Some Ways To Get Digital In Your Genealogy Research
For some purists out there, online genealogy resources might just seem a bit like cheating. Let's face it, if you've got the time and money, it probably is more fun to trek across the country bouncing from newspaper archives to local courthouses and seeing what you can uncover in old stacks of paper and microfilm. That said, you can save yourself a lot of hassle by taking advantage of the resources available today that weren't around ten and certainly not 20 years ago. Some of these resources, however, might not seem so obvious, so let's take a look at some interesting ways you can get started.
You will definitely want to familiarize yourself with public records. They are an extremely valuable resource that you are almost guaranteed to use in your genealogy search. You can learn a lot by reading public records blog posts that cover the various types of information that are available. Most online services provide quick access to several public databases. You can often go directly to a local county or city government website to get access to the same data and the cost of getting the information you want may be lower than paying an online service. The 1940 census data is a great example of public information that you can get for free.
The term 'chat room' has a somewhat negative and mysterious connotation these days. The peak of their popularity was a decade ago or more, but now they mostly exist as gathering points for various niche communities. Lucky for you, one of those niches is genealogy, and it's a pretty active one. Genealogy chat rooms will let you connect with others in an instant. While you aren't likely to stumble across a long-lost cousin, you are going to pick up a lot of tips and tricks from experienced researchers that you otherwise wouldn't have known about. Many of these include strategies for narrowing down your searchers, both online and offline, so that you won't be spending months or years digging away before you find anything useful.
Alternate Genealogy Communities
Chat rooms might be a virtual relic of the internet's past, but social media is certainly alive and well in the mainstream. Facebook pages dedicated to genealogy research are available in abundance, and can offer you a lot of tools to get started. Furthermore, it's not uncommon to find Facebook pages that are specifically dedicated to genealogy researchers from certain states or even cities. These local-specific pages might help you link up with someone whose research ties in with yours, or who you can sort of "group up" with and research side-by-side to keep each other going or stick to a schedule. After a while, genealogy can become lonely work, so depending on how you go about things it might be beneficial for you to involve someone else.
Sites & Search Engines
Once you're done getting social, check out some of the more traditional genealogy databases and search engines available online. The functionality and pricing on these vary greatly; in many cases there will be a price tag associated with the website, or an ongoing membership that usually works out to a lower rate if you plan to continue doing research in the long run. While these types of sites certainly represent the most exhaustive online resources, you should look at reviews and ratings to find out where you're most likely to have success. Unfortunately, this is a bit like having to do research on your research. If you don't want to spend time looking up online services, then just go with Ancestry.com. They are the most popular genealogy site and they are a pretty decent place to start.
Between these strategies, you shouldn't have a problem getting to most of the information you need to put together your family tree. The further back you research, be sure to take into consideration tips you may have picked up in chatrooms or on community pages, such as name variations, jurisdictional changes, and more. The more tools in your toolbox, the more you're likely to uncover in a shorter period of time.