A free alternative to Ancestry.com?
May 29, 2006 12:24 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a free genealogy website - one where I can upload my GEDCOM file, reference various databases and the like.

I'm currently subscribing to ancestry.com (which is good but expensive) but since most of my ancestry originates from Poland and the Ukraine, it hasn't been much help. A warm thank you in advance!
posted by rinkjustice to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (8 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I use Genes Reunited...not free, but plenty cheaper than Ancestry. I've only found one case where A. had more info than G.R.
posted by Kickstart70 at 12:34 PM on May 29, 2006

Check it: MapYourAncestors.com. Never used it, so I can only throw it out there.
posted by JPowers at 12:51 PM on May 29, 2006

since most of my ancestry originates from Poland and the Ukraine

Whether or not you're Jewish, JewishGen has some great and totally free resources for Polish and Ukranian genealogy--though admittedly biased towards heavily Jewish source material. And don't miss JRI (Jewish Records Indexing) Poland, which despite its name has millions of records in its free database, many of which are neither Jewish nor Polish. (There's also a goodly bit of records from western Ukraine--formerly the Austro-Hungarian Empire's province of Galicia--in that database.)

The Mormons (Church of LDS) have awesome free genealogy libraries in almost every major city, open to the public, and chock full of microfilms from many Polish and Ukrainian cities and towns. They're planning on putting the material online within the next 5-10 years, but there's no reason why you can't use the old school microfilm readers in the meantime. Go to FamilySearch.org, but don't do the "search by name" thing, since that mostly covers Western European records. Instead, search by place in their catalog--make sure to try several spellings of the town's name, both modern and historical ones--and find out what microfilms are available. Many Polish and Ukrainian towns separated out the vital records by religion, so there may be separate films for Catholic vs. Lutheran vs. Jewish vs. Reformed, etc., in the towns you're looking in. Very early (pre-1825) and very late records often have the religions mixed together in one index. And yes, you'll need to be able to read a little Latin, Polish, German, Ukrainian, and/or Russian, depending on the town and time period, as different groups took over the area and the keeping of records in different years.

When you find the record you want, use the special microfilm printers in the Family History Centers to print out a copy of the page onto regular paper. Then take it home and scan it and post it online at a place like Flickr or JewishGen's "Viewmate" site, and you can get volunteers to translate it for you.

Note that the previously mentioned JRI-Poland database actually has "order now" links next to some of the records in its database, which will allow you to get an official copy of the record direct from the archives (usually the AGAD Archives in Warsaw, who actually cover more than just modern-day Poland). You can even get expedited shipping on some of them. That way, you can avoid microfilms altogether. But note that Poland has strict privacy laws; no records less than 100 years old may be released to the public or to researchers. This affects all records they happen hold, even if the territory is no longer Polish today. A lot of the formerly-Galician towns (western Ukraine) have their post-1867 records stored in Poland, so you may run into this problem for your Ukrainian ancestors, too.

(On the whole, though, Poland is pretty great about access to their other records, and good about making files available for purchase online, as previously mentioned. Contrast that to some other countries like backwater Moldova, where an actual ex-KGB asshole Luddite is the head of the archives in Kishinev, where they're holding onto my great-grandfather's family's records... *pouts*)

Hope this helps!
posted by Asparagirl at 1:56 PM on May 29, 2006 [2 favorites]

(Note that if you have a really pressing reason to get ahold of Polish records less than 100 years old, like say you're looking for Holocaust victims' birth certificates, I do know a way to get the information, though actual copies of records aren't allowed. E-mail for details.)
posted by Asparagirl at 2:05 PM on May 29, 2006

Oh, and one more thing: a lot of Ukrainian record books were very unfortunately reported stolen two years ago. That asshole Yanukovich, the communist Ukranian ex-PM, was found to have given those priceless one-of-a-kind books to some of his campaign supporters as bribes! This took place in the Lviv (a.k.a. Lwow or Lemberg), Ukraine archives, and may have occurred elsewhere, too. Just an FYI, since you may need to get records from that archive, and they were closed and inaccessible to research requests for a long time while they did a new inventory of the books. No one's even sure what the extent of the loss is yet. :-(
posted by Asparagirl at 2:11 PM on May 29, 2006

Response by poster: Wow, good stuff so far. Thank you to everyone so far.

BTW: I've sent you an email via Yuppies of Zion Asparagirl ;)
posted by rinkjustice at 2:26 PM on May 29, 2006

Response by poster: ...and I promise not to use the term "so far" anymore either.
posted by rinkjustice at 2:28 PM on May 29, 2006

Please resend your e-mail to the address listed in my MetaFilter profile, rinkjustice, as my long-neglected website's contact page occasionally doesn't work, and I don't see an e-mail in my inbox yet...sorry!
posted by Asparagirl at 3:43 PM on May 29, 2006

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