Tracking Your Past

Doris Green

A genealogist friend saves promotional “free weeks” to paid genealogy websites for use during vacations or periods when work is slow. She collects research questions to investigate during trial subscriptions of a week or two on such paid sites as Ancestry, GenealogyBank and MyHeritage.
The value of these free weeks can be counted in more than dollars alone. My frugal friend organizes her current projects so that she can quickly identify the big questions and possible clues. Might a local newspaper have run an obituary on a long-lost ancestor? Could she locate an ancestor’s military records? Might she find a distant relative still in the Old Country? Whatever the question, she targets the paid subscription services that have the potential to provide answers — and saves time.
Another strategy is to purchase a subscription for a short term, maybe a month, use it relentlessly during that month, and then return in a year or so to do so again. Also remember that your local library likely has a library edition of Ancestry you can use for free when you visit.
Other free resources abound. Genealogy educator Thomas MacEntee offers many on his website, AbundantGenealogy.com, for example, myriad Facebook groups. To name one, The Organized Genealogist (www.facebook.com/groups/organizedgenealogist/) involves 31,000 people sharing ideas about organizing their genealogy materials and digital files. Other Facebook groups address technology, source citations and other family history topics.
Pennsylvania’s Erie County Public library hosts a Facebook page titled The Frugal Genealogist, although it notes no recent events. The Frugal Genealogist blog (http://thefrugalgenealogist.blogspot.com/) on the other hand, is more up to date. The In-Depth Genealogist website, which welcomes “frugal genealogists,” is equally current, but not free: A $35 annual membership fee provides access to a digital magazine and a blog, plus discounts on books.
A new book on Amazon, “38 Family Tree Research Resources: Free Resources for ‘The Frugal Genealogist’” by Darrell Gibbs, is available only in a Kindle edition ($.99). MacEntee’s 2017 edition of “The 15 Habits of Highly Frugal Genealogists” has a Kindle regular price of $2.99 and 120 positive customer reviews. Too bad it’s not available at your local library. All told, Amazon carries 15 of MacEntee’s books, most available only in a Kindle edition. While your local library can provide access to Wisconsin’s Digital Library (https://wplc.overdrive.com/), which offers some Kindle titles, MacEntee’s are not among them.

Doris Green is the author of “Elsie’s Story: Chasing a Family Mystery” and a new edition of “Wisconsin Underground: A Guide to Cave, Mines, and Tunnels in and Around the Badger State.” Both are available from http://henschelhausbooks.com. Or, your library or bookstore may stock them. Connect with Doris at https://dorisgreenbooks.com.