Let’s face it. We’d all like to have unlimited funds for our favorite addiction – genealogy – but, in reality, we all have limits. With more and more databases and sites coming online almost by the way, there are a corresponding increased number of ways to spend our money.
However, I’ve found that by being an educated consumer, there are ways to narrow down the choices and still have access to subscription sites that I use the most.
So often, I hear someone say that they “can’t live without” a premium version of a website, which costs big bucks at full price. That statement might be true, but I hope that person has researched other online options before shelling out the money.
I’ll use myself as an example and I’ll even include costs. Between my family tree and my husband’s, research takes me all over the U.S., Canada (New Brunswick), Slovakia, Denmark, Sweden and England. My research in England, though, is minimal because the ancestors were all here by the 1700s.
Now, I could buy the premium package for that large, very well-known, site to access these records, which is $398 for 12 months, according to the options given to me to upgrade at this moment. That price wouldn’t be an option for me.
To get a much better rate, I let my current subscription lapse and, just about three weeks later, I receive a teaser offer of $49 for six months for the U.S. databases. This has been my routine for the past two years.
What do I do about research in other countries? This is where being an educated consumer counts. First, Canada’s provinces all have local archives. It so happens that the one for New Brunswick is terrific. Provincial Archives of New Brunswick (PANB) is one of my favorite sites.
Notice the first title, right underneath the photo – Federated Database Search? All 36 of their databases can be searched at once, which includes everything from Loyalist widow pension applications to Daniel Johnson’s collection of vital statistics items found in New Brunswick newspapers dating from 1784-1896.
There are even (digitized) vital records available into the early 20th century.
Cost for PANB? It’s FREE! That checks Canada off my list. Other records that I might need, like land deeds, aren’t on the subscription site anyway. A trip to the microfilm stacks at the Family History Library takes care of that.
Next up – Slovakia. Yes, the church registers are in the premium subscription package, but do you know where they got that database? From FamilySearch, which not only has church records digitally available, it also has the 1869 Hungarian census, which included the area where my family lived, which today is in Slovakia.
Slovakia Church Registers
Some of the records, mostly baptisms, have been indexed by FamilySearch. Other records must be browsed. Since my grandparents came from two small villages, the names of which I know, it has actually been fun reading page by page, finding various ancestors and collateral lines.
Cost for records on Family Search? They’re FREE! That checks Slovakia off my international list, too.
Next on the list is Denmark, where I’ve done a LOT, and I mean a LOT, of research. Some records are available on FamilySearch, but Denmark’s national archives has a fabulous website, Arkivalieronline.
No, I don’t speak any Danish at all, but there is an arrow in the bottom left corner – “IN ENGLISH” is an option. Also, most of the Danish records are in column format and sectioned into birth, death and marriage. That makes it pretty easy to browse as long as you can read the names on the pages.
What can be found on this website? Only computer-searchable Danish censuses back into the 1700s, along with digital images of church registers from all over the country. Denmark kept its vital records locally at each parish church so you need to know where your family lived. Mine was in Copenhagen and even that wasn’t overwhelming in terms of locating them in the 1800s.
Cost for Arkivalieronline? It’s FREE! That just check Denmark off the list.
Swedish records are in a bit of a different category. There is no access to free Swedish records. However, there is a big difference in the quality of the digital images on subscription sites. The big-name American site bought the holdings of a company called Genline, which used to be the only game in town in terms of accessing Swedish records. Genline’s images were created from microfilm images, which weren’t always the best.
There is now a second company, ArkivDigital, based in Sweden. ArkivDigital has obtained access to the original Swedish church and governmental records and digitized those. The difference in quality between these images and digitized microfilm images is huge, absolutely no comparison.
How much does ArkivDigital cost?
I love that ArkivDigital offers subscriptions for as short a period as one week. A quick check today shows that 125 SEK equals a whopping $14.59 U.S. I can get through hundreds of records in one week’s time and when I’ve had questions, I have heard back quickly from the company’s U.S. representative.
Cost then for ArkivDigital? Minimally, about $14.59 for one week, which has met my needs well. I don’t often subscribe, but save up a number of items to search at once when I do. I’ve only paid for one subscription in the last year.
We’re almost to the end of the list!
England is well represented on many sites, including FamilySearch, already mentioned as being free, but also by Find My Past.
I have to admit that I rarely use Find My Past for English research. I am actually more interested in its work with digitizing PERSI. However, I received an offer to subscribe for $49 for an entire year and also had an option to renew at the same rate, so I took it.
Okay, now – a quick review. I spent $49 for 6 months for a basic U.S. subscription, or $98 for one year (granted, with about 3 weeks of no access in the middle) plus about $14.59 for one week of Swedish record access plus $49 for a year to access English records.
That’s a grand total of just under $162, with the notation that I could easily drop the Find My Past subscription, which would drop my out-of-pocket cost to $113. That’s a big difference compared to $398 for the big-name premium site.
I strongly recommend that you review your own research needs before you spend money on any subscriptions. Taking a look at what’s available and/or on sale can really stretch your budget dollars.