once there it does not cost a lot, you can look at all the microfilms and books for free, but you still pay for copies. Getting to Salt Lake City and motels while you are there cost also. Probably the best way to access the materials from Salt Lake City is at the Family History Centers, these are branch libraries of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City and they can order microfilms and microfiche from Salt Lake City for a small rental fee. It is still much cheaper than going to Salt Lake City. Since the Family History Library has copied so many vital records, births, marriages and deaths, I think it is where every genealogist should start.
Can you afford to do research? It depends on how much time and energy you put into the research. You can keep the costs down or you can spend a lot of money researching.
As I write this, I know that we are going to have a white Christmas... two nor'easters in a week dumped a lot of snow. By the time you read this, the holidays will be over and we will all be collecting our thoughts for things to come in 2004.
Perhaps some of you got new computers for Christmas and are trying them out. Others, who didn't may well be surfing, looking for ancestors. Online genealogy research is a lot easier now than it ever was. There is a lot more data online. "How do I to get to it though", you ask.You could start with this site. It has lots of useful things for beginners and those who are further advanced. Lots of links to take to other types of things too. I am so comfortable here that I forget to tell people to explore this site thoroughly. Bookmark it and come back again and again.
I've been reading, trying to add to my knowledge of how and where to go. One article suggested that you use more than one search engine. I tend to favor one but now I guess I should try a few more. The ones named that seemed to be best for genealogy were AlltheWeb,.Alta Vista, and Google. If you haven't used a particular search engine, it pays to read about how it works and some of the options it offers. While all search engines will perform a search they also have features that vary and do other things in the search. Check on these too.
You, also, should search on things other than names, particularly if it is a rather common name. Use first names, places, countries, and yes, sometimes the last name of a wife. Her name might just lead you to some areas that you hadn't thought about.
Use other things found on the Web for information such as directories of people and businesses. Some of these might be WhitePages.com, YellowPages.com, Yahoo People Search i.e. people.yahoo.com.
Try the big databases. Charles mentioned some in his article which precedes this one. Not all of them are pay for. RootsWeb, USGenWeb and WorldGenWeb are all free. Use the Family History Catalog online. It will help you to have more time at the Family History Centers by getting what you want and ordering it before you go there.
Look for on line card catalogs to libraries. You may be able to get what you find on inter-library loan if your library doesn't have that item. Most of the large libraries are online and open to your searching along with others that may be smaller.
Network with others by using the surname lists. You will find many searching the same surname that you are and some may have information that pertains to what or whom you are searching. Most all of us who frequent this site have found "cousins" that way and further information.
Explore areas that are not commonly thought of as genealogy but usually do have information that will round out your knowledge of your ancestors. These might be history sites or books, maps, newspapers (not just the obituaries), and school records for instance.
It is not all out there but there is a lot and thanks to many volunteers more is appearing every day. So get out you "surfboard" and wander and explore to find what there is. If you find something of interest, be sure to bookmark it so you can get back to it later. Have fun, explore and above all find more of your ancestors on line. I bet some of them are just waiting for you!