Let’s face it, personal budgets are tight these days and genealogy is not exactly a cheap hobby. Who would not like to do free genealogy research? If you have limited funds or just want to see what is available for free, there is one way you can get access to the largest databases free of charge for at least a limited time.
The larger genealogy data services employ several marketing ploys in attempt to expand their customer base. The first technique is to allow you to perform free searches of their records, but will not allow you to see the resulting records until you sign up to pay for their service. The theory is that, if you know a juicy record exists for your ancestor that you just have to get your hands on, you will get excited and open your wallet to see it. This "dangle the carrot" model must be very successful because the web is littered with advertisements for free queries of their data services.
The second ploy involves offering free limited time access to their service. I like to call this the "try before you buy" ploy and it is enticing. You get maybe for a week or two before your time expires and you have to start paying for their service. The thought is that, once they get you in the door, you will get hooked on their service and buy a follow-on membership.
Many of the biggest players employ this marketing approach including:
The catch here, yes there is always a catch, is that you have to surrender certain personal information in order to signup for the free offer. By giving them your name and email address, you have just given them permission to market to you from now on. They use this as a way to generate lists of potential customers.
If you are so inclined, you can take them up on their offer and enjoy free genealogy, for a period of time. Technically, you are both winners. You get the free access to genealogy research for free and they get a new potential customer.
There is also the moral dilemma of using their service with
no intent of becoming a paying customer.
If you do not suffer any such pangs of guilt, then give it a shot and
see what happens. Just make sure you have all your research ducks lined up so
you can get what you need done in the short introductory window.
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Using the National Archives (NARA) for Genealogy Research
Using U.S. Census Records
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Genealogy Source Citations Made Easy
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