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Genealogical Research on a Shoestring Budget

Many people think that beginning genealogical research requires a huge outlay of funds. This is not the case.


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Resource: GenWeekly
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Many people think that beginning genealogical research requires a huge outlay of funds. This is not the case. A notebook, a pencil and an interest in the past are enough to get a researcher started on his or her family history trail.

It is a good idea to have some idea of organization when starting genealogical research, but it is not necessary to go out and buy filing cabinets or color tabs for folders. It is not even necessary to buy a computer of a software program, although these items will aid you in your research.

No matter how advanced the research, most genealogists still use three ring binder notebooks to hold genealogical data for quick referral. You can print off family charts to put in these folders. Many people organize the folders according to family surnames. They include a chart for each generation. Behind each chart, the researcher files all pertinent data and verification (i.e. copies of birth, death and marriage certificates, wills, military records, school records, census records, etc.) It is a good idea to use clear plastic holders with top openings to hold these records. If you do have a genealogy program on your computer, record every item of documentation that you have gathered. Always keep a print copy and a CD for every computer file. You don't want to lose valuable information.

Although filing cabinets or bookcases are nice to keep your information organized, cardboard boxes will work just as well. Don't use a large box; use one that can easily be lifted and moved. Put your organizational skills to work with a filing system that you understand and that is easy to keep, and you are ready to keep your family records at your fingertips.

If you do not have access to a home computer, find out if you are allowed to use one at your public library. You can enter your data on the computer, then print out a copy and save a copy to a CD. Public libraries may also provide access to genealogical databases that will cost you a subscription at home. Many states provide through state funded programs. You can also use the resources at and as well as at a public library. Many people turn up information by going to and typing in the name of the ancestor. You can enter your family tree on the internet at your public library as well as subscribe to various list serves that may help with your research.

When you start your research, you can use internet resources as well as the genealogical resources available in public libraries, historical collections and archives. Become aware of what is available. As time progresses and you find more information about your ancestors, you may want to purchase some books that prove particularly useful. In the beginning, use what others have to offer. Become familiar with the librarians or information managers at the institutions you use the most. They may help with your research by ordering hard to find interlibrary loan items as well as assist you in ordering needed microfilm records.

An inexpensive but extremely helpful item to keep with you is a magnifying glass. The magnifying glass will help you in reading old documents and looking at old pictures. It will also help when viewing newspapers or old indexes. Other items that are relatively inexpensive include recorders, either audio or visual and a digital camera.You do not need to purchase the most expensive item with all the bells and whistles, just purchase one that will get the job done. It is amazing how much an audio or visual account of information may add to the documentation. It is also a good idea to take pictures of all graves found as they are exposed to the elements and other forces of nature beyond your control. It is likely that you can go back to a cemetery and find the grave, but it is better not to take the chance.

As your research moves forward, you may need to invest some money in travel to places where records are stored. By the time you come to this step in your research, you should have your background information established. If you are careful in your research and keep good records, you will probably figure out the most likely places to go next.By keeping your research organized, you can save yourself time and money with careful and inexpensive background investigation.

Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2007.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.

*Effective May 2010, GenWeekly articles that are more than five years old no longer require a subscription for full access.

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