I have been researching my family’s genealogy for over twenty years and my appreciation of the tireless and volunteer contributions in the pursuit of genealogy is endless.
All of our continuing efforts to expand our own genealogies do contribute to the cumulative effort of us all to save and expand our genealogical resources.
At one time, the only options for researching outside one’s own community were to depend on the mail system at the time or to travel to the location involved.
Although mail was relatively inexpensive, the flexibility of performing research oneself was lost. There was no opportunity to just dive right in and pursue a lead found in the return information. One would then have to mail another request, and then another, and then another – making this process time-consuming.
Travel to the location(s) in question could be very expensive, but resulted in the opportunity to pursue leads found while on site. If new information led to other organizations, agencies, museums, archives, etc. within the area, it was possible to also visit and do further research. This option provided a much more timely method of researching.
Genealogy has evolved considerably with the advent of the personal computer. Now, one can travel the world, visit museums and historical sites, communicate with organizations virtually, as well as doing research using free and paid sites online. The immediacy and flexibility of researching genealogy is something to be marveled at.
How was this possible?
This evolution started with passionate and dedicated volunteers and individuals who began transcribing physical records, collecting photos and images of documents, and placing them in online archives, databases and in specialty archive sites. For the most part, these resources were free and available to everyone.
With some sadness, I have watched a major shift take place in the short time since I began. As the popularity of genealogy became evident, commercial sites and paid services suddenly appeared online – the most noted of which being Ancestry.com .
It was still possible to find considerable free information and resources online, but those who had the funds and wanted to save time and effort could pay for subscriptions to make their search easier. Those of us with limited funds began setting up our own sites posting tips and information for other genealogists.
The newest shift I’ve been seeing is the trend for paid services and sites to ‘buy out’ free resources and add them to their paid catalog, leaving paid sites as the only option.
I still consider genealogy as a historical ‘treasure hunt’, one which I pursue with great effort and pleasure. I love nothing better than to discover an obscure site offering valuable information and this blog has provided the venue for me to post this information and assist others.
All links I find to valuable sites can be found in the ‘Genealogy Links’ tab above. Another update with dozens of new links will be completed soon.
I think it is important for us to try and preserve the free resources that remain, and possibly add new ones. This is only possible through the efforts of volunteers and the willingness of those of us researching to share information for free. I have made all information from my research available in the ‘Blythe Database’ in the tab above, including sources. Unfortunately, in order to include photos and images, I would have to start my own server. I do wish I could though, because the gold in the genealogy treasure for me has always been photos and images of documents, etc. I will say, though, that the images in my articles are either owned by me, credited to the rightful owner or under free commons license (credit requirements). Feel free to use any images on my site, but please be sure to include the photo credit. A credit to this site on the ones I own (uncredited) would be appreciated.
How can we all help to encourage and preserve free information?
Here are just a few ideas.
- Start a website of your own and freely post any information you are willing to share.
- Donate physical items to genealogical and historical societies, museums, libraries and archives that provide free services to the field.
- Start a newsletter or contribute to existing newsletters to collect and provide information to other researchers.
- Offer your services to anyone researching in your area through services such as RAOGK (Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness), which has since shut down indefinitely due to the illness and death of its Administrator, Bridgett Schneider.
- Volunteer in ways to add to or improve what is available. Examples include transcription of documents, taking and submitting photographs of historical and/or genealogical importance, voluntary work at a location providing free services and resources, and conducting and documenting interviews for first hand accounts.
I am still actively pursuing my research and operating my sites, Empty Nest Ancestry and Blythe Genealogy. All data I’ve accumulated, including images, documents, links and sources is available for free access and download on Blythe Genealogy. Feel free to check it out by searching the Blythe Genealogy database site using the surname search link and the ‘All Media‘ search link in the upper drop down menu.
It is recommended to search using both methods as the results can differ greatly due to a glitch in the software that doesn’t connect all images from the bio.
If you have new information of relevance to genealogy, or are willing to volunteer your services to provide research in your area on behalf of others and would like to spread the word about your own efforts in this regard, or just plain news of interest, please let me know and I’d be glad to post it here.
Guest posts are welcomed but are subject to Editor review and may not be accepted. If accepted, the author will be given credit for the article and can include two nofollow links.
Please consider making information you have available to others in any way possible and for as little cost as possible and volunteer and/or donate to those who do if you can. Let’s keep our voluntary and free networks operating and providing for researchers in the future.