1 /// Take advantage of free websites. There are a lot of websites that offer access to historical records at no cost. The one most commonly used for genealogy is probably FamilySearch.org, which is run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and has millions of searchable indexes and record images. You don’t have to be a church member to use the site and it’s very easy to set up a profile and get started. It is a “one big tree” type of website so you don’t get to create and save a private tree as you do on ancestry.com (a paid service) but if you’re organizing your tree offline, you really only need access to the records. Which brings me to my next point…
2 /// Organize your tree offline. I think you should be doing this anyway since online services are always ultimately out of our control, but as a cost-saving measure, it makes a lot more sense to keep copies of your family history info in your own system instead of only on a service you have to pay for. Even though I do pay for an ancestry.com subscription, my information is organized in notebooks (both digital and printed) and I save as many record images as I can get my hands on so if the online services ever fail I don’t lose all my hard work. There are programs you can pay for that store your information on your computer, but I’m a big fan of my digital method.
3 /// If you buy my pages in bundles, they’re really really inexpensive. Right now my 200 page bundles are only $29 and you get to keep those digital files forever. Just sayin’.
4 /// Take advantage of free in-person resources. Look at what your local library has (or in the collections of public libraries in the area your researching) and don’t forget about larger federal resources like the Library of Congress and the National Archives and Records Administration centers.
5 /// Use all the free trials and freebie days. Free trials are great if you have a big fat list of things to look up so gather a list of all the military records or newspaper articles, etc., you want to find and then rock out for 7 days on subscription websites like Fold3 or newspapers.com until your trial period ends. A lot of sites also have free access days, usually in connection with holidays. The past Memorial Day and Veterans Day holidays have seen free days for Fold3 and Ancestry recently had free access to their yearbook collection for Labor Day.
6 /// Join genealogy Facebook groups. I love the genealogy groups on Facebook. The one for The Genealogy Squad has been particularly helpful and it’s amazing how resourceful the people in there are. I love to take my brick walls in, post about them, and see what genius leads people come up with. I’ve even had fellow group members volunteer to do some of the detective work for me!
7 /// Take advantage of free services from Google. Although I strongly believe you should have a separate hard drive for your digital photos AND a backup hard drive, you could get away with using the free photo storage on Google Photos as long as you set it to “high quality” instead of full size. I upload all of my photos to Google Photos (in addition to my hard drives). I also keep documents in my free Google Docs account and I use Google Books to read excerpts from local histories of the places my ancestors lived.
8 /// Don’t pay full price for DNA testing. The DNA testing companies have gotten competitive so they offer a lot of discounts around holidays like Father’s Day and Black Friday. If you can be patient, wait to see if the price drops around the next big holiday.
9 /// Enter genealogy contests. Yes, there are genealogy contests! Look at the hashtags #genealogy and #familyhistory on Twitter and Instagram to see if any genealogy contest posts have gotten popular recently. Ancestry just finished a contest offering an international genealogy trip for two and last year I won my ticket to RootsTech from someone on Instagram.
10 /// Don’t forget to add genealogy goodies to your holiday lists. If you’re lucky enough to receive gifts at the winter holidays or for your birthday, you might want to remember your hobby when dropping hints about what you’d like to receive. I’ve received genealogy books, discbound notebooks (for my genealogy pages), local histories, hard drives, flash drives, magnifying glasses, photo scanners, slide scanners, video cameras, annual subscriptions, photo frames, etc. and it’s always made me quite the happy camper. I’ll take research tools over jewelry any day of the week!!