Free Genealogy Sites? Yes, please!

7 Sites for Your Genealogy Toolbox

Image courtesy of digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Of course we all have our favorite sites to retrieve the records that let us fill in the blanks on our family trees, but eventually you want to go deeper and learn more about the people and their communities. Here are some of the best free genealogy sites in my toolbox.

Chronicling America « Library of Congress: It’s possible everyone else has known about the Chronicling America project for a long time, and I’m the last to know. That’s okay. Free searchable online newspapers for tons of US cities? I’ll take it.

Day of the Week Calculator by Ancestor Search: Of course, the thing about historic newspapers is, their stories often refer to recent events by day of the week–and not every newspaper includes the day in the date header. This day of the week calculator tells you the day when you plug in the date, making it simple to determine the correct date for an item which mentions only the day.

Free genealogy family history photo search by surname – Dead Fred .com: Honestly, you probably won’t find a photo of your favorite ancestor. But I dare you to resist trying. You can search by name or location. Go on, go play a while. I’ll be here when you get back.

David Rumsey Historical Map Collection: Over 42,000 historic maps and images.

IPS – Record of Climatological Observations: Historic weather records. Want to know if your great-grandparents had rain or shine on their wedding day? Here it is! (Special thanks to Sheryl at A Hundred Years Ago for finding this one! Her instructions on how to use the site can be found here: How to Find the Temperature on Any Date in Any City in US.)

Wikipedia: Yes, seriously. When you find military information such as Regiment/Company or Squadron, plug it into Wikipedia for a where-and-when timeline of their missions and battles.

eBay: I’m not a big online shopper at all, but I love to look at historic postcards on eBay. Try looking through Real Photos Postcards for slice-of-life, or search the US States, Cities, and Towns collection to get a sense of place as your ancestors saw it.

Bonus: If my chatter about NY-PA border counties (Cattaraugus, Allegany & Steuben in NY and McKean, Tioga & Potter in PA) is what drew you to this blog in the first place, here are some resources you shouldn’t miss:

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5 thoughts on “Free Genealogy Sites? Yes, please!

  1. Pingback: 5 Reasons I’m Letting My Ancestry.com Subscription Run Out* | Brandy Heineman

  2. Thanks for the links to all of the wonderful PA / NY resources. I’m sure that I’ll stop back regularly to use these resources. And, thank you for the nice mention of A Hundred Years Ago. It’s wonderful to hear that you found the resource on finding weather information for selected locations useful.

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  3. Ancestry has made it too easy to create a family tree! There are disincentives for analysis, for instance, such as the ease of simply adopting the “hints.” I have found myself giving in to bad habits that I never would allow for myself back in the days of family group sheets and pedigree charts. An example of that is the ease of adopting someone else’s information to one’s own tree because it is easier to look for sources from a tree than directly from the search engine.

    Further, people are learning some unfortunate habits. For instance, when adding census information to one’s family tree, the name of the wife automatically comes up with the husband’s surname. I’ve even found myself falling into that trap. The default should be either no surname or something like “unknown.” If the maiden name is known or found later, it can be added. Using the married name creates all sorts of genealogical problems, especially in this day and age of so many multiple marriages.

    I have a love/hate relationship with Ancestry. My latest peeve is that I have an automatic, annual renewal, and when the bill came due, there was a very large increase in the one year, U.S. only subscription. While I had a warning that my subscription was up for renewal, I don’t remember anything about an increase in the annual fee. When I went into Ancestry to try to find the cost of my annual fee, I couldn’t find it anyplace.

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    • All good points, Virginia. When I use Ancestry, I tend to focus on the record collections more than the social tools (family trees and contacts, etc). Partly I want to have the fun of finding the details myself, and partly I don’t want to bias my expectations of what I will find by too closely examining others’ work.

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