Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Online Hint : Plenty of Free Content on Subscription Databases (Part 2)

Continuing with our discussion about free content on subscription websites...Footnote is quickly becoming another of the heavy hitters in the online genealogical community.  Some of their strengths include newspapers (Chicago is one that I've enjoyed), National Archives military & land files, and city directories. 

As with Ancestry, Footnote offers a 7-day free trial.  At the home page enter a name of interest in the search box at the top of the page (last name first), and a hit list of databases will display.  At the right of that display page is the link for a free trial.  Also as with Ancestry, you will need to provide an e-mail address and credit card information.  They indicate in fine print that you will not be billed until the 7-day period ends, so remember to cancel your trial before the full seven days is up if you don't wish to subscribe.

Without the free trial, there are still some databases that you can access for free.  Among some of the larger ones are:
  1. Papers of the Continental Congress
  2. South Carolina Estate Inventories, 1732-1872
  3. Social Security Death Index (SSDI)
  4. WWII Army Enlistment Records
  5. Civil War Widows Pensions
  6. Select Photo Collections
  7. Select Town Records
American Ancestors (was New England Ancestors) is a subscription database sponsored by the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS).  They recently changed the name of their magazine and their website to reflect the fact that their scope has grown beyond the limits of just New England states.  Their subscription rate is much less than most sites, an annual single membership being a reasonable $79.95 which includes not only online access, but a subscription to their magazine and genealogical quarterly.  Without a subscription there is also some useful information.  Along the top of the page, there is a "Free Account" button.  The free account includes access to 10 databases including:
  1. New England Ancestors magazines
  2. New York Wills, 1626-1836
  3. Index of Revolutionary War Pensioners
  4. Massachusetts Vital Records to 1850
You also have access to the NEHGS library catalog, The Online Genealogist by David Allen Lambert where you may submit a questions, and the Learning Center that has online seminars, with getting started tips & articles.

A few minutes ago, I spoke with a representative of World Vital Records (WVR) and I asked the question about free content.  First of all, WVR works a little differently in that they work with "affiliates" that allow their users to make searches and link to their sites.  So, some of the search results link to outside websites that may be free access.  Another tip that the rep shared with me is to periodically check their list of Recently Added Databases.  Oftentimes when a new database is first added, they will have free access for up to seven days.  And, as with the others, WVR offers a 7-day free trial.

The other thing that applies to some free trials to any site is that once you sign up for one, you may be offered a special new subscription rate at a lesser cost than the normal one, to entice you to join.

There are lots of other subscription sites around that aren't addressed here, but with any of them explore the possibility of free trials, free content, special subscription rates, or access at your local library.  Don't be afraid to e-mail them and ask "What can you offer me that will make me want to try your subscription?"  You might stumble into a special unadvertised offer.  No need to mortgage the house yet...