OK, so if you discount the cost of a computer and the cost of paying for an internet connection, what would it cost to be a fully connected genealogist? Whoa, you say. Don't I have to allocate something for the use of the computer, internet etc? If you are conducting a genealogy business, you have to worry about taxes, licenses and all sorts of expenses, but as a non-professional, you would likely have a computer and an internet connection whether or not you were doing genealogical research online.
This is not an idle question. Every time I bring up the topic of the cost of some genealogical product or service, I get a response that claims that someone is dissuaded from doing their genealogy because of the high cost. One recent comment bemoaned the fact that the younger population of the world was prevented from becoming involved in genealogy because of the high cost of online services. So, I began to think. I really haven't added up the cost of all the online subscription services lately and it is about time to look at the real cost of our genealogy habit.
Next, I need to start out by noting that many of the "subscription" services (such as Ancestry.com) are free if you go to a local public library or a FamilySearch Family History Center. The Family History Center Portal includes free access to many of the major online genealogical databases for those on Family History Center computers. Some of the larger public libraries also have several genealogy program subscriptions that are available to those with library cards. If you are using a library or Family History Center computer, you are also obtaining the free use of a computer and a free connection to the internet. Oh, by the way, if you use your own laptop you can usually get free access to the internet in many libraries by WiFi and in a pinch, you can go to the local McDonalds Restaurant and hang out.
But let's assume that you have a computer and an internet connection. What else would you need? Oh, I do need to mention that websites such as FamilySearch.org and Archive.org are free and there are hundreds (perhaps thousands of other genealogically valuable websites that are free. So before you spend any money subscribing to a fee-based website, why not visit a library or Family History Center and see if the subscription program is worth your money. It might well be that your ancestors come from sone place where there are no online records available so you might forego the cost of any of these services.
Hmm, this is beginning to sound a lot more complicated than just condemning genealogy altogether as being too expensive a pursuit for youth or anyone else. Of course, many people who are interested in doing genealogy have done so for years and years on very low incomes. My Great-grandmother did genealogical research for over thirty years and lived in a cold water, one room apartment and cleaned office buildings at night to support herself and her genealogical research.
So, the cost of doing genealogy is somewhere between very little and a lot. What if I wanted to be extravagant and subscribe to a lot of online genealogy database programs, whether I needed them or used them or not? Actually, I was in that same position for years. I subscribed to two or three at the most and if I needed to look at any of the others I did what I have suggested already, I went to the Family History Center and used the Portal programs. My bill for three annual subscriptions came to under $1000 a year. Here are some examples of the annual cost of some of the more popular programs:
- Ancestry.com: The cost depends on the level of your subscription from around $200 a year up to almost $400 depending on which plan you choose.
- Findmypast.com: Again the cost depends on the program you choose and whether you pay monthly or annually. The rate can be around $120 a year up to around $240 a year.
- MyHeritage.com: There are different levels of service and there are specials from time to time. But the Complete Plan with Data and everything included could be more than Findmypast.com and about the same or less than Ancestry.com.
So, you can see, if I were paying for all three, I would have about my $1000 a year figure. Now, I am not going to get into the issue of paying for record access. These companies acquire, digitize and index all their records. Your option would be to try and find all the records in their original repository.
Is that a deal breaker? If it is, perhaps you should start visiting a library or Family History Center rather than complaining about the high cost of doing genealogical research. Now, if I decided to travel to Rhode Island from Utah to do research for a couple of weeks, what would that cost? There is always a way to spend more money on something you enjoy doing.