Researching your family tree can become a very expensive hobby the further back you go and depending on the goals you set yourself you might find it starts to break the bank. Some people are only interested in a few branches of their tree and so can breeze through these without paying much in the way of purchasing certificates and subscriptions to online sources. Below are a few tips that can help you manage the money you spend on your research and research your family tree on a budget.
1.Save up all your sources and get them all within the same month
Popular sites like Ancestry and FindMyPast offer subscriptions to view original source scans, usually at a monthly rate. They also allow you to search and look at most transcriptions without a subscription, this means you can note down and save loads of source links over a few months, then view and confirm all of them at the same time and only pay 1 months worth of subscription.
2.Exhaust all popular avenues of research before ordering a certificate online.
Sometimes you’ll find that the only way back, sideways or forward a generation is to purchase a vital record certificate (Birth/Marriage/Death). But before you do this try laying out all of your research on the particular line you’re looking at and check if you’ve missed any sources. For example, they aren’t always 100% accurate or complete but Baptism and Burial records play a massive part in figuring out relationships. Most British Baptism/Burial records online don’t tell you all of the information in the actual source material. In my research I was stuck on a brick wall regarding who the father of a couple of children (who’s siblings had a father listed) was, as all the online sources just left the father blank. However when looking at the original source material (Which cost me 1/3 of the price of a certificate, and I had many Ancestors in the same digital CD version) these children were all born “Baseborn”. Further research at an archive in to the Parish Vestry Records (A massively underappreciated collection!) allowed me to confirm that the father was not living with the mother. Some priests interpreted their work in a much stricter manner than others so he had decided not to put the fathers name on the baptism.
3. Understand the sources available for each ancestor
Research what source might actually be available for a particular ancestor before diving in and buying certificates. I like to create a spreadsheet for a particular surname, with names in the first column and sources in the preceding columns. I’ll then colour code them yellow if there is a possibility that the record exists, red if it doesn’t and green if I have found it. So for example someone born around 1810 cannot possibly be in the England & Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index, as they only started in 1837 so I’d mark this as red. This is a great way to memorise what sources might actually be available and will save time and help you research your family tree on a budget before you start looking in the wrong collections.
4. Check if there are local history groups in your research area.
Family History Groups are a great resource for researching your family tree on a budget as its members have often got unique insights and know a lot about the local area and the sources it contains. They might also know of local museums or historic places that can hold items or documents related to the surnames you are interested in.
Family history groups also sometimes have deals with local archives that allow members access to collections or digital service at discounted prices.
5. Make use of forums and message boards.
Forums and message boards can be very powerful tools in your research as you can throw out all of your research so far and let people who love Genealogy fill in the blanks. Members are often willing to look up paid sources on sites such as Ancestry or FindMyPast but make sure that in return you help others where you can too and make sure to give them all the info you have already as if you constantly ask questions with no existing research you’ll often get shot down.
Now you’ve done stuff on a budget, check out our preservation tips!