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Begin Building Your Family Tree

Learn the basics of how to search for your ancestors — without spending a dime

4. The Internet can help you with your family search but you'll also need to do some old-fashioned sleuthing: Visit local courthouses, churches, parishes and public libraries to plow through paper records to locate property deeds, bankruptcies and other legal information. Ask a research librarian to help you. Some libraries have county historians on their staffs who are available to help.

5. It's easy to lose track of a married female who took her husband's last name. To find these relatives, search for their brothers and fathers in the Census and work backward to family addresses, which may contain information about female household members.

6. Closely examine family pictures. Figure out who's who and date the picture. Not sure if the little boy pictured is your grandfather or great-grandfather? Look for clues to help you identify the era, such as cars, appliances, clothing and hairstyles.

7. Become familiar with genealogical terms such as relic (a widow), testatrix (a woman's will) and dower (property rights of a woman in her husband's estate) to help you pinpoint your family history.

There is so much available for free online that searching for your roots does not have to cost you a penny. You can also find volunteer researchers willing to help you for free, too. Do a Google search "GenWeb + volunteers" or post a question on the message board for help.

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