27 July 2012

Join the Club

"No man is an island"- John Donne

We all need a little help from time to time. I've said it before, but it always bears repeating: you will not know everything about a time period, war or culture. You will need to ask for help from others. More than that, you will need someone to be your sounding board. Someone to bounce ideas off of and come up with new avenues of research. Occasionally, you are just going to want someone willing to give you a little "Geni-dance" when you've overcome an obstacle. We've all had that moment when we feverishly share our findings with family only to be met with glazed eyes and maybe a comment about finding new ways to spend our time. Where can you find a place to feel at home?

Are you an in-person type? There are genealogical and historical societies that you can visit in person. They can have a specific location, ethnicity or time period focus. As I've said before, I've not become a paying member for the ones in my area, only because my personal research doesn't center near me. However, I do go to their seminars and have sat in on some meetings. So how do you find a society in your area covering topics you need? I was able to find a pretty comprehensive directory online, but in any case you can google maps and usually find something. Many have membership requirements, so do your homework. Is this going to fit into your budget? Will you really show up enough times to make it worth it? What do they offer as far as resources? Do you like the people? As often as you can, sit in on a meeting or class and see if you even feel like you belong. It doesn't matter how good the resource if you aren't going to feel comfortable taking advantage of it. The meetings I've sat in on for my local historical society were nice. Some ladies brought cookies. Most of the meeting was about the finds they had made in the last month or where they were stuck. I was the youngest person by at least 20 years. I stood out and I didn't like that. On the other hand, I've been to the meetings for the state genealogical society when it's in a county near me and really enjoyed the guest speaker, resource access and diversity of people. I've made some great contacts and keep in touch with many of the folks I've met during those meetings.

What about online options? Well, there's the genealogy sites that have their own forums. If you remember my blog on message boards, you know you should be using these anyway. They may hold the key to your mysteries. These are messages left by living (at least at time of posting) people who share your interest. Forgetting to check in on the boards is a genealogical sin. I know what you're thinking, "Oh, but those are only for queries and stuff, I won't be able to make friends." Silly goose. Not only can you find cousins here and start regular contact, but many sites host a "coffee corner" that is for the specific purpose of aimless chatting. It's not real time, but it's a place for those with busy schedules to keep up with people who share their hobby.

Then there are Google and Facebook pages and groups. I'm not going to spout off a list of pages to visit. Every society seems to have one. Every company devoted to genealogy has one. Usually they are found on both Google and Facebook. Anyone with any desire to run a group "their way" can start one, so the options are limitless. It all comes down to that netiquette rule of lurking on a page before jumping into the conversation. Try a few out. Spend a couple of days just finding out how the page works. Who posts the most? Who has the most/best answers? How active is the group? Is it so busy you can't keep up or is it like a ghost town? What is the overall experience of the group? Will you feel left behind by a gaggle of "experts" or do you think you'd be the warden in an asylum? How do they treat new people to the group/genealogy in general?

One last thing: Is it an open group where even those not a part of the group can see your posts? That may be a good thing if you want to find potential cousins, but bad if you want to share information about your searches that your family/friends may not want to know has been discussed. If you post on a public page for a company (like Ancestry.com) anyone who ventures to that page will see it. Your posts and comments will show up in your timeline (and consequently your friends' newsfeeds). Anyone can comment on your posts. I can't tell you the number of times I've been on Ancestry's page (or any company page) and someone makes a complaint about the company. Fans chime in with their two cents in defense of the company and suggest fixes or a new attitude from the complainer. The complainer then comes back with "I was just asking Ancestry (or other company) and didn't need to hear from you!" That's what a customer service number and email address are for. You've done the Internet equivalent of shouting your grievance in a public square and expecting only a response from the one guy out of a hundred. In an open group, someone has to join the group to respond, but not to see what is written. So you are giving out information and sharing photos with a lot more than just the members of that group. I've already covered privacy a couple of times..... is your privacy covered?

So maybe you want to check out a closed group. On Facebook, that means a description of the group and members are seen, but posts aren't. How do you know it'll fit you? You just have to try. And that's why lurking is so important. You don't want to join a group, share your photos and tell your stories only to find out that this group has people with ... boundary issues.

***Warning*** Shameless shilling to follow ***Warning***
I watch many pages and have joined and left many groups on genealogy. I have two closed groups and one open group I am a member of that I adore with all my heart. I'd like to take a moment to introduce them to you:

Genealogy Speaking- This fantastically fun group is run by my friend Tina. She has games like "What is it Wednesday" where she shares a photo of something and you guess what it is. Currently we are wrapping up the Surname game where we are given a letter of the alphabet and post all the surnames we are researching that start with that letter and where they are found. A few folks have found new relative connections that way. She also gives tips on new sites to try, books to read, etc. Just a very active and friendly group. "No drama except ancestor drama" is her motto and it's wonderful. This used to be an open group, but became closed so people could share more information without offending family.

Barking Up the Wrong Tree- My friend Loretta started this group. She is the author of the blog by the same name. This group is also very active, but it's more about camaraderie than games. You will find most of the most active people on the Ancestry Facebook page on this group. We share tips and tricks for better genealogy. But, and I must warn you, this is where steam is let off about a myriad of frustrations. I like this group because you can say what you please. Mad at your aunt for destroying photos? Let it out here. Can't believe the number of people complaining about Ancestry being expensive? Neither can we, share it here. Want to vent about something, but aren't interested in calling anyone out, we'll listen. It's not about being mean, it's about connecting on a visceral level with your fellow genealogist.

Ebay Genealogy- This one is by my friend Gail and I've linked to it before. This is an open group that researches Ebay and Goodwill for family history heirlooms and attempts to connect them to living family that may be interested in them. It's a great bunch of people who are really enthused with saving these small bits of history. I like that, being a Facebook group, you can search previous posts to know if there's anything that may pertain to you. I also really applaud their efforts to find people on Ancestry trees that match so they can tell them about these family bibles and photos that could be just what they are looking for.

I've joined quite a few groups and left quite a few too. I leave because I don't fit in, it's not active enough, it's too active, my experience is too far above or below the average and leads to misunderstandings on both sides...... these three have really hit home for me and the women that run them are true genealogy gems.

I just hope they can forgive me the extra traffic I'm sending their way :)

19 July 2012

You're Welcome to Thank Me, Please

"Hearts, like doors, open with ease. When we say thank you and if you please!"
someecards.com - Just wanted to check in and see how not answering my calls is going
This was said to me this week by a very good friend. She had planned a trip to some cemeteries near her and decided to check Find A Grave's request lists to see who needed a photo. Tramping through a large cemetery with no map to guide her, she was able to find 2 of the 5 stones that were on the list. After sending the photos, she had only one expectation: a thank you. Who wouldn't expect to be thanked for taking time out of their day to find something for someone else? Well, she wasn't thanked for her effort. And she's not alone. When did it get so hard for people to remember the simple niceties? My friend was understandably upset. Moreover, she felt that a person who doesn't remember "thank you" has no inclination to pay it forward by helping another. I wonder what the requester would think about that....

Mind your P's and Q's

someecards.com - Thanks for trying to behave like a human beingYou will not know about every historical event that plays in the life of your ancestor. You won't know every technical term found in documents. You won't be able to get to every physical location of a repository or cemetery or whatever that you need. You won't always be able to read someone's handwriting or speak their language.....

In short, you will need the help of others. It's important that you take the time to be polite and helpful in your own way so that you will get back polite and helpful answers. "Please" and "thank you" should naturally flow from you before and after your requests. Whether you write, call or talk to someone in person shouldn't affect how you treat them. I mean, really, would you want someone to be curt with you when you need help? If all else fails, just pretend grandma is behind you judging how you treat other people. Make her proud.

So what universal manners should people reasonably expect you to embody?
  1. Please and thank you. Those are so important, I can't stop talking about them. These two phrases are the basic starting point for acknowledging others and displaying your respect for them. Putting a "please" in your request makes it feel like less of a demand to most people. I have made it a habit to write a thank you note and get it in the mail the minute I get home from an interview, a meeting wraps up, a gift is given to me, or a favor is done for me. Doing it immediately means I can't forget. Forgetting to say "please" and "thank you" can lead to less people helping you the next time.
  2. Acknowledge their time. People aren't just standing around waiting for you to come up with some way they can be helpful to you. When you call someone's place of business, keep your inquiries short and to the point. If you know you will need more detail than a short answer can give, ask them if they have the time to answer over the phone or if in person would be better. Assume they have a line of people standing in front of them waiting for them to get off the phone. If talking to someone in person, don't drag the conversation out just to hear your own voice. They might have other things they need to get done. And when you do complete your conversation, thank them for taking the time to talk to you! I don't care if it's a stay at home mom or a CEO, they have other people to deal with besides you and their time is precious.
  3. Don't waste their time. If someone emails or calls you, respond in a timely manner. I reply to an email within two days. I may not be able to truly answer their questions in two days, but I'll at least tell them I've received their message and how long I expect to be. I don't want them waiting for weeks (or as one naughty friend did, years) to find out I can't help them. Imagine how you'd feel if you were to email a relative about your brick wall only to wait months to find out you need to call their sister.
  4. Keep your promises. If you tell someone you are going to send them letters written by their ancestor, send them! If you RSVP in the positive for the family reunion, show up! And more than that, keep promises to yourself. If you are going to organise your research notes, do it. It all comes back to showing that you respect people's time, even your own.
  5. Understand that you aren't the center of the universe. While I just got done telling you to respond to requests quickly, it's not acceptable for you to become impatient when waiting for their responses to your request. They have lives that they are living and sometimes things will slip through the cracks. Respond with understanding. Accept that they messed up, but don't call them on it. This is important for the individual as well as a company. Imagine being Ancestry and trying to please 2 million customers all the time, RIGHT NOW. When you send in a complaint or make an inquiry, they aren't getting it just from you. Even if only 10% of their customers ask that same question, that's 200,000 people. How pissed do you get when a kid (yours or otherwise) says "mom" ten times in a row? Patience is a virtue and all well-mannered people practice it.
Then there is this thing called "netiquette". That's Internet etiquette for those who don't know. Basic rules for minding your manners in the age of technology.
  1. Avoid multiposting. Seriously, just check and see if someone already asked about it. And no, saying "sorry I'm just too lazy to scroll down" doesn't mean you aren't being rude. Most folks won't call you out on this if you do it once, though. It's the serial posters that really burn people's britches.
  2. Avoid hijacking a discussion. It is unavoidable for someone to be reminded of a different topic or argument during a discussion. Try to stay on point, though. It's important that the original post not be lost to things that should and could be their own post. Like when Ancestry is posting about a Livestream event: it's okay to ask where to find archived videos. It's not okay to bitch about their transcriptions of the 1940 census. Start your own post for that. (Or check for one of the literally hundreds of threads already started on that subject) With that being said, it's just as rude to call someone out on hijacking your discussion, especially when the new topic is a tangent for your original post. If you ask how many people are in the largest tree on Ancestry, it's not rude for someone to point out that numbers aren't important. Just because you don't like the answer, doesn't mean the response was rude or off-topic.
  3. Don't spam. So you're excited to share a story or trick you've learned in your research. Cool. Ten postings in a row, not cool. Posting off topic for the site, not cool. Long winded political or religious posts with no connection to genealogy, so not cool.
  4. AVOID ALL CAPS. Unless you have a visual impairment requiring you to type in all caps, you look like you are shouting. Just don't do it. I CHALLENGE YOU TO NOT "HEAR" THIS IN YOUR HEAD AS A LOUDER "VOICE".
  5. Know what you're talking about and make sense. This one has a lot of implications, but for me it's about making a coherent request when posting on a Facebook page or forum. I really want to help you, but a string of words and names with no rhyme or reason to them is of no help to me. This is where spelling comes into play. I understand autocorrect and typing quickly. I have typos on occasion. But if I need an interpreter to understand your "l33t speak", you've taken it too far. If u shrtn wurds 2 teh point that no1 will unnerstan n u dont punctuate yur runnonn sentances or use the wrong your/ you're/ they're/ there/ their/ where/ were/ we're making your sentence rediculous to reed....... expect the public shaming I'm sending your way. (I now apologise for my example. It was as painful for me to write as I'm sure it is for you to read)
  6. Lurk on a page before joining a conversation. Any time you join a new group or forum, don't just start posting away! Spend a day or two reading what others post and how people respond. Get a feel for the community so that you have some idea how your posts will be received. And this is a good one in person as well. When you go to your first conference or meeting at your historical society, sit back and learn first. Don't start pontificating on your ancestry or suggesting new tricks to people who could be more experienced (or not) right off the bat. Find out if you will fit in before you start trying to fit in.
  7. Post in public, expect the public to respond. If you have a question, complaint, inquiry or comment specific to one person or company, write them an email, call them or talk to them in person. If you post in a forum or public page and get mad when other users respond, you are a fool. And in my opinion, you did it on purpose to gain attention, not to get the supposed target of your post to respond.
Devil's Advocate

someecards.com - Please, don't let rationale or logic get in the way of your being angry at me.Did you know that the "thumbs up" sign that many of you would consider as meaning "okay" can mean something rudely sexual in some Islamic countries? That a palm facing out is a blessing to some, but is as rude as displaying your middle finger to others? Ever had a conversation on the phone where the speaker keeps asking you if you're there because you are so quiet? Or, conversely, asking you why you keep interrupting with an "uh-huh"? Often what one finds to be rude is a miscommunication or a difference of culture. I've heard folks say that politeness transcends culture..... well, no actually, it doesn't.

In many cultures, what we Americans consider "polite" is seen as keeping people at arm's length by others. It can also be considered dishonest and in it's own vein rude. And what's written in text can sound much better in one's head than when it's read by a stranger. (It would be so much easier if they'd invent that sarcasm font already) So while you may think you've given a polite reply, the person reading your post thinks you're the world's biggest blow-hard and will not hesitate to call you out on it!

It's so easy to assume everyone thinks like we do. Don't take this the wrong way, but they don't. I have had conversations with siblings that would make you think they grew up in different houses. And if you spend any time on Ancestry's Facebook page, you are going to find people complaining that their photos are taken by someone else. This complaint is especially common on their UK page. These posters complain that they have no desire to privatise their tree, but they want their publicly posted photos to have some sort of feature where they can't be saved to another tree or computer without their giving explicit permission. Usually the posts devolve to name-calling when someone points out that the user agreement doesn't even imply that contact needs to be made between users to save public photos, much less overtly state that. There should be something done, they say....... probably, but why is it that everyone else has to change to suit them? Why can't they just put a note that they have photos to share without adding the photos to the tree? And with that, they're off to the races and the conversation turns ugly.

My point is that everyone grew up differently. Even if you see no harm in something, others might. Be prepared for people to suggest you need to change your way of thinking. But on that same note, be prepared to NOT suggest other people change. I'm of the opinion that it is more rude to point out the rudeness of others than other people being rude. But this post will be the only time I accuse anyone of being rude. I'd rather suggest we look for the best in each other. My friend thinks that someone who doesn't say "thank you" doesn't do things for others. I'd rather believe it just slipped their minds this one time...... but I always remember to thank her to stay in good standing in her mind. I respect her enough to respect her opinion.

Maybe I'm Dutch.....

someecards.com - You are welcome to argue about your different opinions and offend each other for my amusement. I've heard from several people, that folks in the Netherlands are straight forward to the point of being considered rude. If you suggest something to improve their ways and they disagree, they'll tell you to stop being stupid. Imagine it. You tell someone you are the great great great great etc. granddaughter of Jesus and someone tells you to stop being stupid. I just imagined it and I can't stop laughing.

I write how I speak. I keep in mind the rule of treating people the way I want to be treated. I also remember to treat people online the same way I'd treat them in person. For that I am often accused of being a bully. Oh well. I can't for the life of me figure out how to tell someone that documents are needed to back up claims without hurting their feelings. If you want a tree without documentation, fine, but don't expect a pat on the back for finding your connection to Charlemagne. At least, not from me.

Below is a link to a blog called "Downwind of Amsterdam". The author closed the blog in 2004, but one paragraph hit home for me on his last post: "So then...this bluntness facilitates Peace? Yes. Yes, in fact I think it does. While a newcomer's first, unthinking temptation might be a fist fight, something else is actually going on. With a little practice one understands this: what is accomplished is exposure of subterfuge and misunderstanding into the bright glare, before they become dogma. In what might at first seem their gleeful pouncing on logical mistakes or misstatement, I think I sense a fear that someone might get carried away with a bad idea, that others might follow. Once you realize that it is meant to be defensive, you realize that it is not meant to be offensive. It is just straight talk."

And that's what I give: straight talk. I am not trying to bully someone into thinking like I do, but sometimes it would be a disservice to the genealogical community for me to allow misconceptions to continue. Believe me, I let slide more stupid comments than I correct. I've actually had friends tell me to "stop looking for the good in everyone." They mean it light-heartedly, I hope. When they are upset at the actions of another person, I often try to see that other side. I'm sure they wish I'd just agree with them that they are in the right, but it's not conducive to peace and good health. I'm not saying they are wrong....... I just know that there is another side to that coin..... who is currently telling their friends how crazy rude my friend was to them!

My dear friend who was the impetus of this post probably hoped to be reading a diatribe on how rude people are when they aren't thanking those who help them. And I do agree, people who forget to thank others are being rude. But I also hope that the person wasn't trying to be intentionally insulting. I like to believe that they are usually helpful, honest, kind people who remember the feelings of others. I try to remember that people have different ideas of "acceptable" behaviour. So I would like to end today's post with "Please remember to be kind to others and always assume the best of intentions from them. Thank you."

Thank you to someecards.com for these lovely images. I was thoroughly entertained while looking for just the right sentiments.
A special thanks to some articles used in my research and blogs I found enjoyable! 

13 July 2012

How Far Is Far Enough?

"My tree is complete."

I'll give you a moment to puzzle over that statement. For many of us, those words strung together make no sense. I know the first time I saw it, I was convinced I was just tired and my eyes were playing tricks on me. How in the world does a family tree become complete? What does that even mean? Even if you've followed your direct lines as far back as documents will take you, aren't there always new living relatives being added? And why stop with only your direct line? Often when we lose sight of an ancestor, they are living with a sibling, an aunt, a cousin or whatever. Researching every descendant of your common ancestor leads to more living relatives who may have information you don't. So really, a tree is never complete. You may lose interest and say your research is complete, but your tree is still growing.

But when you start to "fluff" out the collateral lines of your tree, can you get carried away? I know many family history books that will trace only the male lines of a family. They may mention the daughters' husbands, maybe a few kids, but the emphasis is on the males. Makes sense when you consider it's about a particular surname. However, families often intermarry and following only half the descendants only gets you half the story. Most modern researchers feel that way and will include the female lines as well. What about in-laws? You may have no direct link to your cousin's husband, but you are linked to her children. They may appreciate your hard work one day when they take up interest in genealogy. Or maybe they won't.

Eventually we come to the question of "How far is far enough?" Where one person may feel just as connected to a 10th cousin as a 1st, others will think that the blood connection is too dilute to matter. Where one person will want to research in-laws, another will find it "creepy" that they'd want to know about people not related to them. And what about in-laws of in-laws? They are not tied to you by anything but marriage.... do you really need to know about them? For some of us, yes. But as with anything we do, we must be careful of the feelings of others. There are no end to the complaints on Ancestry's Facebook page from people who's information and photos is "taken" by someone who is remotely related (if at all).

Now, as always, I warn that anything online is up for grabs. There are rules, regulations, and policies put in place to protect you, but they can only help you so far. If you want people to get your permission before they use your photos, stories, information, etc. ... make your tree private. While you may want them to contact you, not everyone wants to make a social connection. Since there is nothing in the terms and conditions about asking for permission to add photos from a public tree to their own, many don't think about it. Now, adding it to another website or publishing it without your permission is against copyright laws. However, taking the photo and adding it to their tree by directly connecting to your tree and giving you credit for originally posting the photo is NOT. While you may feel it is common courtesy, they may not feel the same. It may not occur to them that you'll be bothered, because it doesn't bother them when others take their information. With that said, however, if you connect to another person's tree, assume they are one of those hyper-sensitive styled folks and message them first. (And for goodness sake, make sure you have the right relative!!!!!)

I honestly don't care what people take from my tree. I'm trying to share it for a reason. I don't care if they add my photos to the wrong person. I know who they are. And usually the other user's tree is so garbled, it's obvious they've made mistakes. Of course, I also watermark all my photos with the name and information of the person pictured as well as my email address........ Anyway, back to the point at hand. Just as folks will get upset about photos being taken without asking, there are those who won't understand why you care to know more about your 7th cousin 3x's removed. To them, that's too far. Why do you want a photo of your adopted brother's birth mother's stepfather's cousin? They aren't family!

Well, for me at least, filling out those unconnected connections gives me a bit of practice. They may present obstacles that my own family doesn't. Researching them improves my skill. It can also give me a break from a frustrating "brick wall" in my own lines. More than that, since families often migrated together and intermarried, sometimes I find they aren't so unconnected after all. While researching my Kemper line, I found distant cousins living next door to my direct Gibson line. I've not found an intermarriage yet, but proximity gives it a good chance. Even still, they were neighbors. They probably talked to each other. They have a shared history, even if it would be another 2 generations before they shared a common blood. My great uncle's mother was my great grandfather's first wife. I followed her line from Michigan back to Norway. Why? She's no kin to me. My great uncle has done a lot of that research, so his children won't be contacting me for it. On the other hand, I've no Norwegian connections in my direct lines. It's interesting to see how different it is to research a patronymic name. It increases my critical thinking skills. But every day brings the possibility of someone messaging me to ask why I would do something so "invasive". To them, I shouldn't care. To them, I am over-stepping my bounds. I've always had the philosophy that we're all cousins of some degree, I just haven't found all the connections yet.

And really, like anything else in genealogy, it's a personal opinion. It's up to each and every one of us to figure out where we want to stop on a line. It'll never be complete, but we all reach a point of being "done" with some aspect of it or another. I research a surname at a time, always going back over myself to find new records and connections periodically. I carry a line through each descendant until I reach a dead end or I get bored. By doing a surname at a time, I can clear all the hints on my Ancestry tree for that surname. When a new hint pops up for anyone with that name, I see it quickly. Naturally spouses and their parents are researched, but unless the surname pops up again in the tree, I rarely follow it past that point. Of course, that's for now. My family is large and loves to travel. Researching the in-laws usually leads to making them kin soon enough. Then it's back to fluffing out their line and seeing how far I can go with them. There are those who may not appreciate that I'm the 3rd cousin 5x's removed from their aunt's second marriage. Just the same, there are those who find that exciting. To quote one of my favorite movies "It is a fool that looks for logic in the chambers of the human heart."

So where do you stand? Feel free to comment with your opinion on where to end your research!

07 July 2012

Repository in Review- Fold3.com

My apologies for the lateness of this week's post. I had something planned, but as can often happen in genealogy, a new avenue presented itself mid-week. This one just happened to have a time limit. From now until July 15, Fold3.com is offering free access to their Revolutionary War records. I thought, "Great. Since I plan to review some genealogy sites for my blog, I'll just start with Fold3 this Friday." Of course, I am an honest and careful researcher, so I decided to see what I could find on my revolutionaries and give you my personal testimony. Before I knew it, it was Saturday night. Don't Judge.

The Features and Benefits

Fold3 touts itself as the place for U.S. military records. From 2007 to 2010, it was known as Footnote. In October 2010, it was purchased by Ancestry and, by 2011, renamed to Fold3. Ancestry has since kept it as a separate subscription entity. However, Ancestry's search feature will pull up links to Fold3 records. That could be helpful since you don't need to do two separate searches to know more is available. I've heard some complain that they aren't paying Ancestry to redirect them to other websites, to which I say, "you'd rather not know about them?"

A browse of their titles show records for the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Civil War, both World Wars, Mexican-American and Indian wars, and some non-military records including newspapers, Native American, African American and naturalisation records. If you use the drop-down menu under "Records", you can list all available databases. On the left of each title is a progress bar informing the user of how much of the database has been indexed and is searchable by name. On the right of the title, it will let you know if the database is a FREE database. There is a counter that states they have over 94 million images to browse and growing. Pretty impressive. And it is all images. I like that, because you see the facts as they were laid out. Sometimes an exerpt can omit data that the transcriber didn't find important, but you need.

Being military focused, Fold3 also provides an area for Memorials. These are user-made pages that will include information about a veteran, photos and stories. It's like an Ancestry member tree, and just as reliable. You should take all "data" with a grain of salt, but it's great for connecting with people who may have more info. This folds into the social aspects available. If you have a blog or website, you can get a Fold3 badge that shows your user name, how many connections you've made and any memorial pages. You can save images to a gallery page just for you to review and save. You can bookmark people, images and memorial pages for later research. They have a place for a "watch list", so that if anything new happens for a person or search, you'll get an email. You can set email preferences to daily, weekly, monthly, whenever something new happens or never. If you're like me, "never" is a good one. I've got enough coming into my email and I always check my watch list.

Dollars and Sense

So what does it cost? You have three options. A basic free account, a month-by-month, and a yearly. Basic free gets you free databases and access when they hold special events like the one running until July 15th. The access is limited to those collections, but the general search isn't. When you do a general search, each result has a thumbnail photo. If it's free, it'll say so. If you need to pay, it'll say premium. Of course, if it's a premium and you aren't paying, it'll direct you to subscribe if you click on it. If you want to search only the event's records, click on the advertisement on the home page to be directed to the limited search; don't use the keyword search on the home page.

The subscriptions are currently $11.95/month or $79.95/year. If you subscribe to Ancestry.com, you can get a discount off of Fold3's subscription price. I haven't checked lately, but it's usually about half the year's price. There is also a free 7 day trial period so you can view some documents to see if subscribing will be worth it to you. As I always recommend, use a prepaid credit card to manage your budget and keep accidental charges to a minimum. If you want to cancel service, make sure to get a confirmation of cancellation prior to the end of your trial period (or last month of subscription).

A note about this free week!
Prior to starting your search, you need to make a user name and password. Do that first, because if you search the free databases and then have to sign in/up, sometimes it'll try to get you to subscribe. Then you'll freak out, because you thought these records were free until July 15th. They are, it's a computer thing.

My Two Cents

I like it. I searched for my revolutionary Joel Gibson and any Kempers in Virginia. Joel brought up records I found on FamilySearch. I will note however, the records on FamilySearch aren't indexed, so I found them by browsing the images in an entire collection. If I had used Fold3 first, I would've found them faster. Of course, I'd have to pay for them if it wasn't this week, so it's a toss-up on what would be preferential. I haven't looked through all the Kemper links yet. There were 595 hits, with about 100 images being from Virginia. I know just about every Kemper in Virginia is related, so that was a good deal of new info to browse. I downloaded the images to my computer to look at them as I have time and cite them to my family tree on Ancestry. I also downloaded Kempers in Pennsylvania as I know a 7th great grand uncle immigrated there and those may lead to new hints. I like that I can download the images for later. I couldn't imagine getting to all of these records right now.

As far as other databases, I found some stuff in the Civil War collection. I wasn't able to find my grandfather in the WWII collection. I wasn't sure about other relatives, so I left the search at that. They have non-military documents, like census records. But when I looked at how much was indexed, it's not worth it for those. It is worth it for some of their African American collections and documents on Indian treaties. Long story short, check the status of indexing on a database to see if you'll need to browse by image or if a simple name search will help.

Should you pay? If you do a search and come up with a lot of hits that could only be your ancestor, yes. If you do one of the free events and it opens up avenues to explore into the premium collections, yes. If your ancestors had deep ties to the military, yes. If you've got a lot of research in many branches, few military ancestors, or a disciplined research schedule, no. I wait for the freebie weekends and gather what I can. If I exhaust all that is given on the anniversaries and memorial periods, and still need records from collections not offered free, then I'll pay. But that's a lot of records to go through before I get to that point. And I may run across those other databases elsewhere...... never know til you look.

Happy Hunting