Piedmont Trails has received a huge amount of questions and queries concerning free genealogy techniques. Due to the overwhelming response, Piedmont Trails made the decision to dedicate a blog segment covering the subject. This article will focus on the advantages and the “know-how” of researching without a paid subscription or any type of membership fee attached.
Subscription fees can add up very quickly when it pertains to genealogy. Some companies charge as much as $400.00 yearly to acquire genealogy records and separate fees for DNA testing results. Family lineage software varies as well from $25.00 up to over $200.00 depending on the size and the capabilities of the software. You have to ask yourself, are the fees really worth it? Genealogy research is so much more than researching online references. It involves an adventure, an expedition, a journey that you may be totally missing.
Genealogy Research Is So Much More Than Researching Online References
As with so many researchers of today’s social schedule, time is less available and the online tools are more appealing for this reason alone. But, there is a huge problem with this realm of thinking. Less than 20% of genealogy records and documents are available online. To those who are paying a $200.00 to a $400.00 yearly subscription, these results vary very little. In fact, less than 5% differs from subscription online resources and non-subscription resources. So, with all of this being said, what is the best way to research genealogy in 2019?
The first thing to do is to pinpoint your “family” and then to pinpoint that particular family location. In order to pinpoint a family, you need the family name. In order to pinpoint a location, you need to verify this by a census or a tax list or a land grant or a will/probate. If you don’t have this, start with what you know only. Example: John Smith-family and Stokes County, NC-location. Many of today’s researchers search randomly from one surname to another and filling in the blanks from online trees and other forms of false identification. Free range research does not support accurate results in genealogy. This type of researching only results in clues and hints. Secondly, create a timeline for this family.
- Example of Timeline:
- 1750-birth of John Smith
- 1771-Land Grant#452-John Smith 100 acres Dan River-Surry County, NC
- 1771-marriage of John Smith to Agnes Blackwell-Surry County, NC-6/11/1771
- 1784-tax lists for John Smith-3 cattle and 100 acres of land near Dan River
- 1790-federal census-John Smith-1,2,0,1,0-Stokes County, NC
- 1810-Federal census-#101-John Smith-Stokes County, NC
- 1831-Probate of John Smith-Stokes County, NC 4/15/1831
This is now your starting point for researching this particular family. You have the surname, head of household name, the area where the family lived and a timeline demonstrating the known facts on hand. What will be available for this family online? A majority of census records and land grants. Small amounts of marriage documents and wills/probates. You can find some of these items online for free at Family Search. Majority of land grants, warrants and deeds are also available online for each state and county. You can print or download these actual documents freely from the independent county/state websites. You may need to register as a “user” or “visitor” prior to printing or downloading. Now, you can concentrate on the missing information from your timeline that will prove the existence of your ancestor and the details of his/her life. You begin with the area location. In this example, that would be Surry County, Stokes County, NC and Dan River.
Free Range Research Does Not Support Accurate Results With Genealogy
To accurately research the area using the timeline above, you will need to locate Surry County and Stokes County local resources. These can include historical societies, genealogy societies, libraries, universities, museums and much more. Contact the resources either by online, phone, email or by regular mail service. These free resources are tremendous when it pertains to your personal research. Organizations such as these are filled with local history, documents, photographs, personal objects and so much more. The time you are now spending on random online searching can be much more beneficial if you spend the same amount of time corresponding with the local historians of the area and doing this free of charge. The end results are priceless. If you are able to actually visit the area, the rewards are even greater. But, not everyone is able to do this and corresponding with the resources is the most important goal.
Now that you have identified your local resources and communication has begun, you have the ability to prove who your ancestor was and how they lived. Always get a name when you are communicating with any organization or society. Give as many details as possible about your ancestors in order to receive what local information is available. Many of these organizations have volunteers who will actually research for you. This alone is proof why you should never limit your resources to a paid subscription or an online source. Actual documents are the proof you need to prove your lineage. Online family trees are not reliable resources. They are clues and hints only. They do not prove anything except what they represent and that is a fictional account of a family. Books are also clues and hints.
20% Of Genealogy Records Are Available Online
Piedmont Trails will always share free genealogy and historical websites. Hundreds of links can be found on the website and new links are added weekly. North Carolina Genealogy Links and United States Genealogy Links are both pages filled with free online resources. A new page covering Migration Trails and Routes is also filled with free resources and data. If you have trouble finding a particular resource, contact Piedmont Trails and we will attempt to locate a source for you. If you have hit a brickwall with your research and unable to identify a name or location for your ancestor, please feel free to post your query on our forum or group page.
Always plan your genealogy research with goals in mind. Never limit your resources to online only and enjoy your research with the full experience it gives. Always know that unlimited resources are available to you without huge subscriptions or membership dues. Thank You all for your support of Piedmont Trails and wishing you all great success with your research. Enjoy Your Journey To The Past !!
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I get frustrated with those who copy and paste information into their online family tree without really noticing what they are entering. Examples are the child born after her mother’s death or someone lives in another country in a town of the same name (when I know from knowing the person that he never left the U.S.). Just as frustrating are mistakes in the U.S. Census. (My dear uncle was a girl, according to the census-taker!) Looking at all available sources should help cut down on errors.
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I agree with you, Annafrel. Genealogists are natural investigators. We investigate each entry, surname, etc. prior to placing that person on a branch attached to our family tree. Keep investigating and best wishes on your research !!
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Thanks for all the tips – excited to use the links provided.
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