New genealogists often make the mistake of spending money on things they really don’t need. You can do perfectly good, professional quality research without spending a fortune. If you are just starting out in genealogy, make sure you’re spending your genealogy money on things that can really make a difference for your research, and not these 8 things that are a total waste of your research funds.
1. Professional Genealogical Researchers
Many beginning genealogists think they need a certified professional to get them started. This is rarely necessary. If you know even the tiniest bit about your family history, you can begin the search on your own. Professional genealogists are best used when you’ve hit a genealogy brick wall you can’t seem to break through on your own. (learn more)
2. Trips to Ancestral Locations
While you should definitely make these trips eventually in your research, to see where your ancestors lived and get an idea of how they lived, you don’t need to go there to find the most basic records on your ancestors when you’re beginning. The vast majority of what you need to start can be found online. The records you can find on trips are more ephemeral in nature and are good for adding to the story, not starting it. (learn more)
3. Subscriptions to Every Genealogical Website
Most genealogical websites that charge a subscription fee also offer free trial periods. It is possible, and actually likely, that not every subscription site will be right for you. Instead of spending your money on a subscription up front, you should use the free trial periods to determine the subscriptions you really need.
4. Vital Records that Can Be Found Online
Before you spend a lot of money sending away for vital records, make sure they’re not already posted online. More and more of them are available for free through subscription sites or free genealogy sites. Check first, before sending money to state or county vital record departments. (learn more)
5. Joining Every Genealogical Society
It’s tempting to join every genealogical society you hear about when you’re beginning, but you should take the time to research the societies and see what they have to offer, and if they can offer anything useful to you in particular, before spending the money to join them.
6. The Wrong Genealogical Software
Many beginning genealogists grab the first box of genealogical software they see and try to use that to record their research. Some programs are more user-friendly than others, while some may have features you want that others don’t. Always read the description of the software carefully before buying it. (learn more)
7. Old Family History Books
Usually written in the late 1800’s, these books on the history of your family lines can be quite expensive. Many of them are available for free on Google Books. Check there before you buy, because you may be able to read it for free. (learn more)
If you have family history questionnaires to send out to your older relatives, you may think you’ll get a better response rate if you mail them, since you may believe older relatives don’t use or like email. The fact is, many older people use email, and it’s much easier for them to use it to respond to you than to put a letter in the mail. If they have an email address, use it, and save money.
Will Moneymaker founded Ancestral Findings back in 1995. He has been involved in genealogy research for over 20 years. The thrill of the hunt, the adventure, and the excitement begin when he started investigating the meaning of his surname. Why I Love Genealogy (And You Should, Too!)