Get information about where to find free ancestry charts.
When beginning to explore genealogical research, free ancestry information can be a helpful springboard to successfully building a family tree. Although serious genealogists may invest large amounts of time, effort and money into their research, amateurs and enthusiasts can get a good start on their projects by collecting information for free.
According to their genealogy Web site, FamilySearch.org, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is committed to providing connections between people and their ancestors as a foundation of their religious beliefs. This service, however, is not limited to members of the LDS church; instead, it is available to everyone, regardless of their religious affiliations. This free online tool searches a wide range of information sources, including Census data, United States Social Security death records, Vital Statistics records and an international genealogical index. In addition to these search tools, the site offers informational articles and other guidance to help people learn about their ancestors.
For people whose ancestors immigrated to the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc. (SOLEIF) offers a valuable and free ancestry tool. According to SOLEIF, between 1892 and 1924, more than 22 million passengers and members of ships' crews used Ellis Island and the Port of New York as their point of entry into the United States. The manifests of these lists can be searched on the group's Web site.
Even those whose ancestors didn't pass through this historic port can find useful information. The American Immigrant Wall of Honor allows descendants to add an ancestor's name, date of arrival and place of origin to their wall. This information is also searchable on the SOLEIF Web site. However, one drawback of the Wall of Honor search is that the historical accuracy of this information has not been verified. It should not be used as a sole source of information on an ancestor but rather as a platform for further research.
The USGenWeb group works to provide free ancestry information for all 50 states. The heart of the site is devoted to organizing genealogical information opportunities by state and county. These include census, death, vital statistics and cemetery information. For information that can not be adequately subdivided into state and county categories, USGenWeb also has projects on the national level, including tombstone transcription and developing a depository of African-American ancestral data.
Many national databases have limited recent information. For example, due to privacy concerns, personal information collected by the U.S. Census Bureau is kept confidential until 72 years after it is collected. Likewise, Social Security records are only available after a person has died. Therefore, a person wishing to gather genealogical information may need to go through avenues that are more specific. Fortunately, as an increasing number of organizations bring their databases online, ancestry information is becoming more widely available. Many libraries and local newspapers now offer online databases of marriage, birth and death announcements.
One of the most valuable resources for those doing ancestral research is the information compiled by others working on their own genealogical data. This information can be found locally by contacting families that may have a shared interest in genealogy. The increasing popularity of the Internet also provides a convenient and more thorough option; message boards and newsgroups allow those interested in genealogy to share their research in stimulating and engaging forums. The RootsWeb community offers message boards that focus on genealogical information at the county, state and country levels, encompassing many countries around the world.
In addition to regionally focused message boards, sites like Genealogy.com offer message boards for those seeking information on specific surnames. This is a convenient way to locate extended and previously unknown family members. Many genealogy Web sites also allow users to assemble information by creating and sharing family trees. Some, like Ancestry.com, will allow users to create free family trees and have limited access to others' contributions.
Since computerized recordkeeping is relatively new, there is a large amount of information that has not yet been digitized. Though there are several groups currently working to transcribe these handwritten records into searchable data, it is an ongoing process. In the meantime, people searching for ancestry information may find helpful hints for free at their local library or archives on microfilm.