First tip: BE SKEPTICAL of any data you find. There is a LOT of faulty data floating around – I’ve even contributed to this phenomenon myself. ALWAYS apply solid methodology to your research and doubt first.

Early US Census Analyzer – get help with those early US censuses. Beginners, especially, will find this primer useful.

Google Search – try typing the name of your ancestor into a Google Search. Use quote marks to narrow your results: “George Allen Beard”. Using quotes will narrow your search to only results that contain EXACTLY what you typed. For that reason, it’s also good to search for alternative spellings: “George Allan Beard” and “George Allen Baird” and “George Allan Baird” and “George Beard” for example. You can further narrow your Google search with a date: “George Allen Beard”+”born 1856”. You may be pleasantly surprised with what you find this way.

Check out “hints” – Many online services like Ancestry and MyHeritage offer helpful research hints, usually in the form of a special icon ( uses a green leaf, for example). These can be VERY helpful. Don’t trust them to be correct – remember, they are JUST HINTS – instead, apply solid Research Methodology to them as described HERE.

FREE Automatic File Backups and Shares

I’ve invested decades in researching, recording, and organizing my family history. I don’t want to lose my data to digital corruption in the form of hardware or software failure, user error (me hitting the delete key inappropriately!), or natural disaster. Local backup is essential but it doesn’t really help unless you use it faithfully and often. Today, the internet has come to the rescue, providing automatic and free cloud backup services that do the job well with little to no fuss. I recommend using online storage AND making local backups – you can’t be too careful with your precious data.

The free version of online storage program, Dropbox can be used to create an instant online backup of your database. I simply installed Dropbox, copied my local genealogy database to my Dropbox folder and then in my local software’s Options – File Locations screen, I directed it to use the database I copied to the Dropbox folder. That means I always have a local copy and an online copy of my data because Dropbox immediately syncs my database whenever it is used/changed. I can also share my database with one or more other researchers in near-real time. Like Google Drive and MS OneDrive, Dropbox stores your files in your computer’s Dropbox folder (created by the Dropbox software when you install it). This is MY method for instant backup and protection against local hardware/software failure.

Google Drive
The free version of Google Drive is fairly easy to set up and use and has most of the basic functionality that Dropbox has. Like Dropbox and OneDrive, Google Drive stores your files in your computer’s Google Drive folder (created by the Google Drive software).

Microsoft OneDrive
The free version of Microsoft OneDrive is almost identical in functionality as Dropbox and Google Drive. Like Dropbox and Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive stores your files in your computer’s OneDrive folder (created by the OneDrive software).