Many of the free genealogy resources available today are the result of hard-working volunteers. Without them, the only way you would have access to genealogical material would be to join a subscription site or pay someone else for the material. Even if you don't have a lot of time on your hands, there are ways that you can contribute as well. With your help, the amount of free genealogical material available will grow and help others for years to come.
Find A Grave
Find A Grave was began in 1995 as a way to register and memoralize the final resting places of those that are no longer with us. Since that time it has grown by leaps and bounds and today contains over 47 million grave records. The records are not limited to only the United States, but other countries as well.
There are over 500,000 contributors to the site. These individuals volunteer their time to visit local cemeteries and record the names of the individuals that are buried there. While Find A Grave's original purpose is not for genealogy, many contributors do include biographical and genealogical data. This makes it a good free genealogy resource.
In many cases, the volunteer also photographs the headstone. In the case of older headstones which have eroded or disappeared over time, these photographs may be the only record of their existence. For listings that do not have a photograph, users have the option to request one. When possible, members that live nearby fulfill the request.
How you can help: If there are cemeteries in your area that have not been documented, visit and transcribe the graves. Check for photo requests in your area and take photographs for entries that don't already have them.
The USGenWeb Project began in 1996 as a way to compile genealogical data and resources for the state of Kentucky. Once the idea caught on, other states joined and the project grew to include every county and state in the United States. Today, there is also a WorldGenWeb Project which provides genealogy information for countries world-wide. It is one of the more wide spread free genealogy resources available online today.
Things you can expect to find on USGenWeb Project pages include volunteer-submitted census transcriptions, cemetery transcriptions, vital records, photographs, newspaper clippings, military records, court and probate records, family trees, biographies and more. Some sites have sections to submit queries or request lookups from resources the volunteers have on hand.
Each county site is ran by a volunteer coordinator (or group). These volunteers are responsible for keeping the site updated. In cases where the volunteer is no longer able to maintain the site, the county may be up for adoption. If someone is interested in leading one of these counties, they can submit an application through the state genweb site to become the coordinator.
How you can help: If you have genealogy data that a local genweb site does not already have, consider submitting it for inclusion. Volunteer contributors can help make these free genealogy resources even more valuable through the addition of information. If you are familiar with a certain county that is up for adoption, you may also want to consider volunteering as a coordinator.
Family Search is a service provided by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It offers users free access to a number of genealogical resources available at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. Records provided through the site include census, pedigrees, family trees, vital records and more.
How you can help: If you have a GEDCOM file of your family tree, you can share it through the Family Search website. Once it is loaded onto the site, it will show up in searches if someone is looking for a person found in your family tree.
If you scroll to the bottom of the main Family Search page, you will find a link to help provide free public access to US census indexes. Once you sign up, you will be given access to digital images, which you use to transcribe the records. The information you transcribe is then put on Family Search where others can view it for free.
Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness
Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness, RAOGK for short, is a website that connects those seeking information with volunteers willing to lookup information in resources they have available to them. This may include visiting local courthouses, genealogical societies, libraries or cemeteries. Some provide copies of court, census or newspaper records.
Volunteers do not charge for their work, but may request reimbursement for expenses they incur while fulfilling your request. Copying fees, film, parking fees and postage are all expenses that you may be requested to pay if your request requires them.
How you can help: If you access to a local genealogy resource, consider signing up as a volunteer with RAOGK. In some area, there are no volunteers available. The more people that sign up, the more likely it is that someone seeking a lookup will be able to find help.
There are a growing number of genealogy-related blogs on the internet today. Many family historians are using blogs to share their journey into researching their family tree. This serves a couple purposes.
Researchers sharing information they have found are helping provide free data for others that are searching the same names. In the case of brick walls, it gets the information out there, improving the likelihood that someone will come along with the information the blogger is looking for. Bloggers that share their ups and downs are also offering details on how to overcome many genealogical problems.
How you can help: Consider starting a blog to document your genealogy research. Make sure to include your brick wall ancestors, problems you have faced and solved, and any other details that may be helpful for others researching the same family. There are several places you can blog for free. Blogger and WordPress are two of the more popular ones.
Free Genealogy Resources
If you're here, you know that this blog can be a help to those trying to trace their family tree on a budget. Whenever I have the time, I comb the internet looking for additional resources to share.
How you can help: If you are aware of a resource that I have not featured in this blog, let me know. I will share it on the blog so other readers can use it and give you credit for letting me know about it.