First of all, I have to confess that I am used to having subscription services. I had done genealogy before that, of course, and my mother has done a tremendous amount of work over many years. But I first started my concentrated effort at building my family tree with an Ancestry.com account. I loved the format of the online trees, the ability to see the timeline of the person on his/her profile page, to watch lives unfold with the addition of events, descriptions, pictures and stories. I liked the ease of adding census records and other documents.
And I never imagined a time that I wouldn’t have a subscription and so have access to those documents.
Sure, I read people on the message boards urging people to save the images to their computers. But I was never going to need to do that with the census records because I would always have access. Right there on the profile page. Just click and there is the image. Right?
Well, right, until the discretionary money wasn’t there anymore and I had to say good-bye to my subscription.
What a shock! Why hadn’t I saved the images? Why hadn’t I done a better job of writing the details in the description box? Why, why, why?
That taught me a valuable lesson. Save the images! Yeah, I should have learned that lesson long ago, but at least now I have. And, a fortunate thing happened earlier this year: Ancestry made the 1930 Census free for a few days. So I frantically went through my tree, finding people with a 1930 census entry — and saved the images.
Then, the week before “1940 census day” (April 2, of course!), Ancestry made several databases free, including the 1930 census, WWII draft cards and city directories. This was great! Again, I went through my tree as quickly as possible, saving images for everyone I had missed the first time with the 1930 census, and also images of WWII records and city directory entries. I made a list of these so that I could go back after free access ended and add the images and details to my tree.
Here’s a tip: in Windows 7, in Windows Explorer, go to Recently Changed, and you’ll have a list, in reverse order, of everything you’ve added or changed. [I have Windows Explorer pinned to my task bar so it’s easy to find.] Then you can enter this into a word file or a spreadsheet and know just what you accomplished. When saving many images quickly, I found this to be more efficient than making a note each time.
So my first tip for Surviving the Downturn: take advantage of subscription services’ free periods. Right now, there is an opportunity on fold3.com (the former footnote.com): War of 1812 records are available through Jun 30. So go look for records that you need, SAVE THE IMAGES, and you’ll have documents to work with in July!