Genealogy Basics –

This post will identify free genealogy resources and how a beginner can use them. Over time, this post will grow to include additional resources with periodic updates. For now (November 11th, 2021) only one resource,, will be discussed. Future updates will include, but not be limited to:

Find a Grave – (

Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Database – ( – (a database of obituaries)

Heritage Quest – (a paid resource accessible via local libraries, including the Montgomery County Public Library)

FamilyTreeNow – (available at This is a free genealogy site that is akin to people-searching websites but focused on genealogy. There is an interesting Washington Post article about this site.

SIDE NOTE: If you are primarily interested in researching “the living,” Family Tree Now is a good resource for finding if a specific person (who is still alive) has deceased relatives. From there, you will be able to make use of genealogy resources.

Family Search ( is a free resource, though it requires that you sign up for a free account, and a good starting point for genealogy research.

There are three key features worth noting, the basic search function, a wiki catalogue of regional databases, and a database of family trees that were built by individual account-holders.

To reach the basic search function, click on “Search” from the menu bar and then click on “Records” from the drop down menu.

Later on, you can return to this drop down menu and click on “Genealogies” or “Research Wiki.” Clicking on “Genealogies” will let you search family trees that were uploaded by users. “Research Wiki” is a wiki of different local genealogy-related databases that are specific to different locations.

You’ll want to start with the search records functions. The following search window will appear. If you submit a search here, the website will also search for results that are similar but not exactly what you typed (such as names there are spelt similarly to what you typed). If this give you too many results, then before getting started, it might be worth clicking on “More Options,” so you can choose to search for an exact spelling of a name.

The following window will appear and you will notice that there are options for search for exactly what you typed.

Data Sources

You can also browse the data sources available on Family Search by going to (

This will help you know what to expect (for example, the Alabama State Marriage Licenses from 1816-1957 or Casualties from the Vietnam War). If you expect your ancestor is listed in one of these databases, you can click on it to search only records within that database. This is especially useful when your ancestor has a common name.

Two of the most important data sources to make note of in Family Search are the Social Security Death Index and U.S. National Censuses from 1790 to 1940 (Census data is only available if it is more than 70 years old), more on those data sources in upcoming posts.

That’s all for now.

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