Ever wonder if someone in your family’s deep dark past was a pirate or a king, but not enough to plunk down big bucks to hire a researcher? Try these free places to scope out answers on your own.
Start with yourself and work backwards. Downloadable forms from About.com/genealogy enable you to gather, organize, and present your findings, navigating you through the information maze.
Cyndi Howells is the grand dame of genealogical web information. Her “Cyndi’s List of Genealogy Sites” contains a massive 264,000 plus links, and she's constantly adding more.
State Archives store census records, but they’re also repositories for old photos, maps, and historical artifacts. These resources answer questions like, "What was life like for my coal mining grandfather?"
Ellisislandrecords.org shows actual ship’s manifests, transcribed excerpts, and specs on the boat that took them over. Sign up to use it. The records cover the years Ellis Island actively received immigrants into the US through New York, from 1892 to 1952. Manifests are fascinating glimpses into the immigrants' lives. Could they read or write? How much money did they have? What was their occupation?
Try the Social Security Death Index, (SSDI), to track more recently deceased relatives. Go to Rootsweb,(avoid paid sites), plug in a name, and scan the list for matches. It lists a birth date, social security number, where they received their card, and the month and year of death, sometimes the actual day. These are helpful in finding information in census records, newspaper obituaries, or deeds.
Telephone white pages in various countries may help you narrow down the region your family came from, and discover possible living relations. Google “telephone white pages (country)”, and see where it takes you.
Yahoo!’s Babelfish roughly translates found documents. If you contact that third cousin twice removed in the old county, this gem offers a painless way to translate English into the language. Just avoid slang and contractions.
Snuggle up with your computer and on with the quest!