A ton of genealogy and family history research can be done for free. In this episode I’ll share 15 fabulous free websites and what I love about them. These are essential for everyone serious about saving money while climbing their family tree.
(Get your ad-free Show Notes Cheat Sheet at the bottom of this page in the Resources section.)
Episode 77 Show Notes
1. Genealogy records – Familysearch
- Free account
- Download and print
- Historical records
- Digitized Books
- Browse Images
2. Books, Magazines & Newspapers – Google Books
- 10 million free digitized book
- Google’s newspaper collection
- City directories
- County histories
- Court records
- Government reports…
Tip: Use the Tools button on the results page to reveal the filter menu. Filter your results down to just full digitized and searchable books by selecting Full View.
Learn more: Elevenses with Lisa episode 30.
3. Records – Find free records at Ancestry
Website: tinyurl.com/lisaancestryfree (affiliate link)
- Use the link to zero in on only free records
- All types of genealogical records!
- Use fields to search just the free records and free indexes.
- Free Trial available
Learn more: Elevenses with Lisa episode 17.
4. Burial Records – Find a Grave
- over 170 million burial records.
- birth, death, and burial information
- many submissions include additional biographical details (possibly an obituary) and information about spouses, children and parents.
- Name fields:
? replaces one letter.
- * represents zero to many letters. g. Lars?n or Wil*
- Search for an exact birth/death year or select a range, before or after.
Select “More search options” to:
- Search for a memorial or contributor by ID.
- Include the name of a spouse, parent, child or sibling in your search.
- Use partial name search or similar name spellings to catch alternate spellings or broaden your search.
- Narrow your results to famous, Non-Cemetery Burials, memorials with or without grave photos and more.
5. Free downloadable worksheets – Family Tree Magazine
- 5 Generation Ancestor Chart
- Family Group Sheets
- Ancestor Research Worksheet
- Records Checklists
- Family Relationship Chart
- Online Search Tracker
- Ancestor Surname Variant Chart
- Oral History Interview Worksheet
- S. Census Checklist
- Genealogy Source Documentation Guide
6. Resources & Information – US Gen Web
- Free, volunteer organization for 25 years
- Organized by State then Organized by County
- Free guidance from experienced researchers in that area
- Links to free records
7. Resources & Information – FamilySearch Wiki
- Organized by country, state, county…
- Provides an overview
- Directs you to where known records are located
- Alerts you to pitfalls and tips from experts at the FHL
Learn more: Elevenses with Lisa episode 64.
8. Passenger Lists – Ellis island Website
- Passenger lists images & transcriptions
- Photos of Ships
- the Wizard
- One page form
Snagit Clipping Tool: Here’s our link for purchasing your copy of Snagit (screen clipping tool) Thank you for using our link. Use coupon code GENEALOGY15 to get 15% off. (We will be compensated at no additional cost to you, which makes the free Elevenses with Lisa show and notes possible.)
Learn more: Elevenses with Lisa episode 34.
9. Books, Images, Videos – Internet Archive
- Old webpages
- Audio Recordings
Learn more: Elevenses with Lisa episode 43.
10. Photo Identification – Dead Fred photos
- A place to post photos for potential identification
- Reunite orphaned photos with families
- Find old family photos
11. Military Records – Soldiers and Sailors
“Cooperative effort between the National Park Service and several public and private partners whose goal is to increase Americans’ understanding of this decisive era in American history by making information about it widely accessible.
- Men who served in the Union and Confederate armies during the Civil War.
- Histories of Union and Confederate regiments.
- Links to descriptions of significant battles.
- Selected lists of prisoner-of-war records and cemetery records.
Learn more: Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 149.
12. Postcards & Newspapers – Old Fulton Postcards
- Started as New York post cards
- Expanded into newspapers
- Now boasts “Search over 41,433,000 Historical
Newspaper Pages from the USA & Canada”
- Take the time to visit the Help & FAQ section
- Visit the Old Fulton New York Post Cards page at the FamilySearch Wiki.
13. Newspapers – Chronicling America
- Newspaper Directory (1690-present)
- Digitized Newspapers (1777-1963)
- Image search with Newspaper Navigator
Learn more: Elevenses with Lisa episode 26.
14. Land Records – BLM GLO
- Land Patents
- Land Surveys
- Legal Land Descriptions
Learn more: Elevenses with Lisa episode 67
15. Video – YouTube
- Home Movies
(search by surname,
“old home movie”, locations)
- Old Newsreels
- Local TV station coverage
Learn more: Elevenses with Lisa episode 58.
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Questions and Comments
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Bust a genealogy brick wall by learning to speak Google’s language. Proper use of Google’s basic search operators will have you plowing through walls in your research in nothing flat!
Genealogy information is sprinkled across the millions of websites on the web. Whether it’s a digital image of your great-great grandma on a distant cousins website or an out-of-print history book listed in the online card catalog in a library on the other side of the globe. Google can help you find it all.
Gaining access to that information is not as hard as you may think. I’d like to share a question I received recently from a Genealogy Gems Podcast listener, and show you how you can bust a brick wall by speaking Google’s language.
Here’s the email that I received from Ruth last week:
I’m sitting here listening to one of your free podcasts…I’m working, I’m listening, and I’m thinking…about my brick wall James Craig, what I know and what I’m trying to find out!
I know that James Craig was born about 1795-97 in New Jersey and was at Ft. Jesup, Louisiana in 1823, [and] that he was discharged in 1825. I researched New Jersey military records and found a James Craig, from Pittsgrove, Salem, New Jersey, who joined the Army [in] August 1820 for five years [and] he was sent to Fort Scott, Georgia. I read articles that state, when Fort Scott closed sometime around 1822/23, the men were sent to Fort Smith, Arkansas. Do you see the trail I’m following? It’s not hard to make the connection from Fort Smith, Arkansas to Fort Jesup, Louisiana. My problem is that I haven’t found any transfer papers!! So, how do I verify that James Craig from Pittsgrove, New Jersey is my 3rd great-grandfather. Is it possible that there are journals from the commanding officer of each encampment that might shed some light on this?
Thanks in advance for any thoughts you might have on this long standing brick wall!
Tips to Bust a Genealogy Brick Wall
Ruth asked “Is it possible that there are journals from the commanding officer of each encampment that might shed some light on this?” I certainly think it is possible! I would suggest using Google to search the web because such items might be digitized online, or they might be listed on a library or archive website as being available at their location. Either way, you would gain valuable information on how to access the items.
Here’s an example of a search I would run:
This search is based on my Google Excellent Method Search Let’s break down the pieces of this search query:
The quotation marks tell Google that the word or phrase must be in every search result (in other words, they are mandatory.) When used around a phrase, that means the phrase must appear exactly as searched.
The asterisk tells Google there might be a word or two between the words in a phrase, such as a middle initial.
By putting OR between two versions of the phrases, such as last name first and first name first, you cover all your bases. Note that the word OR must be capitalized to work as a Google operator.
Finally, two numbers separated by 2 dots is called a “numrange search” and that tells Google a number that falls within that range must appear in each search result. And of course, four digit numbers represent years to genealogists!
Your Genealogy Google Guru
Google packs a powerful punch for genealogists. Let me be your Genealogy Google Guru and watch my video below for even more helpful tips and tricks. Remember to subscribe to my Genealogy Gems YouTube channel so you’ll get all my upcoming Google video tips. Happy searching!