Pat’s Genealogy Tips: Building Your Family Tree for Free (or Cheap!)

I mentioned in my first article that here are many, many online sites for genealogy research and family tree building. Some are subscription like the famous Ancestry.com site, and some are free if you set up an account, like the FamilySearch.org site. But are there other free sites if you’re not sure you want to use FamilySearch? I’m happy to say there are. I’m sure there are more than the ones I will talk about here, but I feel these are good ones to start with.

If you just want to create your tree, save it, maybe share it online with relatives or print it out, try FamilyEcho.com https://www.familyecho.com/ This free site is provided by Familiality Ltd., a private company based in Tel Aviv. Creating an account allows you to create your tree by filling in all the information yourself or importing a GEDCOM or Familyscript file and save the tree. You can then share it with invited relatives, add photos and download the tree to your own computer in a variety of formats, and print it out. There is no sharing information with other trees to find more relatives and no search connections, although there are resource suggestions in the Resources tab at the bottom of the homepage.

WikiTree.com https://www.wikitree.com/ was started in 2008; it’s headquartered in New York City and is a free “social networking genealogy website.” You can research and build your own personal family tree or add to one already started by a relative while also contributing to a world-wide family tree.

It is possible to use the search function (scroll down to under the stylized tree) without having an account. I searched for my deceased father-in-law’s records and found he is not listed in any of the Wikitree, but the site found six records available online – 3 census, 1 military, 1 death and 1 immigration; but to see the actual information I needed to start a free trial with WikiTree partner MyHeritage. The site also allowed me to search without an account for my Revolutionary War ancestor and yielded Stevens ancestors back thirty generations to Airard Fitz Stephens (or Stephan Fitz Airard, depending on the source) who commanded William the Conqueror’s flagship, the Mora in 1066! Again, like my purported ancestor Alfred the Great, I probably won’t ever try to verify each link in the descent, but the birth dates of each ancestor were plausible (no 10-year-old or 80-year-old fathers)

In order to build your free family tree you’ll need to set up an account. They offer seven levels of privacy settings – read “Privacy Controls,” then click on “Free Family Tree” at the top of the homepage to get started setting up an account. They also ask you to sign an “Honor Code” which clarifies how this site operates.

Once you have an account, use the drop-down menus from either the My WikiTree tab or the tab with your membership number (surname plus a number) to select “Family Tree and Tools” and start filling in the people you know about with as much information as you can. If you have a tree on another site or software, you can upload a GEDCOM , and download one, too.

To search for relatives who may already be entered in the tree by someone else, use the search blocks at the top of the page. I could find an advanced search form only after I did a search by first name and surname and scrolled down to the end of the list of results. Click on the Images tab to add photos or source images to your tree.

Click on the Genealogy Research tab or scroll down past your family tree to find nineteen options for searching, including some to connect with others searching your surname, find ancestors, a printable tree form, and connections through DNA if you upload your results from a previously taken test.

I discovered I had set up an account in 2012 (and forgotten about it.) Since I had filled out my tree only through my grandparents it made no connections to other trees (since apparently none of my cousins have trees here.) The information I found already in WikiTree for my Stevens ancestors began with my 7th-great grandfather. If I did not have an Ancestry.com account, I would be comfortable using this site. I found it made sense to me and was easy to navigate.

Geni.com https://www.geni.com/ is free for basic family tree building in a horizontal or vertical form. Geni was started in 2006 with a mission to create a family tree of the world. In 2012 it was acquired by MyHeritage Ltd. Before I set up an account I tried the free search for my Revolutionary War ancestor. He was in the database with his correct birth and death date and I could follow back three generations and see sources for the information and excerpts from the source books in some cases. When I clicked on the “View Complete Profile” button I got a pop-up asking me to join Geni. By all means, before you set up an account, read the privacy policy. It clearly defines how the site operates about privacy of records and that both public and private profiles can be edited by Geni curators and employees.

 I did join and was prompted to start filling out my family tree form. Since I already have my tree on Ancestry.com, I entered only two generations on this site. When I tried to search for more ancestors while logged in I ended up with more pop-ups, this time offering me a free 14-day trial of Geni Pro ($119.40 + tax per year) and canceling the offer by scrolling all the way to the bottom of the page to select “cancel” only got me another pop-up offer when I tried to select my ancestor for more information – the same information I’d already gotten when I did not have an account.

The Tree tab is the form to fill in relatives for your tree and the Family tab allows you to add photos, videos, maps, statistics, a calendar and more to your tree.

The Research tab has eleven categories of help for creating your tree, including Discussions, Projects, pages that focus on Surnames, a page where you can upload Documents, Create a Branch for segments of your tree where you haven’t yet found connections to your main tree; GEDCOM allows you to import or export GEDCOM files, DNA tests where you can order MyHeritage DNA tests, and the Consistency Checker allows you to check for inconsistencies in your relatives records.

While I found some source information on some ancestors that I may not have in my paper files, I found this site inconsistent to use. The search functions were helpful to me finding information on some ancestors that other people had already added but the constant pop-ups trying to get my credit card information for a free 14-day trial was annoying. I feel there are better options out there, especially when the search functions seem to yield more information when used without an account.

This last section is not about free tree sites, but if you want to just set up a tree where you can keep the information on your computer and maybe print out, family tree software has been available since the late 1980’s. Originally these programs provided formats to create family tree charts, reports, and even books. The programs available today still offer those basics and some now offer limited access to online subscription sites or FamilySearch.org. If you prefer to have your own program installed on your computer, I suggest you do a web search. These programs cost from about $10 to $100, with most running around $40. I came across an overview of five good family tree programs by using the search string “family tree software.” Some can be purchased in a box, most appear to be downloads.

If you haven’t stated creating your family tree yet, I hope this review has helped you make a decision on how to start .

Have fun growing your tree!

Pat

2 Comments

  1. Thank you for all your help !!! I have started on my family tree, but found I have SO much information to post. I am a member of My Heritage.com, but only have access through my I-phone. I have a computer but no internet on it. I really appreciate the organization you have shared !!! Thanks again !!!

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s