Unless you were the winner of the recent $1.5 billion lottery, you probably don’t have unlimited money to spend on your genealogy. Although Ancestry provides access to billions of records, there are times when you have to obtain a copy directly from a record office. Here are some tips for making the most of your offline genealogy dollars.
Have a Goal in Mind
There are always questions in genealogy. (Find one ancestor and immediately you wonder, “Who are his parents?”) When you have a research goal in mind, it helps you focus on what you really want to accomplish. Otherwise, you end up chasing BSOs – Bright Shiny Objects. (Been there, done that!) Having a clear goal allows you to ask yourself, “Does getting this fit in with what I want to accomplish?” If it doesn’t, then you have to decide is the cost worth it, knowing that those dollars won’t be available to spend on something that will help your goal.
Learn About the Record First
Not all records give the information you’re hoping for. For example, in some areas, early marriage records and death records don’t list the parents’ names. (I’m looking at you, Ohio.) If you have to order a record, learn what records from that time period in that state or county typically contain. Use sources like the FamilySearch Family History Research Wiki or ask on your favorite Facebook group what you can expect to find.
Double-Check That It Isn’t Online
Are you sure that record isn’t online? Check out the Card Catalog to see. If it’s a book that you’re thinking of buying, look on places like Google Books, Internet Archive, and Digital Public Library of America to see if it’s available online.