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How Far Back Can I Trace My Genealogy For Free?


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Type: Article
Prepared by: Elizabeth Larsen
Word Count: 613 (approx.)
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When you start to trace your family, the records you find will be obtained without cost. Look through your own home for all records that are considered vital, such as birth, baptism, confirmation, marriage and death certificates on any family member.

Look in the family Bible, all closets, drawers and cedar chests. If you are lucky, you will find your records and maybe your parents and grandparents. Grandparents and great grandparents did a beautiful job of documenting the entire family in a page in the Bible.

Collect all records, old dishes, old pictures, old linen, religious relics and whatever and put them in one place. Treat them with great care by not writing on them or putting tape on them. Don't even repair broken statues or splice pictures.

You might find an old military uniform and that will send you looking for those records. Talk with any relatives available and place phone call to those out-of-town.

Visit the public buildings in town which house treasures such as land records, birth certificates and those for marriage and death. Now, here you probably will have to pay for copies and the actual certificates.

If you write relatives out-of-town, you will have to pay postage and since you will no doubt send family record sheets, that will cost a bit. Visit the churches where your family worshiped. The people there are usually extremely gracious and helpful. They would appreciate a donation but you can probably get the birth and baptism and marriage certificates free.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mormon Church, has done extensive genealogy research and has millions of records available online on computer. A computer will cost you about $500 to $1000. However, most cities have a Mormon Church with a family history library where you can find many records or at least where to find them. They are always free of charge. They also have computers and microfiche machines that you can us for no cost. You really don't need to buy your own computer.

If the records you need are not available at the family history library, the staff there will help you send for them from the library in Salt Lake. There is a reasonable charge for renting them.

Visit estate and garage sales and you may find many genealogy books or even records. If you know how to use a computer, they are free in the library and you can Google for free genealogy sites. There are a few. I Googled free genealogy records before 1790 and found several. One site I need to research is Ontario and Nova Scotia Settlers, 1790-1860. Send a name and a researcher will look for it and let you know. Records can be found free for Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin and Texas before 1870 with more going online all the time.

The first United States Federal Census was taken in 1790 and you may find that census and the following ones online in your library if the library buys the paid genealogy site, Ancestry. Or the library may have Heritage Quest which offers the census records free for patrons of subscribing libraries. Census records are wonderful because they show the whole family at one address with names, ages, immigration dates and occupations.

If you do not want to pay for genealogy, don't send for books, collections of records, sign up for paid genealogy sites, hire an official genealogists or pay for any research. It is very possible to compile an accurate genealogy for free with records found back before 1870 for very little cost.

Elizabeth Larsen has researched her family tree for 35 years. For more information on beginning a good genealogy and many tips, go to

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