Family history is becoming a more popular pastime, especially now that the Internet has made researching your ancestry easier than ever. More than 60 percent of the U.S. Population is interested in tracing family history, according to a 2000 poll by Maritz Marketing Research Inc. This is a 15 percent increase from 1995. This number has most likely increased since then.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints provides a number of helpful resources for family history enthusiasts. One of the best resources for family history on the Internet is www.familysearch.org. According to the website it is “the largest collection of FREE family history, family tree and genealogy records in the world.” This website is the result of decades of research and includes 957 million names. The Family Search website also gives some advice for beginning your family history. It says: Begin with yourself and your immediate family by recording information you already know. Look for important documents such as birth certificates, marriage licenses, and death certificates. When you have written down all the names, dates, places, and relationships you know, then ask your parents, grandparents, other relatives, and family friends for information. Gather as much information from living sources as possible. Then begin to search for records that other people may have compiled about your family (such as published family histories, county histories, and genealogical databases). When you have examined these sources of information, begin your search for records from the time and place your ancestors lived (look for census data and vital records such as birth, marriage, or death certificates).
The LDS church also provides family history research centers at 4,407 sites around the world. These facilities are essentially branches of the Family History Library located in Salt Lake City. They provide access to almost all of the microfilms and microfiche from the central library. These family history centers also have volunteers that will help visitors with their genealogical research. Mike Provard, North American Operations Supervisor for Family History Centers says that in many centers the majority of the patrons are not members of the LDS church. “In the eastern U.S., 90 to 95 percent of the patrons [in some centers] are not members. They are thrilled to have the centers in the area.” (“Family History Centers Spreading,” Ensign, February 2006, 74).
The LDS church definitely provides more resources, records, facilities and tools than any other source for genealogical research. There are, however, a good number of other free family history resources that can be found on the internet. You’ll have to be fairly diligent though as some of these sites can be difficult to find. One site that may be useful in your search of the Social Security Death Index is: www.newenglandancestors.org/research/database/ss/. This site will allow you to search the SSDI for free.
As millions of people begin to look for their ancestors and want to know more about them, the resources and tools available to them are more readily available and easier to use then ever. Now is a great time to start your search.