With the advent of DNA testing and various web-based companies using this technology to delve into ancestry, more and more people are researching their genealogical backgrounds.
But some companies that use DNA to trace family trees have been found to be not so reliable when it comes to protecting your data. In fact, one of the most well-known ancestry companies was sold to a private equity firm. Tap or click here to find out how to remove your data from this shady site.
In addition to questionable data storage and usage, these genealogy research sites charge money for their services, requiring one-time fees or ongoing memberships to gain access to all features. But there are a number of free resources available that the average person can use to dig into the roots of their family tree without signing up for complicated plans or risking compromising their data. Here are a few sites that can help.
One such website is FamilySearch.org, where you can create a free account and begin researching your family’s history by entering basic data including an ancestor’s name and dates of birth and death (if applicable.)
There is a lot of information available on the FamilySearch site, but there are two main ways to start researching your family’s history and current connections. One tool is the Family Tree database, and the other is the Search function.
The Family Tree is a good place to start to build your family’s chart and record information about relatives and ancestors. These databases are created and maintained by volunteer end users and can link to one another, so that you may potentially gather more information about your own family by browsing other trees. To use:
- Go to FamilySearch.org and create a free online account.
- Click the Family Tree icon.
- Enter the information you have gathered about your own family history.
- Add photographs, dates, and other pertinent information.
- Search other family trees to expand your own pedigree chart.
- Use the Search option to look up information about family members and add to your tree.
FamilySearch also uses indexing to create a searchable online database of historical records. You can search these records once they are entered into the database, and you can also volunteer to enter data from records provided. Because these records are in picture format they must be entered as text, which requires a small army of volunteers.
Another free online resource to learn about your ancestry is the genealogy section of National Archives. This site offers a wealth of information and search tools gathered from public records such as census data, military service records, immigration information and land records.
Go to the link marked Start Your Genealogy Search and you can begin searching through the vast array of available national records.
Similar to FamilySearch, Geni uses an open-source model to create and maintain family tree databases. According to its website, Geni connects nearly 150 million profiles through its database called World Family Tree. It’s just what it sounds like — it aims to be a family tree connecting the entire world. You can be part of it by joining for free!
The genealogy section of USA.gov uses similar databases as the National Archives, which you can also access from this site. Additionally, users can search State Archives which offer records of Native American resources and Pioneer certificates. If your family history extends back that far this search tool is a great way to find out some interesting information!
State Archives also offers a list of agencies you can contact organized by state. You can also use the national Gravesite Locator and access Census records from the USA.gov site.
You can link to the Statue Of Liberty Ellis Island Foundation website from USA.gov as well. If your relatives came in through Ellis Island you can enter their names to search for information about their entry into the U.S. You can even find out the name of the ship they arrived on. These kinds of details are part of what makes genealogical research fun and rewarding!
Legacy Family Tree
If you are looking for a software program to download, look no further. Legacy Family Tree is a genealogical research tool that you can download to search for and store your family’s history.
There are two versions you can download, Standard and Deluxe. The Standard model is totally free and offers a variety of features. The Deluxe version requires a fee and offers extra tools such as hinting (minimally available on the Standard version as well), tagging, online backup and color-coding among others. Tap or click here for a more detailed look at the site.
Finally, if you want even more help, ask a librarian. Librarians know everything! Check the online version of your local library. There may be free resources available to you to search right on the web.
If you still need some extra help consider hiring a trained and respected genealogist, such as Rich Venezia at Rich Roots Genealogy. Having an expert walk you through the process may not be free, but your privacy and data are guaranteed to be kept safe.
Researching your family tree should be a fun and enriching experience. There are a wealth of free online resources available — and none of them require you to send DNA through the mail. Have fun and happy researching!