Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Discover your roots, absolutely free!

With the power of the Internet, we can connect to distant cousins, find long-lost ancestors, and see photographs we never knew existed—without spending a dime.
Remember:  On many sites, some information is free, but users may be invited to pay a subscription for additional information.  Be aware of this, and opt out unless you truly want to subscribe. The government provides census and some other information free for everyone.
My husband and I have enjoyed using the following sites—to protect privacy, no last names are shown in the examples:

United States Census:

On the back of a photograph dated 1928, a family was identified as “Jesse, Iona, Vonola, Juanita, and ?”  We thought Jesse, Norm’s great-uncle had only one child—Juanita—so we started searching.
We did an Internet search for “1930 Census.”  Many hits appeared, and at http://www.1930census.com/ we entered Jesse’s first and last names, and “California” where we thought he lived. Several non-census records popped up, so we hit “Exact matches only,” and there was a record for Jesse, his wife “Leata I.,” Juanita, and his stepchildren, Venola and Herbert—he was the? in the picture.  One mystery down, another to go—Leata I. turned out to be Leota Iona—names are often misspelled, and middle names and initials get mixed up on censuses.

Family Search. Org

This website sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is free to everyone. 
After we set a username and password, we entered information that tied us to our family.  Now, we use the “Family Tree” and the “fan chart” views to see our family lines, some of which go back hundreds of years. With the exception of our immediate family and ourselves, we only see information on deceased people due to privacy laws.
Besides names and dates, users post photographs and stories to their ancestors’ “Person pages.”  From Family Tree, we may visit our ancestor’s “Person” view and to see photos and stories that have been uploaded. We have posted some ourselves.
Also on the “Person” page is a “Search Records” link, which shows a list of online records citing the deceased person’s name.

Find a Grave

My friend and I tried the above sites and the excellent subscription site “Ancestry.com” with little luck while seeking an ancestor named Robert Loren. “Robert” and “Robert R.” were on censuses, but we weren’t certain he was “her guy.” 

Knowing he’d lived in Missouri, we searched “Find a Grave,” in which volunteers upload information and pictures of headstones. (“Billion Graves” is similar.)  Using his first and middle names and initials, we got no results.  Finally, we entered only his last name, which was a bit unusual, and “Missouri.” Robert Loren was among the many hits that appeared!


My husband found his Dad's cousins on "Find a Grave." Brothers William and Wayne have a double headstone in Washington State.  William passed away in 2010; Wayne is still alive. Norm looked through online directories to find Wayne's phone number, and now he and his Dad will call their cousin, Wayne!

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