Very recently a friend mentioned to me that she’d like to do some ancestral research, but didn’t feel like starting out by paying the prices charged by some of the bigger search sites. She was also upset about the sites who offered free searches that aren’t really free. You’ve probably seen those introductory offers where you need to provide credit card information before you can start your free time-limited research. People who are already leery of providing credit card information online will find a cause for concern. This isn’t always the case, but often is the case. To be fair, if you include the word “free” in your search string, the results are bound to produce those introductory offers.
The largest free genealogical library in the world is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints (LDS) in Salt Lake City, UT. Yes, it’s really free. When I became seriously interested in genealogical research several years ago the Family Search site wasn’t as user friendly as it is today, so I’m impressed with the changes.
If you’re serious about starting your family search and not merely looking for random pieces of information, the Family Search online classes are excellent. You can access them at: http://familysearch.org I’ve benefited in the past from the educational videos and, taking into consideration the average attention span, the length of each video is just right and the instructors give clear and concise lessons. Additionally, the class documentation is available for download.
LDS also maintains the International Genealogical Index (IGI),which is an index of over 90 million names. An easy way to view the source documentation you find on a family member in IGI is to visit one of the Family History centers. There are 4000 Family History Centers in 88 countries. I’ve visited several and found the volunteer staff to be very helpful and friendly.
In spite of the 90 million records in IGI, the coverage is not complete. If you’re looking for an ancestor from England or Wales, you could take a look at http://freebmd.rootsweb.com/ it’s also free. There are over 12 million births, marriages and deaths (BMDs), a great many of which do not appear in the IGI.
The new pilot web site at http://pilot.familysearch.org provides access to millions of original source documents from around the world. The data is being transcribed by volunteers who donate time to help with this mammoth effort As the word “pilot” suggests, it’s a work-in-progress with more records being added all the time. You might want to check in frequently to see what’s been added.