In this episode we cover a plethora of strategies that will give you access to loads of free genealogy records and resources. We cover:
How to follow the path of least resistance to find what you need for your genealogy research.
The best ways to find free genealogy records online.
What you need to know about the genealogy industry that will help you save money.
How you can bee-line your way to the free records that are to be found at each of the big subscription genealogy websites (Ancestry, MyHeritage and FindMyPast).
Two Google secret searches that can help you locate free genealogy resources.
How to search online to find free records offline.
A clever way to get free help with your genealogy brick wall.
Companion Video and Show Notes
This topic comes from my YouTube video series Elevenses with Lisa episode 21. You can find all the free Elevenses with Lisa videos and show notes at https://lisalouisecooke.com/elevenses.
Genealogy Gems Premium Members have exclusive access to the 5-page downloadable show notes handout in the Resources section of the Elevenses with Lisaepisode 21 show notes page here.
Premium Members also have access to all of the archived earlier episodes. To access the Elevenses with Lisa Premium Member archive, log in to your membership at https://genealogygems.com and under in the main menu under Premium go to Premium Videos and click on Elevenses with Lisa.
Elevenses with Lisa Episode 21 – Free Genealogy! Watch the video and read the full show notes here.
Historical photos and images can bring depth and understanding to genealogical findings. In the case of sharing your family history with others in your family who don’t share your passion for genealogy, they are an essential part of bringing family history to life.
Flickr is a popular photo, image and video hosting and sharing service. It’s a great platform for sharing your favorite photos with family and friends. It’s also an excellent place to find images that fit into your family history.
An important part of the Flickr world is Creative Commons, which describes itself as part of a “worldwide movement for sharing historical and out-of-copyright images.”
Groups and individuals alike upload old images, tag and source them, and make them available to others through the Creative Commons. And when it comes to groups, the list of participants is impressive.
When searching the Creative Commons, be sure to look for your favorite libraries and historical societies. If you don’t find them today, don’t worry. Check back regularly because new content is being added all the time.
Here’s another example of what you can find at the Creative Commons. The Netherlands Institute of Military History (Nederlands Instituut voor Militaire Historie) has a photostream.
“Exercise Field Artillery Corps” album, image AKL092038, Netherlands Institute of Military History uploads at Flickr Creative Commons, https://www.flickr.com/photos/nimhimages/16026248719/.
According to the Netherlands Institute of Military History blog, “The Institute exists to serve all those with an interest in the military past of the Netherlands. Its sphere of activities covers the Dutch armed forces on land, at sea and in the air, from the sixteenth century until now. The staff of the NIMH administer a unique military history collection containing approximately 2 million images, of which they will be uploading many to the site.”
Back in 2015 when we first wrote about their brand new photostream it only included a couple dozen images, like the one shown here. Today they have well over 3,300.
Tips for Finding and Using Historical Photos at the Creative Commons
Searching for Historical Photos: On a photostream home page, click the search icon (magnifying glass) just above the first row of photos in the upper right corner. A search box will pop up at the top of the page. Enter Keywords to search for images within that photostream. (Image below)
Location isn’t Everything: Just like with brick and mortar libraries, don’t let the location of the library or archive hosting the photostream fool you! Their collections are not limited to only items in their area. If you’re in search of something specific, try the Flickr Advanced Search page here.
Understanding Downloading and Copyright: Those who post images to Flickr Creative Commons offer different rights to those who want to download and use their images. Described here (and searchable here by the kinds of rights you want), those rights may include the ability to use a photo as long as it’s for noncommercial purposes and proper credit is given. Perfect for a responsible, source-citing genealogist!
10 Favorite Flickr Photostreams with Historical Focus
It would be impossible to list all of the potential photostreams at Flickr’s Creative Commons that feature historical photos, so I won’t even try. However, I’m happy to provide this list of favorites, which illustrates the breath and depth of possibilities. I hope it inspires you to search out your favorite library or archive at the Creative Commons.
(Organized by number of photos)
Internet Archive Book Images
Though not currently organized by Albums or Galleries, there is something here for absolutely everybody! Use the search feature to zero in on what you want. (See tips section below)
The British Library
A gloriously eclectic mix of images. Just one example: World War I: The Canadian Experience. This photo album covers 1895 and 1924, and contain depictions of Canadians’ experiences of the First World War. From the British Library: “Either produced by photographers on home soil or individuals in Europe employed by Lord Beaverbrook’s ‘Canadian War Records Office’ the photographs provide a wide ranging account of the many Canadians involved in and impacted by the war.”
The National Archives UK
the UK government’s official archive contains more than 1,000 years of history, so their photostream is not to be missed! Nicely organized into Albums focused on location, the images offer a sampling of their massive holdings.
The U.S. National Archives
Nicely organized into a vast array of albums, these photos represent only a small sampling of the photographs in their collection which totals more than 25 million photos and 20,000 graphic images. Early on they focused on uploading photos from the Women’s Bureau, the Environmental Protection Agency, and a few staff favorites. According to the National Archives, “These photographs, most taken by agents of Federal agencies over the years, cover a wide range of subjects and themes documented in the work of the United States government. Higher resolution versions of many of these images can be obtained from the U.S. National Archives by following the links located below each image.”
SMU Libraries Digital Collections
Southern Methodist University Digital Collections includes the digital libraries and online digital collections from the six SMU Libraries. You’ll find an emphasis on digital collections of Mexican photographs, locomotives, Texas history, art, and currency notes, and more.
National Library of Norway
These images either fall in the public domain or the copyright belongs to the library and has been wavered. You’ll find photos, postcards, stereograph cards and other ephemera depicting life in Norway. With all of the portraits you may just spot an ancestor!
National Library of Norway photostream
The New York Public Library
Considering how many Americans passed through New York, this photostream is definitely worth a visit.
National Library of Ireland on The Commons
Here you’ll find a range of items from the Ephemera Collections of the National Library of Ireland. They provide a snapshot of different periods in Ireland’s social, political, economic and cultural history. They’ve also added items from their Manuscript collections, Prints and Drawings, Exhibitions, as well as photos from Library Events.
UBC Library Digitization Centre
of the University of British Columbia
Just one of many Canadian library photostreams, the UBC Library shows off it’s diverse image collection in well organized albums. My personal odd-ball favorite is the Tremaine Arkley Croquet Collection!
Library Company of Philadelphia
They’ve organized their current photo collection into more than 50 albums, making it easy to quickly spot the historical collections. Notable albums feature unique historical images from the Civil War era.
Our female ancestors in the U.S. military had to serve incognito. Only in the 20th century have women served openly and with greater frequency—and in combat roles. Here, military expert Michael Strauss salutes the women who have bravely served, including one in...
What Has Replaced Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness? It’s a question on many family historians minds, include Genealogy Gems Podcast listener Richard who wrote in with this question:
“Many years ago Bridgett Schneider hosted the Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness website (RAOGK). This was one of the best sites to get assistance from people willing to give back at a free or very nominal cost (reimbursement). I know someone has attempted to create the same type of page using Wikia (RAOGK wiki) and I have just started working with it, but there are not many volunteers for this site yet.
I was a volunteer for the original RAOGK and will attempt to do the same with the wiki page, but I was wondering if you could point me in the right direction for any other types of pages like this. I depend on others so much because my parents’ families are from all over the U.S. My father was career Navy, joining in Minnesota going to Colorado, where my parents met, then moving to Washington DC area, Florida and back to DC. My mom’s family are all from the Minnesota and Oregon areas, so traveling to find information is not always easy. Any pointers would be greatly appreciated.”
Here’s the scoop on RAOGK:
You’re right, no other website has really taken hold to replace RAOGK. And that’s because Facebook has filled the bill. Genealogists are joining in droves, and many create Facebook accounts strictly for their genealogy efforts. You certainly don’t have to have personal information posted in order to take advantage of the “genealogical crowd sourcing” ability of Facebook.
By “friending” other genealogists you start to build a group of ‘genealogy friends’ you can turn to with questions. But when it comes to specific areas, I go to the Facebook search box and search for Facebook groups on the topic I’m interested in.
For example, I am researching the Munns, Bax and Dixon families of Margate, Kent, England. A search or “Margate History” brought up a fantastic group devoted to the history of Margate. They have amassed an unbelievable amount of shared info, photos, postcards and documents. Not everyone is a genealogist, but everyone is interested in the history of Margate. It’s the first place I would go to post a question or request for help, and inevitably someone will have the answer or be in a location where they can help me.
Although the Margate group is “history” focused, you can also search adding the word Genealogy to your location search for a group.And if you don’t see a group that meets your needs, create one! From your Facebook account:
1. on the left side of the page under GROUPS click “Find New Groups”
2. Here you can join groups (Facebook will likely recommend some based on your profile interests)
3. In the upper right corner click the green + CREATE GROUP button
4. Give your group a name and select whether it is public or private
5. Start posting content to your group page
6. Start promoting the page on your profile page while also friending other genealogists and soon you will likely have a vibrant group that can assist each other based on a shared interest.
Bottom line: Facebook is the new RAOGK. And the upside is that Facebook expands the resources to folks who may be in a position to help through a shared interest while not necessarily being a genealogist.
I hope that helps. Let me know how it goes, and thanks for being a part of the Genealogy Gems community.