Of course, you may have to register with a site—providing your name and an e-mail address—to take advantage of some offers. We suggest opening a new e-mail account just for freebie sign-ups (naturally, using a free service such as Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail or Gmail). Then put away your wallet and check out these deals:
2. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has spearheaded efforts to broaden records access, and the results are free on the FamilySearch Records Search pilot site. There, you’ll see several US federal and state censuses, Mexican and UK enumerations, vital records, church records from the US and abroad, and more. Most hits link to record images, but if a promising match doesn’t, you can see the record image free at an FHC. (Active FamilySearch records indexing volunteers are eligible for at-home access to the restricted records.) Ancestry.com’s World Archives Project indexing program also promises free indexes (but not record images).
4. The subscription site World Vital Records makes most new US collection databases free for 10 days after they’re uploaded. Keep an eye on the site’s list of recently added content; look at the title of each database to see whether it has free days remaining. Click a title to search that database. And don’t forget you can visit your local FHC to search all the content in World Vital Records for free.
5. The next best thing to owning essential genealogy resources is finding someone who has the book or CD you need and will do a free lookup for you. Tap the home libraries of more than 1,500 volunteers at Books We Own, which has been finding answers for genealogists since 1996. Other sites with volunteer lookup lists include GeneaSearch, Ancestral Findings and (for CDs) The Genealogy CD List.
6. For research tasks in a distant library or archive, turn to Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness, a directory of volunteers and locations where they can do research tasks. Your only cost is reimbursing the local genealogy volunteer for expenses such as photocopying—and, of course, giving some other researcher a hand one day. And several members of the FamilyTreeMagazine.com Forum have announced their willingness to do genealogical favors; see the Volunteer Corner.
7. Before you buy a book, check Google Book Search, which contains entire digitized public-domain books and selected pages of many books that are under copyright. Amazon.com lets you “Search Inside” numerous books; there’s usually a limit on the number of pages you can view.
Other no-cost options include Family Tree Builder software, which you can download from MyHeritage. Also look into the family tree-tracking features on Web sites such as WeRelate, SharedTree, Geni and Ancestry Member Trees.
9. Don’t drop a small fortune on pricey photo-editing software. Adobe Photoshop Express is a free, online version of the professional photo-editing program that lets you upload, store and repair photos. Google’s Picasa offers basic editing functions and automatically rounds up all the images on your hard drive so you can sort them into albums.
10. No need to pay for charts, either. Probably the widest variety of free genealogy forms—in PDF and Word/WordPerfect formats—is on our own Web site. Among the selection: a Five-Generation Ancestor Chart, Family Group Sheet, Research Calendar, Repository Checklist, Cemetery Transcription Form, and census extraction forms for every US enumeration. For framing, MarthaStewart.com offers an online decorative Family Tree Fan Chart template and instructions.
11. Stop paying an ISP (Internet service provider) to host your family Web site. Instead, start your own
RootsWeb Freepages Account or look into a service such as MyHeritage or MyFamily.com, which provide limited hosting space and basic features for free.
From the March 2009 Family Tree Magazine