Things To Do Without Those Subscription Sites

One advantage to being (temporarily) without a genealogy budget is the opportunity to be “unplugged” and look at tasks that may have been neglected while you were tracking down all the information on those subscription sites.

Here are some things you can work on:

· Organize your files, paper and computer
There are so many systems out there, but you have to find one that works for you.  Check your library for books with suggestions on organizing; you can find information online as well.  The main thing is to find a system that helps you find the things you need when you need them.

For example, in going through my computer files, I found that I had death certificates in documents and also in pictures.  This does not make them easy to find!  So I decided on a new system (death certificates in each surname folder) and am working on it.

· Scan photos and other documents
This is good as a backup to your hard copies as well as useful in your work.  Add them to the appropriate people in your tree(s).  I have a bunch of photos from an aunt that need to be scanned.  And, I’m pretty sure there are still documents from a research trip or two (pre-Recession) waiting for me.

· Organize your photos, real and digital
This is always a biggie on the to-do list!  I haven’t really come up with a system that I’m happy with, but I’m trying to at least keep everything sorted in my current one.

· Transcribe some of those documents
Do you have some documents from a research trip, or from a relative, that you haven’t quite gotten around to transcribing?  Do it now.  Or, if you have transcribed them, look at the originals again.  Did you really read the handwriting correctly?  Have you gotten everything out of that document that you can?  Do you agree with the conclusions you drew at the time and the direction it took you in your research?

· Read some of those reference books that you have on your shelf
I have quite a few genealogy reference books, and when I look through them I always find a suggestion I can use.  Books about locations and time periods are always a good refresher and might lead you to think about your ancestors in a new way.

· Go through your genealogy e-mail
I keep all of my e-mail correspondence, and I have quite a few in each surname folder.  I’m sure that I have more information now about these lines than I did – so going back and re-reading them may give me clues that I didn’t see before.  It also will let me know which cousins I need to follow up with.

· Make spreadsheets of the information you have on your ancestors
I love spreadsheets.   I use them for everything, not just genealogy (yes, I’m a bit compulsive).  There are so many ways to look at the information you have collected, and so many ways to sort it.  Presenting it in a different format can lead you to see something that you hadn’t noticed before.  Make a census spreadsheet to see which ones you have found for each ancestor and his/her family members.  Which ones do you still need to look for?  Make a spreadsheet for Cemeteries.  Make one for Vital Records.  You can create a spreadsheet for practically everything, and it will help you organize your information, analyze it, and make a plan for future research.

· Identify the holes in your research

· Make a research plan to fill the holes

· Write narratives
I am trying to do more writing.  I love the research, but it is hard to write the stories.  I seem to get caught up in the details, and I always seem to find something else I want to know.  So I am taking this “unplugged” time to work on writing, to focus on a family line, on each person, and to write what I have learned about them.  That is, after all, what family members are really interested in, the stories, not just the facts, so I’m making this a priority.

· Work on your sources and citations
Another biggie!  It seems that this is also an on-going struggle.  When I look at research I did when I was starting out, I wish that I had done a better job of documenting everything.  Doesn’t everyone?

· Sign up for a webinar, or a few
Take a fun class online.  I’ve learned so many great things from webinars:  websites, books, free software programs, and so much more.  Webinars are fun and inspirational!

·Google someone in your tree
There might be new information since the last time you tried it.  There are new documents being put online every day, and new people might be researching your lines.  I did this yesterday and found a whole new angle on my Iowa relatives.

·Go to Google Books
Search for some of the names in your tree; also try a county or other location.  Many of these books are free e-book downloads.  Some only offer previews, but this can be enough to help you make a breakthrough on someone in your family.

·Go to a cemetery
If you are lucky enough to live near a cemetery where family members are buried, take your camera and photograph gravestones.  Make a map of the location of the stones.  If you live away from your ancestor’s homes, consider taking photos for someone else; Find A Grave is a wonderful source for all of us who are far from home.

·Keep a running list of records that you discover on subscription sites.
Watch for specials offering free access and you will be ready to look at, and save, those images.  Check non-subscription sites, such as, to see if they have these records.  If a few genealogy dollars come your way, consider a short-term subscription and you’ll be ready with your to-do list.

·Identify research that will require a trip.
Make a list of all the things you would search for.  Determine where the documents are housed and find out the best way to obtain all the documents you want.  Dream about the end of your Genealogy Recession!



14 thoughts on “Things To Do Without Those Subscription Sites

  1. I was so pleased to be able to find your blog today, courtesy of GeneaBloggers! I loved your intro, which pulled me in. While it is indeed challenging to have a restricted budget for genealogy searches, you have put together an impressive list of tasks. I’d like to add to that list, though. As I’ve discovered, there are still many very helpful sites out there that don’t charge a penny for those who benefit from them. I know there is another blog that talks about these sites, but perhaps you could add those free resources to your own blog pages. And if you aren’t aware of these free sites, post queries in the genealogy forums–there are many people out there happy to share their knowledge of freebie sites with you. Even without the Cadillac budget, there are plenty of helpful resources out there.

    • Thanks, Jacqui. I’m glad that GeneaBloggers put out the list of new blogs this week. It is exciting to find free sites, and I agree with you that there are many out there. While I had always used many in conjunction with the subscription sites, I’m finding that I am taking the time to find even more with each new search. Also, so many helpful people and groups are adding items, from obituaries to journals.
      Thanks for our suggestions!

  2. Some great tips…it sounds like our research techniques are very similar. I found that when I started writing a narrative on one of my lines it highlighted some gaps in my research. I would also suggest checking out what your local library offers for free. Mine offers Heritage Quest and Fold3 for free and I can browse from home.

    • Heather, thanks for reminding me about library access to some of the sites. Last time I checked they didn’t have access from home, but I should check again. Budget cuts have really affected our libraries here, but you never know!

    • Hi, Claudia, yes, I have found cyndislist, but I find it almost overwhelming. I really need to spend more time with it. Do you have any suggestions for using it?

  3. What a great list! I’m just coming off a major surgery. Sounds like a ‘to do’ list before returning to a more tech based life, again. THANKS!

    Welcome to the GeneaBloggers family. Hope you find the association fruitful; I sure do. I have found it most stimulating, especially some of the Daily Themes.

    May you keep sharing your ancestor stories!

    Dr. Bill 😉
    Author of “13 Ways to Tell Your Ancestor Stories” and family saga novels:
    “Back to the Homeplace” and “The Homeplace Revisited”
    The Heritage Tourist at In-Depth Genealogist:

  4. Glad to have found you through Geneabloggers, Nancy. I really like your “to do without a genealogy budget” list! I’ve been working to better organize my files (computerized and physical), enter information in both places, follow-up on emails, and try really, really hard NOT to collect any new information in the meantime (at this, I’ve failed miserably).
    I’d love to know which surnames you’re researching. Could you add a tab here on your blog that lists them?
    In the meantime, I’ll be happily following along with you because it seems we’re in exactly the same circumstances!

    • Hi, Donna,
      Collecting new information is so addictive! When my kids were little, I loved garage sales: it was the thrill of the chase, finding a missing piece, or just the right book. I guess the chase is what so many of us love about genealogy. But I’m working hard to focus on the other aspects (with just the occasional side trip for that additional elusive fact that I just have to have!). Thanks for the suggestion to add a tab for my surnames. I’m still learning the ins and outs of blogging and of word press, so suggestions are always welcome. Glad to have you along for the journey!

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