First of all let me say, I do expect to pay for services that help me with my genealogy. To scan documents and make them searchable and viewable on a website involves expenses which I expect to contribute to. To maintain and staff buildings with roomfuls of books and documents that I might need is not free. To move genealogy forward, and help us to gain access to the best work, and improve our own, certain organizations need to exist, and I would like to support them.
Here is a summary of what I pay for on a regular basis.
- Ancestry.com. Ancestry.com has a lot of records, and even the brief index records have tipped me off to records I should investigate elsewhere. I keep a tree on Ancestry. I sometimes pay for a U.S. subscription, and sometimes for a Worldwide subscription. One thing I do not do on Ancestry is pay any attention to the other trees. Just turn all that off – you’ll feel much better. If I ever do look at an individual on another tree, it is just to see if they have any sources listed that might help me. 99 times out of 100 they don’t. I can access Ancestry.com through my cell phone app, meaning I can see my information at any time.
- Family Tree Maker software. I keep this updated and currently have version 2014. It synchs automatically with my Ancestry tree, meaning all the valuable documents I’ve attached to my tree in Ancestry also move to my computer, on their own. If I ended my Ancestry subscription tomorrow, I would always have what I’ve found so far, right on my computer.
- Fold3.com. I love Fold3 and use it mostly for U.S. military records. I also like the city directories, and I sometimes use Fold3 for an alternative index to U.S. federal census records if I am having trouble finding something, although they only have 1860 and 1900-1930. They allow you to directly attach a document to a person in your Ancestry tree. That is especially useful for situations of distant relatives where I’m probably not going to save the entire record anyway.
- AmericanAncestors.org, the website of the New England Historic Genealogical Society. What can I say about NEHGS membership. They had me at “The Great Migration” series of books, where you can find reliable information on those who arrived in New England from Europe between 1620 and 1635. Reading the Register when it comes in the mail is an education. The website is very helpful, and contains access to all this, plus additional outside databases. The website is useful to me for searching among many genealogical journals. Visiting the library in Boston is a wonderful and helpful experience.
- GenealogyBank.com (newspapers and more searchable, online). Newspapers have told me so many interesting things that I would never have known. My favorite discovery so far is competing ads in 1802 by my 5th great-grandparents disowning each other, one of my first finds. Whenever I subscribe to something like a newspaper site, I read the renewal details carefully and learn, in advance, how I would be able to unsubscribe. If they make it clear they will never refund a fee, even one made without my consent, I move on. I trust GenealogyBank.com and have had no problems. As I recall, they give me a discount because I have an Ancestry subscription.
- Rhode Island Historical Society membership. Historical societies in the areas where you are researching are important and they always need support.
- The National Genealogical Society. I enjoy getting the Quarterly and feeling like my membership is contributing to the future of genealogy.
- Rhode Island Genealogical Society. It is important to me to belong to the group which has the best interests of Rhode Island genealogy as its core mission. Rhode Island Roots is an important publication, and they publish excellent books, too.
- Evernote Premium (online notebook). I keep research documents and files on my computer, but Evernote holds an increasing amount of my genea-details, like to-do lists for each repository, details about all these subscriptions, helpful things like blank census records, details about every repository and cemetery I might ever visit, research notes for each family, results of DNA tests, and conference syllabi. So, I want to support Evernote and get the best features. I also access all this on my cell phone through the app.
- Dropbox.com (online document backup). All documents on my computer are stored in one folder that is synched with Dropbox. Anywhere that I have access to the internet, I can access all my documents. All of them. Books, maps, notes, pictures, screen shots, anything. The free account is too small; I use a paid account. If my computer ended up in Narragansett Bay tomorrow, all my work would be safe.
- FamilySearch Center microfilm rentals. I use these more and more. Someday fairly soon, these films will all be online. Until then, for $7.50, I get to use the exact record book I need (if they have it), no matter where in the world it came from. I prefer to see the original record books, but will settle for this kind of copy if I have to, and find it preferable (and cheaper) than ordering new certificates transcribed by a clerk (mostly because I like to see everything else on the page, or a couple of pages, and like to do my own deciphering of difficult handwriting). I save the pages I find on a flash drive and take them home for storage on my computer.
- Mocavo.com. Mocavo and I have an on-again, off-again relationship. Right now it’s on. It is best at what it always was, a site for searching the web and getting only historically and genealogically relevant search results. I love getting these automatically in my in-box. If your ancestors could possibly be mentioned in old books, genealogies, directories, or other printed matter, this is the site for you.
- FindMyPast.com. Since discovering some more recent English ancestors, I have started subscribing briefly to FindMyPast once in a while. I don’t do enough to make it worthwhile all the time.
I notice the trend now is that every major site wants to hold your full tree, help you match with others, and have you save everything right there. Realistically, we can’t do such a thing on 4 or 5 different sites. Can we? Sounds exhausting. One thing I avoid, so far, on these sites is the temptation to upload a whole tree (except on Ancestry.com). I may, in the future, try this on Mocavo or FindMyPast, to see what “hints” come up for individuals, as long as I can keep the tree private, and delete it later (since I won’t be updating it). (Commenters here and on Facebook have alerted me that the FamilySearch tree won’t be working that way).
This list is longer than I thought it would be. If you find other memberships or subscriptions worth paying for, and want to point them out here in the comments, please do.
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The illustrations are from the book “Abroad” by Thomas Crane and Ellen Elizabeth Houghton (London: Marcus Ward & Co, 1884?)