Armchair Genealogy?

+12 votes
I have several questions that I would like help with.  First, I work a full time job and my schedule is hectic.  I'm unable to travel to physically research my family at this time.  Are there reliable online sources that I can search for more info?  If so, which ones would you recommend?

I'm considering have a DNA test done and am curious about what kind I should have done.  My mother wants one too.  Is there any benefit to each of us having one done or should just I have it (or just her)?

Thank you in advance for your help.  

WikiTree profile: Amy W
asked in The Tree House by Amy Weatherford G2G4 (5k points)
Ah I miss the days of musty stacks, eye wearying microfilm and having to walk half the city to get to my parking space. Not! Well, I do sometimes miss the must stacks.
I love the musty smell of an old library.

8 Answers

+9 votes
Do you want to pay for subscriptions? is the big subscription site with others like MyHeritage and FindMyPast gaining ground.

I would start with free sites like It has a lot of collections as well as tutorials, wikis, and an excellent catalogue. For links to other sites about the best is

Join a FaceBook group for your area of interest and you'll find people there willing to help you and give you more links.

For DNA, test both your mother and yourself at and watch for sales. Even if you don't want to subscribe to Ancestry get a guest membership at This will allow you to use the free collections and take advantage of days where they open up part of the pay site for non-subscribers to use.

N.B. Google is your friend. I use it extensively to find unusual sites.
answered by Rosemary Jones G2G6 Pilot (224k points)
I would like to utilize the free sites as much as I can since funds are not abundant right now.  I am willing to pay for use of a site like once I go as far as I can go with the free sites.  

Honestly, I'm a bit overwhelmed at the moment because I have found so much info lately.  I've been continuing research that my grandfather's cousin started when I was a child.  I expressed interest in our family's history when I was in high school in the 80s and I've been "collecting" family info since.  It is a matter of putting it all in one place.

I'm amazed at how technology has advanced genealogy.
To keep track of everything either put everything in an Ancestry Member Tree (free with guest membership) or use a free desktop program. I believe RootsMagic has a free version that you can upgrade later on and make use of its links to FamilySearch (available now) and Ancestry (available in 2017).

You can register with FamilySearch (no need to be a church member) and there are a couple of added features like the ability to download search results to a spreadsheet. Use the FamilySearch Family Tree as hints and stick to the collections for reliable data.
I use Roots Magic v7. It has a free membership with limitations, and the paid one is approx. $50 pa. I use the paid one. You can put as many families on it that as you like at no extra cost. It has a very good search link which is liaised with familysearch .com. Join family search as well as it is a free site with a lot of search capabilities. When I search with RM7 it gives an ID e.g. PM68H-BQR for every person you find. When you use that ID in family search you go to familytree and find. Then you can find with the ID you have been given. There is also Tribal Pages which is not as good with the search link but is also about $30 per year. But it is charged per family name. I have Hale and McClean and I get charged twice where as with RM7 you only get charged one fee. I can give you more information if you are interested. I do know Ancestry and My Heritage are very expensive for some people. Ancestry over $200 pa. MH is almost as dear now.
Thank you for your response, Valma!  This is very helpful.  I do have the free version of Roots Magic on my computer but I have not done anything with it as of yet.  Am I able to search documents with the free version?  Or is that only with the paid subscription?  I would love more info when you have time.

Also, at present, I do have a subscription with Ancestry and am planning on uploading my GEDcom to Roots Magic.  At that point, I am hoping to possibly find more info that may be available through them.  I use Family Search quite often.  It is my go to search for most documents.
I have a correction to make. The paid RM7 is a one off fee. I joined in August last year and paid US $29.95 = $42aud. That was then. It depends on the dollar value.

Consider using the paid version. A one off fee is so affordable as I show above. Every one or two years they bring out a new version and there may be a small fee for that upgrade. Every now and then there are small upgrades that are free. The paid version give so much more search options. Put your gedcom in and explore. When you want to search for a name, do this. 1. File. 2. scroll down to family search central and click on it. A page opens and click on find matches. 3 a new drop down list opens up. It is the same as the normal family list. 4. Click once on the name you want to search more on. 5. a page opens up with the person you clicked on and all or any information on that person which will be, name, dob, dod, christening if available, marriage date and place, children.

Now on that page all people have the following. a family search id, and a blue tag next to their name. When you click on the blue tag you will see more information of families etc. You can keep on clicking until it runs out. Sometimes there will be only some date info.

Keep a record of their family search id and then go to family search and click on search, family, find, by name or id. I find looking with id is better as it will bring that family up with all or any info on he or she. e.g parents? spouses and or children. Remember to record their family search id's.

The other thing is you will see on your main page a little light bulb. Click on that and you will have hints from your other tree. Mine is from My Heritage. I don't know about Ancestry. That you will find out about yourself.

Sorry if this is long winded, but you will not be sorry to join RM7 paid version. Like I said before I have three trees on there for the same membership.

There is a lot of additions at the top of the page where you can add photos, children, spouses etc. On the main page you can add parents. There is too much to list and you will have the ability to explore and find all you need. Last but not least there is an icon where you can copy to a disc for a family member, or for safety. Called Roots Magic To Go. It will show on your desk top.

Have fun.


Do you know that on family search you can ask for one on one help. In the help section. You can ask a question and get an immediate answer and then they ask if you would like an email with tips on searching. I have used it a couple of time when I was stumped on a name. They found the information that I was looking for and couldn't find.

Go to Help (top right corner) and click on "live chat"
Thank you!  This is excellent info to know.  I appreciate you going through the steps.  This is going to be very helpful for me.  :)
No I did not know that.  I am going to have to ask for some help on a couple of names that I've been having trouble with.  I've been working on them for a while now and I'm still stuck.
Can you tell me what the names and dob are?
One is my maternal great grandfather, William Gary (WG) Lofton whose profile is here:

and the other is my 2x great grandfather John Rich whose profile is here:

On WG's profile, you will notice that I've put a note stating that we aren't sure exactly who his father is.  

My Mom and I are awaiting our DNA results that should be back at the end of next month.  Hopefully, that will shed some light on those brick walls.
+7 votes
It really depends on how much you wish to spend?

I use Ancestry and FindMyPast - worldwide subscriptions with both.

Ancestry allows for easier family tree building.  FindMyPast has 1939 census which is very useful.

There are free sites dependent upon your area of interest is. is totally free and have some very obscure information which actually on occasion link back to 'transcribed' documents in both Ancestry and FMP eg some index cards - by seeing the card itself you can really decide whether it's related to the family tree.

In the UK you join a local library and I believe most have an area designated to researching your family tree using their computer and have free access to family tree sites.

Local libraries offer other resources like their archive section.

I would recommend both.  You - it will pick up your father's family and your mother will be one generation closer.

Two weeks ago I purchased a DNA kit from 'my heritage' free to register and it was discounted to $69 or in my case £45.20 including Postage
answered by T C G2G6 Mach 5 (58.9k points)
Thank You!  I will check out FindMyPast.  Is any one site's DNA testing any better than another?  OR does one provide more info (or is more in depth) than another?

I really have no idea about DNA.

They have different types etc - I just went for the mtDNAPlus

Still showing on at $59 - free to register on their site for a profile.

Others are mtFullSequence which is $189

The most expensive is $249 for Family Finder + mtFullSequence


+7 votes

Gets you Census Records, Birth, Marriage, and Death Records pretty much all you need back to about 1800. Before 1800 things start getting a little sparse.

Personally, I have adamantly refused to give any of my money to use to buy up more previously free databases to lock up and charge a subscription to access. Yes, it may make things much easier, and yes they have a tremendous amount of material... but bargaining with the devil...

Google books

There's so much out there for free, you just have to be creative in searching for it. And if it's not sourced it's suspect. I have seen soooo many regurgitated fairytales on random websites, user-contributed FamilySearch Pedigrees, and even some old books. But just because it costs money doesn't mean it's any better. User Submitted Trees from are probably the biggest source of fabrications. So unless it links to a primary source, it's nothing more than a clue.

As to DNA, I have myself and BOTH parents tested through 23andMe Autosomal test kits. (Bought back when they were $99 ea.) DNA can give you a lot of answers, but you don't know what questions you're getting answered without doing the good old fashion research.

Good luck and Welcome to WikiTree! Let me know if you need any help.

-P Rich
answered by Phillip Rich G2G6 Mach 4 (41.8k points)
+4 votes
Pay sites or free sites is a personal choice. The only other suggestion I have would be to subscribe to a newspaper archive site.
answered by Doug Lockwood G2G Astronaut (2.4m points)
But note that there's a lot of information on pay sites that isn't available on free sites.

The choice of which pay sites to use may depend in large part on the geography and time periods you are working on. For example, I've found value from becoming a member in the New England Historic Genealogical Society (a nonprofit organization, unlike so many pay sites!) because it's a great resource for records from colonial Massachusetts and Connecticut, and it provides electronic access to some excellent genealogical journals (focused mostly on New England, but not entirely), but it would not be of much use to someone working on tracing ancestors in (for example) 19th-century Texas.
+8 votes
I forgot to mention your local library as an excellent resource. If you haven't one already get yourself a library card. FamilySearch Wikis and Catalogues frequently reference publications, both books and ebooks. Use to see if the publication is available at a library. If so, use the Inter-Library Loan department of your library and have them order the publication for you from a lending institution. Sometimes they aren't available to lend (Family History Library doesn't lend), often they are. Some libraries will only allow you to use the book in your local library (Library of Congress is one of theses) while others will let you take it home. I've taken books home from the US State Department Library while the Tennessee State Archives sent me a massive two volume set that I had to look through in the library.

FamilySearch also has books available as ebooks. Not all of them can be accessed outside a Family History Centre (your local LDS church) but often enough they can be accessed and downloaded while in your jammies.

Google Books has a lot of books available for digital download also. It's surprising what's out there.
answered by Rosemary Jones G2G6 Pilot (224k points)
The Internet Archive and Hathi Trust are other good FREE sources for digital books.
+5 votes

Hi Amy!  thank you for joining  You have a good start on your family tree.  I use the free websites such as  One really nice thing there is each and every page has a copy and paste source to add to your profiles.  It is called Cite this record and here is an example:  "South Carolina Deaths, 1915-1943," database with images, FamilySearch( : accessed 9 March 2016), Joe Gibson Sr. in entry for Sallie F. Gibson, 07 Dec 1934; citing Darlington, Darlington, South Carolina, cn 19248, Department of Archives and History, State Records Center, Columbia; FHL microfilm 1,943,811.

DNA.  An autosomal DNA test for you will give you matches in any of these surnames, including the question marks: You will have to contact each match and find out which surnames are on both of your family trees.  

Your brother or your father could do a yDNA37 test with FamilyTreeDNA.COM.  That will hopefully give you matches with other male Frazier cousins.  This test is only for the paternal line of forefather's (your Frazier male line).

You can read more details here:

I would recommend using FamilyTreeDNA to take advantage of their many projects.  We hope you will order through this link so that WikiTree gets a little referral credit:  This helps cover the WikiTree operations costs.  


answered by Kitty Smith G2G6 Pilot (471k points)
+4 votes
here is a source (Mostly free, I think) page Kitty has made:   there is another one, I just can't find it ATM. :). Also: New York Newspapers = And, a free space profile i made:
answered by Anonymous Vickery G2G6 Pilot (237k points)
+4 votes
If you do DNA tests, do autosomal DNA tests for both your mother and yourself. Your test will give you DNA information for both sides of your family, and your mother's data will show which of your DNA came from each side.

I'm a fan of 23andMe, where you get information on health and traits in addition to data that can be used to research your ancestry. 23andMe also has a useful utility for investigating DNA matches with other members.

Wherever you do your DNA testing, upload your autosomal data to to see additional people you match with.
answered by Ellen Smith G2G6 Pilot (913k points)

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