Free Family Finder
Learn How to Use and Be a Free Family Finder
There are a number of reasons why people begin to research information on their family. They may do it out of curiosity to see where their families fit in history, to see where certain names came from, to find out if they are in line for an inheritance, or for medical reasons. Some may be trying to find out who their birth parents are, and whether they have any siblings.
Whatever the reason, most of us would love to have one all-inclusive, extensive, reliable and precise collection of family history with all the information we could ever want on everyone's life. Unfortunately, that data base does not exist. It is up to us to find the pieces of the puzzle and fit them all together ourselves.
What does exist, at least as of this writing, is a large number of websites that are devoted to family history. Some of them are free family finders, while others are subscription sites. Some are devoted to secondary sources - that is, information that may or may not be correct and which is usually submitted by researchers or others interested in genealogy. Some specialize in original sources from which diligent researchers get their information. Some sites have scanned and digitized family history books. Yet others include collections of different sources of information. Museums, court houses, churches, cities, and historical and genealogical societies are some of the entities who have put information on the internet.
A common complaint among beginning researchers is that they have a hard time finding family information for free. Often they type their family name in a search engine such as Google and get hundreds of hits, many of which are offers to research their family tree for a price. It is not always necessary to pay for the answers to your questions. There are some free family finders, but you will have to do most of the work yourself if you want to be sure you have complete and accurate information.
One free family finder is www.new.familysearch.org or the older www.familysearch.org. This website is sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Family History Library. It includes family trees submitted by people from around the world, indexes to a number of both church and government sources, and access to the microfilm, microfiche and books held at the Library.
Parts of other family finders are free as well, although they will want you to subscribe to get most of their information. Some people complain that government records should be free to the public, and they are if you are willing to travel to their depository, pay a search fee, wait for the source to be brought to you, and pay for photocopying. This does not even consider the cost of your time. What web sites do by scanning and digitizing records and then making them available online is provide an index, and make the information available in your own home so you can access it on your own timetable.
Outside the world of the internet, there are a number of other free family finders. Enlist the aid of your relatives in answering your questions. Ask if they have any certificates, photos, military documents, or other family heirlooms in their possession. If you get conflicting information from them, try searching sources at local libraries, many of which now have genealogy rooms with copies of deeds, newspapers, church records, published histories, photos, court records etc. Go to the cemeteries where your ancestors are buried. Sextons or city workers can narrow your search down by accessing plot records, obituaries and financial records. Another free family finder is the local newspaper office. And yet another free family finder is your local museum or historical society. They have a lot more than they can put online so be sure to pay them a visit.
No matter where you go for information, be sure to record it clearly and, if possible, take photos or photocopy the material. And be sure to share it! You may be the free family finder for others!