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The Direction and Future of Genealogy

With people unemployed, without homes and facing an uncertain future, how can many justify spending money on genealogical research?


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Type: Article
Resource: Tracing Lines
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Hard times and tough times are used to describe the current economic condition in the United States. With people unemployed, without homes and facing an uncertain future, how can many justify spending money on genealogical research? Writers and researchers are all speculating about the future of genealogy and the direction it is taking us. I am not proclaiming anything new, but trying to give some hope for the future.

If you are living off a steady diet of Internet research, it is time to look elsewhere. There is a world of records out there ready to be explored and you don't need to subscribe to high priced databases or travel long distances to access them. The databases are wonderful and if you elect to subscribe to them, you can also supplement them with other types of research.

Remember how you wrote letters before the Internet? Of course you had to wait for answers, but that was also part of the allure and fun of research. You can still write letters to courthouses and other institutions asking for research assistance. Remember books? If you don't own any of these, visit your public library and see if they have them. You will find courthouse information in them, as well as what records are available. Consider these:

Eichholtz, Alice, ed. Ancestry's Redbook. Salt Lake City: Ancestry Publishing Com pany, 2004.

The Handy Book for Genealogists, 9th edition. Logan, UT: Everton Publishers, Inc., 2002.

Carmack, Sharon DeBartolo and Erin Nevius, ed. The Family Tree Resource Book for Genealogists. Cincinnati, OH: Family Tree Books, 2004.

You can also locate information about county courthouses and the court systems at the National Center for State Courts web page,

While you are at the library, look at other genealogy books that may be helpful. If you don't find what you want, ask the librarian about interlibrary loan. The world is at your finger tips ... you can obtain genealogy books from other libraries for small fees, usually postage and sometimes a small fee for use. Have fun at home and check out the genealogy titles that interest you by using WorldCat. You can find genealogy books at Google Books, Some of these can be downloaded in PDF format and with others you can browse through the book. Google Books also allows you to click on "Find this book in a library." It may be right in your backyard.

If the courthouse you write to doesn't have staff or time to look up your request, ask about people in the community who do genealogical research. A great web site for obtaining assistance is at Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness, While you are at it, maybe you'd like to volunteer.

Subscription databases are not going away. They are survivors and will continue to grow even in periods of drought. If they are not in your budget, there are ways to get around the situation. Check at your library to see what is available to their patrons. Many libraries have library edition subscriptions. They may also have subscriptions available to HeritageQuest OnLine and ProQuest. Some have subscriptions to Genealogy Bank (newspapers). Your library card may gain you the power to check out books and whole lot more. Some libraries offer out of area library cards that allow you to use these expensive databases.

With the popularity of Internet research, the Family History Centers (LDS) are less popular. You can still visit them, borrow microfilm and do a whole lot more. For a listing of Family History Centers, go to Before you visit, check out the catalog of what can be borrowed on microfilm or microfiche at Another free service of FamilySearch is their digital program with online indexing and images. Check this out at

Once there, be sure to ask about any microfilm they have on indefinite loan. Somebody may have borrowed exactly what you want to use. For a reasonable fee you can borrow microfilm through a Family History Center. They also have databases on their computers. These are the ones that cost you money, but are FREE if you use them there. Some of these are Genealogy Bank, World Vital Records, Footnote, Godfrey Library and Kindred Konnections.

Look at all the places on Internet that you can leave queries. The USGenWeb area has states and counties with many areas to leave queries. Find this at and follow through the state abbreviations to the county of your interest. GenForum,, is another great place to browse and leave queries. Consider contacting a genealogy society in the area that you research. Ask about leaving queries with them. I recommend you begin by checking the Society Hill Directory at

Learning is a key word for genealogists. Further your genealogical education inexpensively by reading methodology books (see above about libraries) and also sharing ideas. Many genealogy societies are realizing the impact of Internet coupled with the economy. However, you may get your money's worth out of a membership just by sharing and learning at meetings. Look for a genealogy society in your area. There may be genealogy classes in your area. Check out the prices as well as any local or area genealogy conferences. The big conferences are great, but you can also gain a lot of knowledge by going local.

Genealogy is surviving as did our ancestors. It is going to continually be a popular hobby ... a personal hobby that you can do with the funds available and in your own time frame. Are you a genealogy survivor?

Source Information: Tracing Lines, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2009.

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

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