I became interested in genealogy while I was still a student. Living in a little 10th floor apartment I spent many hours gazing at the skyline to rest my eyes from the strain of writing a thesis (and, of course, exploring my family history). To say my financial means to delve into the world of genealogy were modest is an understatement. I am a frugal person and I was hesitant to immediately purchase a membership to any of the online genealogical resources. (What if I don't find anything?!) I think I waited nearly 18 months and then my grandmother gave me a gift membership to Ancestry.com.
Online Memberships (you don't always have to pay right away!)
During that initial 18 months I gathered a lot of information (Ok, not finding anything seems doubtful now...). Some of it was handed to me in the form of stories, old photographs, and already completed research. The rest was the result of what I like to call 'frugal detective work' and building a base to explore from.
Ancestry allows non-subscribers to search and see some of the information contained in a record. For example, right now I have let my membership lapse while I physically move myself and then spend some time organizing what I already know (then I will be back!). As a guest I am able to search for one Nancy Williams and see that she appears on the 1880 census. I can also see her age, approximate birth year, birthplace, home in 1880, race, gender, relationship to the head of household, marital status, spouse's name, father's birthplace, mother's birthplace, and the names & ages of other people in her household. Not too shabby!
Documentation is an essential part of genealogy, so the major downfall to this type of research is you don't have the ability to examine the actual document that is supplying the above information. There may be transcription errors...and plain old errors...and you may not catch them. Another drawback is you don't have the benefit of viewing other information such as your ancestor's address. I had no idea until I was perusing my grandfather's childhood neighbors that he lived next door to his own grandparents in 1920. This also helped me pinpoint how old other family members were. I have also been able to take census addresses and locate residences that are still in existence many many many years later (see my blogger and twitter icon for an example!).
Genealogy books can be expensive. I have my eye on one that is hundreds of dollars and I doubt I will ever see a copy of it. Over the last few months I have discovered the wonderful world of free and cheap Kindle books. I am working on a future post that organizes the ones that I have found that are under $5. So far, I have really enjoyed the ones I downloaded and since you don't need a Kindle to read them I think many people would find them interesting.
[Another frugal tip - I often purchase my Kindle books with gift cards I earn from swagbucks which makes many of them free. If you want to learn more about that you can use my link to their website here or go directly to swagbucks.com].
Twitter is also a great free resource. In the few months I have been using my account I have made numerous new friends! Reading other blogs and learning about how other people organize their searches can be very helpful - especially for newer genealogists. Who knew the genealogy blogging community was so vibrant?! This afternoon I also starting searching YouTube for ideas and to meet other family historians.
Ever since the internet entered my life (was that 1998?) I have enjoyed reading forums - about sports, animals, careers, schools, movies, travel, photography...and genealogy! In addition to the Ancestry.com forums I also joined Genealogy.com's Gen Forum as I began my research. The message boards are searchable by last name, geography, and other topics.
I have had mixed luck with these types of ventures. Some of 'my names' seem to be interesting to a lot of other researchers (fun!) and with other names I question whether or not I am the only person in the entire world looking for information (not as fun!). Either way, I like getting emails from the forum when other people add to discussions I have participated in.
I love hearing other tips for making genealogy a cost effective hobby so please feel free to share your own!