Free Genealogy – How to Find Free Genealogy Records

Elevenses with Lisa Episode 21 Video and Show Notes

Live show air date: August 20, 2020
Join me for Elevenses with Lisa, the online video series where we take a break, visit and learn about genealogy and family history. 

How to Find Free Genealogy Resources

In the genealogy community it’s often said, “Only a fraction of genealogical records are online.” That’s true indeed, but it’s not a reason not to start your search online. A more helpful and accurate piece of advice would be “while not everything is online, all search for genealogical information starts online.”

The reason for this is simple. Online research before you go will reveal:

  • If the materials are available at a more convenient location
  • If the materials are available somewhere online for free
  • The call number, location, and other specific information you need to quickly access the materials once you arrive.
  • Details about gaining access to the facility and materials.

The last bullet point above will help you avoid the disappointment of discovering an unforeseen closure, or that the specific records you need are actually help at a satellite location.

New genealogical information and records are uploaded daily to the internet. Some of this information is available for free. In this article and episode we will cover strategic ways to locate and access free genealogy online.

The Amount of Data Continues to Increase – Read more about the growth of online information here.

The Path of Least Resistance to Free Genealogy

Most genealogists want to obtain records at the lowest available cost with the least amount of travel. Therefore, always starting your search online just makes good sense.

Here’s our path of least resistance:

  1. Free and Online: FamilySearch, Google, WorldCat
  2. Online and Subscription: Ancestry, MyHeritage, Findmypast, niche sites
  3. Free and Locally Offline: Libraries, Archives, Universities
  4. Offline and Distant: Examples include the National Archives, Allen County Library, Family History Library, NEHGS
The path to free genealogy

www.GenealogyGems.com

Free Genealogy Records Online

FamilySearch

FamilySearch is a free genealogy website.

The FamilySearch Catalog: New digitized images are added daily from microfilms & digital camera operators. These include books, maps, compiled family histories, and more. The catalog also includes materials that are not online but are available at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City or through Inter-library loan.

 The FamilySearch Wiki is a free online genealogical guide comprised of more than 93,000 articles. It covers 244 countries, territories, and islands. It includes links to genealogy databases and online resources as well as how-to information.

Use the FamilySearch Wiki Watchlist to follow pages of research interest. Here’s how to watch Wiki pages for new and free genealogy content:

  1. Log in with your free FamilySearch account
  2. navigate to the desired page
  3. click the Watchlist link in the upper right corner of the page.
Click the Watchlist button to follow the page

Look for the Watchlist link, and the blue buttons that lead to free online genealogy records for that location.

Google.com

Google is still your best bet for finding sources both online and offline.

You can dramatically improve your search results by incorporating search operators into your search. Watch episode 13 of Elevenses with Lisa to learn about how to use search operators when googling for genealogy.  

Get all of the Elevenses with Lisa episodes here.

how to get better google search results

Learn how to google for free genealogy in episode 13.

Find More Free Genealogy with these Google Search Strategies

The most comprehensive and best-selling book on the topic of using Google for genealogy: 
The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, by Lisa Louise Cooke. 

Google Alerts Finds Free Genealogy for You

Set up free Google Alerts to be on the lookout for new and updated search results. You’ll receive them by email, and you can control the frequency.

Google Alerts for genealogy and family history

Google Alerts do the work of searching for free genealogy for you.

How to Create a Google Alert:

  1. Highlight and copy (Control C on Windows or Command C on Mac) the search query that you typed into the Google search box
  2. Go to www.google.com/alerts
  3. Sign into your free Google account
  4. Paste (Control V or Command V) your search query into the Search Query box on the Google Alerts page
  5. Select the Result Type you desire (ex. Everything, News, etc.)
  6. Select how often you wish to receive alerts
  7. Select How Many results you want to receive (I recommend Only the Best Results)
  8. Enter / Select the email address you want your alerts to be sent to
  9. Click the Create Alert button

Partnerships Make Free Genealogy Available

Many of the genealogy giants enter partnerships with each other in order to facilitate digitization and indexing of genealogical records. This means that the same materials may be found in different locations on the web, and sometimes for free.

WorldCat.org

17,900 subscribing member libraries in 123 countries collectively maintain WorldCat’s database which is the world’s largest bibliographic database.

Use WorldCat to check that you are indeed accessing the resource from the most convenient repository and if it’s available for free. Here’s how:

  1. Run your search
  2. Click an item
  3. Under Find a Copy in the Library enter your zip code
  4. The library closest to you will be listed at the top

Once you get your search results, look to the left in the Formats box. There you can quickly narrow down to only items that are online by clicking boxes like Downloadable Article. Some of these may require a log in on the website you are referred to.

How to Find Free Records at Genealogy Websites

Ancestry.com

If you don’t have a paid subscription to Ancestry.com you can still take advantage of their many free collections available here: https://tinyurl.com/LisaAncestry.

MyHeritage.com

To find free records at MyHeritage.com, go to https://tinyurl.com/LisaMyHeritage. In the footer menu of the website, click on Historical Records. Then fill in your search criteria.  Scroll down the search results and look for the green free tags.

Findmypast.com

To find free records at Findmypast which specialized in British genealogy but also includes records from around the world, go to https://tinyurl.com/FMPLisa.

(Some links in our articles are affiliate links. We will be compensated at no additional cost to use when you use them. This makes it possible for us to bring this free show to you. Thank you!)

Google Site Search Can Help Locate Free Genealogy

A site search works like many search operators as previously discussed in Elevenses with Lisa episode 13 (watch and read here.) It provides Google with specific instructions about the type of search you want to conduct with your search terms and keywords.

Google Site Search for free genealogy

This Site search tip comes from Lisa Louise Cooke’s book The Genealogists’s Google Toolbox.

Site search runs your query only on the specified website. This is extremely helpful and efficient if:

  • you have a particular website in mind that you want to search,
  • you aren’t having success using the search field provided by the website,
  • the website you want to search doesn’t have a search field.

Here’s an example of a Site search:

Free Pennsylvania site:ancestry.com

Try running the search above for yourself. You’ll find results that include many free genealogy records pertaining to Pennsylvania. Substitute the words to meet your search needs.

Construct a Site search for Free Genealogy by first typing in the words and phrases you wish to search for. Include the word free. Leave the appropriate spacing between them and follow the last item with a space. Then type site: and add the website home page address (URL). You can copy the URL and simply paste it in place. There is no space between the colon and the URL. And note that www is not required.

Searching for Offline Local Sources with Free Genealogy Information

To find what’s local and free:

  • Search WorldCat.org (be sure to use the Zip Code filtering to find the genealogy materials at the location closest to you.)
  • Use Google to search.
  • Find your local Family History Center here. These centers have unique free resources as well as free access to some subscription genealogy websites.

When you find a library, archive or other repository, visit their website and look for:

  • Databases they offer
  • Their online catalog to plan your research
  • Other associated libraries
  • Details on planning a visit

Get Free Genealogy Help on Facebook

Search for Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness (RAOGK) on Facebook. 

RAOGK on Facebook

Get free genealogy records help on Facebook.

Learn More with these Resources

Free Tools at MyHeritage for a Limited Time

Now through Sept. 10, 2020 you can get free access to Myheritage Photo Enhancer and MyHeritage In Color here

Click to use MyHeritage for free for a imited time.

 

Resources for this Episode

 

 

 

Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 243 – Lessons to Learn from History

Podcast host: Lisa Louise Cooke

July 2020

In episode #14 of Elevenses with Lisa (my YouTube channel show) we talked about how important it is to tell our stories. Then we went through the process of creating videos about the stories in our family history.

Every family’s story dovetail with history at large. That is certainly true for Daniel Horowitz and his family.

Daniel Horowitz, MyHeritage Genealogy Expert

Daniel Horowitz, MyHeritage Genealogy Expert

Daniel’s family experienced the horrors of the Holocaust. Many of his relatives tragically perished, and those who survived narrowly escaped to locations around the world like Trinidad and Venezuela.

Just a few decades later, Daniel and his family were once again forced to flee unforeseen and devastating societal upheaval. He and his young family left Venezuela and made their home in Israel.

In this episode of the Genealogy Gems Podcast you’ll hear Daniel’s story and the lessons we can learn from history. You can watch the video recording of this interview here on Elevenses with Lisa.

 

Singer Family – 1920, Czernowitz, Ukraine

Getting Your History Digitized

Our family’s history comes in many forms, and some of them over time can become obsolete. I shared in this episode my continuing progress on my own project of converting the rest of my old home movies that are in a variety of formats (8mm, mini DV, High 8, and VHS.)  I use Larsen Digital and have been extremely pleased with the service and results. The folks at Larsen Digital have put together special and exclusive discounts for Genealogy Gems listeners and readers. Click here to learn more and receive exclusive discounts and coupon codes.

Larsen-Digital-Coupon-Code GenGem

 

 

           Backblaze lisa louise cooke

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Podcast Resources

Download the episode mp3
show notes episode 243

 

Lessons from History for Genealogists – Episode 15 Elevenses with Lisa

Episode 15 Video and Show Notes

Live show air date: July 9, 2020
Join me for Elevenses with Lisa, the online video series where we take a break, visit and learn about genealogy and family history.

In the last episode #14 we talked about how important it is to tell our stories. Then we went through the process of creating videos about the stories in our family history.

Every family’s story dovetails with history at large. That is certainly true for Daniel Horowitz and his family.

Daniel’s family experienced the horrors of the Holocaust. Many of his relatives tragically perished, and those who survived narrowly escaped to locations around the world like Trinidad and Venezuela.

Just a few decades later, Daniel and his family were once again forced to flee unforeseen and devastating societal upheaval. He and his young family left Venezuela and made their home in Israel.

Singer Family – 1920, Czernowitz, Ukraine

Singer Family – 1920, Czernowitz, Ukraine

My Guest: Daniel Horowitz, Genealogy Expert at MyHeritage

Daniel Horowitz, MyHeritage Genealogy ExpertDaniel is the company liaison with genealogy societies and media, lecturing, and attending conferences around the world. Dedicated to genealogy since 1986, he taught and edited the family history project “Searching for My Roots” in Venezuela for 15 years. (Learn more about MyHeritage.)

I’m grateful Daniel is willing to share his very personal story and talk about what we can learn from history.

 

What a powerful and inspiring story! And notice that as he told us his story out loud, he discovered new insight into some of the parallels in his family tree. Storytelling doesn’t just benefit the listener. The storyteller continues to learn as well.

Further reading:

In the video I referenced an article I wrote last year on the Genealogy Gems blog called Standing in Judgment of Our Ancestors.

From You

Lucinda wrote in to share how episode 14 on making videos got her wheels turning, and the success she recently had using strategies from my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox.

The Genealogist's Google Toolbox Third edition Lisa Louise Cooke

Available in the Genealogy Gems Store

In the Next Episode

Next week we are going to make a short family history video using the free Adobe Spark Video app.

make a video with adobe spark episode 15

Click the image above to set a reminder to watch the show at the Genealogy Gems YouTube channel.

Later this month you’re going to sit in with me on a consultation with an Irish genealogy expert who’s going to help me come up with a game plan for what I can do to bust a brick wall. If you have a brick wall, be sure to tune in and see how you can analyze where you are and set out a new strategy.

Resources

Live Chat PDF– Click here to download the live Chat from episode.

Show Notes PDF – Genealogy Gems Premium Members can click here to download the show notes PDF for this episode. (Log in required.) Become a Premium Member here

Your Help Makes a Difference

If you enjoy this show and you want to keep them coming, you know what to do: click that Thumbs Up icon for me on YouTube. This helps our distribution tremendously. Simply click where it says YouTube in the lower right corner of the player above and it will take you to this video on YouTube where you can click the Thumbs Up icon.

Please Leave a Comment

I hope you’ll take a moment and let me know in the Comments section below what resonated with you in this episode. 

 

 

Cross-Language Record Matching Announced by MyHeritage

Here’s the latest news from MyHeritage:

As many genealogists already know, MyHeritage is the website of choice for international genealogy, particularly in Europe. It is also extremely useful for U.S. genealogists whose ancestors arrived in the U.S. from other countries. This strength comes from the fact that MyHeritage is translated into 42 languages and is the most popular genealogy website in most non-English speaking countries, as well as having millions of international users who built family trees found only on MyHeritage, exclusive global record collections, and unique technology for overcoming language barriers.

We are working constantly to improve the technologies on MyHeritage even further and today, we’re delighted to announce a significant innovation: our Global Name Translation Technology™ has been extended to apply to Record Matches as well!

cross language

Individuals researching their heritage often face a language barrier when researching their ancestors who lived in another country. MyHeritage pioneered Global Name Translation Technology™ to help users overcome this barrier, by automatically translating names between languages. This unique capability, originally conceived by MyHeritage’s Founder and CEO, allows users to locate records that mention their ancestors in different and often unexpected languages (as well as in synonyms in each language). Initially, this was available in our search engine, SuperSearch™, and has now been extended to automatic Record Matches as well.

For example, if you search for an ancestor you know as Alexander, the algorithm may uncover a Spanish record where his name is listed as Alejandro (a Spanish version of Alexander), or a Russian record with the name written Александр in Cyrillic characters (the Russian way to write Alexander), or its common Russian nickname Саша (Sasha).

With this new addition, translated Record Matches are now calculated on an ongoing basis, and you’ll receive matches with historical records and family tree profiles in other languages. 

When you view them, the names will be conveniently spelled out using your own alphabet. You may already have noticed some records from other languages appearing in your matches.

This feature will help you easily locate records that would otherwise have been very difficult for you to find.

This unique technology is only available on MyHeritage and works hand in hand with our huge database of international records.

Free Access to Military Records and Yearbooks at MyHeritage for a Limited Time

Here’s some great new. In honor of Memorial Day, MyHeritage is offering free access to all if their military records from May 20–26, 2020. 

Click here to get started, then in the menu click Research, then click Military

Military records at MyHeritage

May 20 through 26, 2020.

MyHeritage Military Records

Many of us may have a relative or ancestor who served in the military. We invite you to pay tribute to these heroes and honor their legacy by learning more about them through military records. 

The MyHeritage collection consists of 57 million records and includes draft, enlistment, and service records, pension records, and other military documents from North America and around the world, dating back to the American Revolutionary War in the late 18th century. 

MyHeritage Facebook Live Events

MyHeritage is also hosting 2 Facebook Live events about military records in the coming days: 

Searching Military Records on MyHeritage
Tune in TODAY, May 20 at 1 P.M. EDT to learn how to leverage MyHeritage’s vast collection of military records to learn more about your family history. 

Breaking Through Brick Walls with Military Records
On May 24 at 1 P.M EDT, you’ll learn how to use military records to break through brick walls in your genealogy research. 

Follow MyHeritage on Facebook to tune in live. You can also watch the recorded sessions later on, and check out the full list of our online events in May and June.

Lisa Louise Cooke, MyHeritage Facebook Live, June 3, 2 P.M. EDT

Topic: Fabulous Photo Discoveries at MyHeritage
Speaker: Lisa Louise Cooke
Description: Lisa Louise Cooke, founder of the genealogy research website Genealogy Gems, will illustrate the incredible potential of MyHeritage’s Photo Discoveries™ feature.

 

U.S. Yearbook Records Now Free and in Color

Following the release of the highly popular MyHeritage In Color™, we’ve colorized the entire MyHeritage U.S. Yearbook collection on MyHeritage. This collection includes 290 million names in 36 million yearbook pages, spanning from 1890 through 1979. You can now see colorized versions of your ancestors’ black and white yearbook photos next to the originals. To celebrate this moment, we’re offering FREE access to our U.S. Yearbooks through May 23, 2020.
 

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