Sunday, October 30, 2016

Bargain Hunting for Genealogists

Admit it: genealogical research can become an expensive pursuit. What we used to spend in purchasing documents via snail mail before the age of digitization of records, is now amply made up by fees to various online companies. We save steps, but the pennies bucks add up.

While I'm thankful for such creative genealogy fanatics as Thomas MacEntee—you do know about him, don't you? Known for his hand in gathering the genealogical blogging community under one well-known banner, Genea-Bloggers, he has melded his computer expertise and passion for all things genealogical into his business, Hack Genealogy, and his shopping savvy into an ongoing listing of genealogy bargains via his websites and newsletter subscription—still, I like to keep my own eyes open for angles that shave away those genealogy costs.

It hasn't been lost on me, while researching in locales like Tippecanoe County (in my quest to find more of our Kelly ancestors in Indiana) and Perry County (where we have a multitude of ancestors to track down in Ohio), that I really should consider gaining more local research perks by joining their genealogical societies.

The only problem is that most societies establish a fixed calendar year for their annual membership fees, running from January through December, and I don't get around to thinking about joining until, oh, November 30. And I'm too cheap to do it I put it on my list of things to get around to, after the new year.

Of course, guess what never happens, once that new year rolls around?

Reading the fine print, I've since discovered that several local societies have a policy of granting a few free months of membership to new applicants during the last quarter of the year, to prompt people like me to send in their application now rather than forgetting for yet another year, ad nauseam.

I don't know why it hadn't occurred to me to look for such loopholes. After all, our own local genealogical society does the same—grant new applicants membership for the upcoming year for any form submitted September first or later. It's a small grace period that is greatly appreciated by those who have just discovered us late in the year. From our viewpoint as board members trying to grow our organization, it is a blend of bird-in-hand and sowing good will.

So when I stumbled upon that same token, while examining the locales in which our family's ancestors once lived, it occurred to me just how this benefit could help shave costs—if only in small doses.

Besides this, some of the organizations I'm interested in joining combine such hospitable tokens with gestures of largesse such as significant discounts on partnering genealogical services—for instance, the fifty percent discount on FindMyPast's annual World Subscription through such organizations as the Ontario (Canada) Genealogical Society.

As my trip to Lafayette, Indiana, pointed out last week, there are still many pockets of genealogical data tucked away in local repositories that are not yet available via international online outlets. Behind "members only" firewalls, those who join such local societies as the Tippecanoe County or Perry County branches can access material that would otherwise still require that tedious trip—or at least a snail-mailed request for research help on site.

But what I've learned, in the meantime, is that we don't have to wait until January to spend our hard-earned money on membership fees. Some societies grant us that year-end bonus to join, so we don't end up forgetting our good intentions again for yet another year.  


  1. is pushing the limits of affordability for me already... just by itself!

    1. True, but there are sometimes ways to hack even that deterrent.

  2. Ancestry is free at our local library 20 minutes away. I think it may just be on their computers which always have a waiting line:(

    1. Our county's library system also has Ancestry--it is actually a limited version called "Library Edition"--but at least we have a sign up system for library computers.

      A bonus is that those who have laptops are welcome to bring them to the library and tap into their wifi that way to access the Ancestry Library Edition on site.

      Of course, that wifi system leaves much to be desired. Progress...sometimes you just have to wait for it...


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