One of my favorite free online resources is FamilySearch.  The site has a huge collection of indexed, digital records. Birth, death, marriage, and more, and they are free! Their records are from countries all over the world and they are regularly adding to the archive. FamilySearch is provided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, family research is one of their main missions. In addition to the records collections, you can optionally build a family tree and attach records to your ancestors. There are too many features to list here, but check it out. Did I mention it’s free?
I previously wrote about accessing old books online in 2019’s week 5 prompt, At the Library.  Many genealogy related books can be found online, digitized and free. I particularly use Google Books  and the Internet Archive  regularly while researching my ancestors. Although, be aware that not all Google Books are free. Most state universities have online, digital collections that are free to access. These university sites often include other digital materials, like photos, maps, and local publications. For example, I often turn to the IUPUI digital collection to view the Sanborn Fire Maps for Indianapolis.  A good place to begin your search for free digitized books is at the Digital Public Library of America.  The DPLA aggregates digital materials from institutions across the country. The genealogical materials  I have accessed through the DPLA site are free, and in the public domain, but some items on the DPLA are fee based.
Genealogists use maps to recreate or re-imagine the places their ancestors lived. I have a few favorite, free, map sites I regularly access. Many maps, including Sanborn Fire Maps, can be found online at the Library of Congress. [8, 9] The David Rumsey Map Collection is another free, online source of old maps from all over the world and many different eras.  The Bureau of Land Management has an online, and free, database of land records.  One way I have used the BLM site is drilling down on their interactive map to locate a particular township, range and section.  This has enabled me to locate my ancestor’s homesteads and land grants. Lastly, don’t overlook using the free Google Maps interactive mapping site.  Not only can you view and create maps and routes, you can use the Google Street View feature to see what a particular location looks like today.
Genealogists are generous, do not overlook fellow researchers as free resources. An online site I have received free help from is called Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness.  Individuals volunteer to do real-world look ups at their local libraries, historical societies, government agencies and more. I benefited from this site when I was seeking a marriage record in another state. I contacted a volunteer whose profile indicated they would do look ups and make copies at the historical society. Within a few days I received an image of the document I was seeking.
Another method for getting in touch with other genealogists who may be able to help with research is through Facebook. Believe it or not, Facebook Groups are a great free resource for genealogists. If you need help looking up a record, either online or off, look for a Facebook group that is relevant to your search. There are genealogy and historical focused Facebook Groups covering many topics and locations. If you already have a Facebook account, which are free, find a group and ask to join. Once you are admitted to the group you can post your query. The larger the group the more likely you will get a fast response. I have only had positive outcomes with these groups, whether posting a query or offering an answer to someone else. And, this help is freely offered by kind people who enjoy helping others.
Many of the free resources I have highlighted here are online and require internet access which typically is a paid service. But, most libraries offer free internet access to their patrons. Some libraries even offer free access to sites that charge membership fees to individuals, like My Heritage and Ancestry.
Although a paid membership with a genealogy website or society is great to have, there is no shortage of free genealogy research materials to be found online, and offline. You just need to look or ask.
- Website, FamilySearch; https://www.familysearch.org/en/
- Blog post, Family Finds: Digital Bookshelf; https://barblafara.com/digital-bookshelf/
- Website, Google Books; https://books.google.com/
- Website, Internet Archive; https://archive.org/
- Website, IUPUI: University Library; https://cds.ulib.iupui.edu/collections/sanbornjp2
- Website, Digital Public Library of America; https://dp.la/
- ibid: Family Research Guide to DPLA; https://dp.la/guides/the-family-research-guide-to-dpla
- Website, Library of Congress: Digital Collection; https://www.loc.gov/collections/
- ibid: Maps Collections; https://www.loc.gov/collections/?q=maps+division
- Website, David Rumsey Map Collection; https://www.davidrumsey.com/home
- Website, Bureau Of Land Managment: General Land Office Records; https://glorecords.blm.gov/search/default.aspx
- Interactive Map, BLM Land Catalog; https://glorecords.blm.gov/LandCatalog/Catalog
- Website, Google Maps; https://www.google.com/maps/
- Website, Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness; https://raogk.org/
Born Takeo Furukawa on 15 March 1883 in Tottori-Ken, Tokyo, Japan, little is documented of his early childhood. Family oral history stories say that the young Takeo experienced hunger, poverty and the loss of his family. Additionally, the stories tell of friendship, spiritual learning and scholarship.
My great grandfather, David Louis Osborne, lived at over 20 addresses around Indianapolis between 1876 and 1942. I thought it would be interesting to see all the old buildings and homes where he lived in my hometown of Indianapolis.
My great grandfather, David Louis Osborne (1848-1942), was a widower with two young sons in 1886 when he married Jennie Warbington (1857-1918) in Minneapolis on the 27th of May. I decided it was time to put sources to the story.
While working on a family photo project I decided it would be fun to compare side-by-side my father and his parents, at similar ages, to try and discover a family resemblance.
Jesse King was born in Ohio (probably in the vicinity of Chillicothe) in 1805, he was a son of Philip King and Mary Leah Wright, both of Pennsylvania. Philip King was a farmer, he married Leah Wright in 1801 in Somerset, PA, they had six children, of whom Jesse was the third.
A handwritten letter from Sarah Tucker Lafary to the then president of the United States, Grover Cleveland. It was her last appeal for a War of 1812 pension, sadly the pension was denied. The letter gives a glimpse of a woman who had no formal education, a poor farmers wife, then widow, mother of nine, she probably just wanted some independence through an income of her own.
52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week 2: Challenge
So much about genealogy research is a challenge, perhaps the most common challenge is the ‘brick wall,’ meet Sarah Smith. 18?? – 1846
52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week 3: Unusual Name
The surnames in my tree are typical of common western European names. However, the name that is unusual among these names is MY surname: LaFara.
52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week 6: Surprise!
Just when you think you know everything about an ancestor, surprise! I thought I knew most everything about my paternal great grandfather David L. Osborne, 1848-1942.
For all of us who are procrastinating about labeling photos I have one thing to say, “Be considerate of the genealogist of the future!” My maternal grandmother was very good about labeling old family photos, and there is one, in particular, I found very informative.
52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week 10: Bachelor Uncle
My uncles are the marrying kind, sometimes more than once!
I had to go back four generations for a bachelor uncle, my great-great-great uncle Conrad Rumple, 1833-1911.
Conrad was an older brother to my great-great grandfather on my matrilineal line, William Rumple, 1839-1912.
My great-great grandparents, George Lafary and Catherine Landon, had a relatively small family, three of their six children survived to adulthood. However, they both came from large families of nine siblings and nearly all survived to marry and have children.
52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week 13: In The Paper
It’s fun to find articles in the paper mentioning one of my relatives. Mostly they are birth, marriage, divorce and death events. But, it’s the oddball articles in the papers I like the most.
52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week 14: Brick Wall
We all have a brick wall, that one ancestor who defies all research. I decided I would work at my brick walls by generation, I broke through the last of my 3rd great grandparent brick walls, now I am working on 4th great grandparents.
I realized I did not have a date of death for my great, great grandmother, Catherine Landon Lafary. A fresh search uncovered the date and much more. Out of place, but once discovered, everything fell into place.
I have many favorite photos among my collection of family artifacts. Currently, my favorite photo is of two little children from 1916 who were a complete mystery to me until last spring.