"BROTHER CAN YOU SPARE A SEARCH?"
In the primitive era of genealogical research, before the advent of the internet, a researcher's main expenses were for time, gasoline, and photocopies. Today we can search huge databases and even see actual records from the relative comfort of our desktops. Yet there is often a price, sometimes a hefty subscription fee, to view and copy these materials.
In these penny penching days we here provide some suggestions that may save our readers a few bucks.
THE USGENWEB PROJECT
The USGenWeb Project is a group of volunteers working to provide free genealogy websites for every state and county in the United States. It is non-commercial and committed to free genealogy access for everyone. The project is organized by state and county. The USGenWeb Project also sponsors projects at the national level and the web site provides an entry point to all of those pages, as well.
The state web sites prove information and links to all counties in the state. You can also locate information like queries for unknown counties, family reunions, state histories, maps, and more. Projects range from cemetery transcriptions to Civil War regimental listings to county boundary information. The amount and types of information vary from county to county but all include links to posing queries, links to other local services, and other information.
Check out the Minnesota GenWeb site for links to genealogy sites in Minnesota and other useful information including online maps, Minnesota Links of Interest, and how to post queries. Check out the Minnesota County Selection List and click on any and all counties your family lived. Try Saint Louis County and discover an index to Saint Louis County birth records prior to 1900. Another item is a list of Duluth area residents in the 14th Volunteer Infantry from the Spanish-American War. Go to the Lac qui Parle County page and read the history of the two Lac qui Parle counties in Minnesota history. You might discover you are in the wrong geographic location. On the Murray County web site there is an index of an 1898 land ownership map. Aitkin County has obituaries listings. The list goes on and on, and it is all free. Happy hunting!
MINNESOTA BIRTH & DEATH INDEXES
The Minnesota Historical Society hosts indexes of Minnesota birth and death certificates to improve access to these important resources. You can search these indexes by surname and “everything you always wanted to know” about these records can be found in the FAQ sections of each index. With the birth and/or death certificate ID numbers you can also visit the MHS Library and view these records for FREE (copies can be made for a fee as well).
MINNESOTA PLACE NAMES
Ever wonder why Cuyuna was named Cuyuna or not sure of the county that a township is located? Minnesota Place Names is the place to find out. This online encyclopedia of place-name information on Minnesota's cities, towns, townships, lakes, and streams can be found on the MHS web site and is available for FREE – 24/7! You can search by county, township, village, lakes and streams, and people.
The web site is derived from the book Minnesota Place Names: A Geographical Encyclopedia. This completely revised and updated third edition combines lists from earlier versions to yield more than 20,000 entries.
(In case you’re wondering – “CUYUNA, a mining village in Rabbit Lake Township, and the iron ore range on which it is situated was named by and for Cuyler Adams of Deerwood, prospector, discoverer, and mine owner of this range, and for his dog, Una, who accompanied him in many lone prospecting trips, so that he affirmed that the discovery of workable ore deposits here should be credited jointly to himself and the valuable aid of Una.”)
USING THE GENEALOGICAL RICHES OF ANCESTRY.COM & heritageQuest ON THE CHEAP!
If you are a family history researcher experienced with genealogical searching on the Internet, you have probably come across a web site called Ancestry.com. If so, you are aware of the treasure trove of genealogical records available on Ancestry—over 5 billion genealogical records, according to their advertising. The backbone of Ancestry.com is its vast collection of digitized public records — state, local, and federal birth, marriage, death, immigration, court, land, probate, and military-service records. There is also a good collection of international public records as well.
In addition, Ancestry.com is constantly growing its record inventory. Recent additions include a project to create the world’s largest online collection of Jewish historical records, including a Holocaust Ghetto database. Another new project underway is the indexing and digitizing of naturalization applications from Federal District and Circuit courts across the United States.
The downside to this valuable genealogical resource, particularly in these challenging economic times, is that Ancestry.com is a subscription-based Internet resource. You have to subscribe and pay a fee to have access to the huge number of records that Ancestry holds. The fees can be quite hefty. The U.S. Deluxe membership is approximately $155 annually, and only provides access to the U.S. records. The World Deluxe Membership, which provides access to everything, is about $359 a year.
Here’s the good news: the Minnesota Historical Society Library subscribes to a version of Ancestry made available to libraries called Ancestry Library Edition, and in turn provides free access to our library users on the public computers within our reading room! There is no need for you to pay personal subscription fees if you don’t want to—simply plan a visit to the mhs Library during our public hours, and peruse Ancestry’s vast collections to your heart’s content.
Also available in the MHS Library is HeritageQuest Online, which includes indexes and images of the federal census; over 24,000 family and local history books that have been scanned; PERSI, an index of over 2.1 million genealogy and local history articles; Revolutionary War era pension and bounty-land warrant applications; records of the Freedman's Bank, which was founded to serve African-Americans; and the too often overlooked U.S. Serial Set, of which the memorials, petitions, and private relief actions of the U.S. Congress have been scanned and indexed.
You do need to plan a visit to the Library, however, as neither Ancestry nor HeritageQuest allow libraries to provide access via their web sites. Visiting the Library provides another economic bonus as well—free help from the library staff in navigating these huge number of databases and variety of search interfaces, including when to use which one. In these tough economic times, using the Minnesota Historical Society Library just makes sense.