Being born in the pre-computer age creates a distinct disadvantage when it comes to using modern technology. I have no idea how social media, smart phones and tables can be adapted for my personal benefit. My one saving technological grace is I understand the internet a little and how it can be used. I know there is a lot of free information out there just waiting to be found.
Several years ago I decided to apply what little knowledge I had to help expand my family tree. Until then I used paper and pens and by the third or fourth generation the tree was spread all over the page and became unreadable and unworkable.
My first computer-based decision was to select one of the free software packages. At the start I chose Genes Reunited and used it for several years. Since then I have also given Ancestry.com and MyHeritage a go. They are all good in their own way and will keep your records in order and help to maintain each generation in its rightful place. They might be called, 'Free' and they are free to download and use the basic program (or is it an 'App' these days?) but the freebie will never do everything. For example, I eventually paid a small annual fee to Genes Reunited to enable me to make contact with other users who often helped expand on what I had found, or vice versa.
Other freebies such as, Legacy Standard, Gramps and ScionPC are also available but I have never used them so can't really comment.
Getting free information to fill out the free tree is a bit easier. The best place to start in most states is with the Births, Deaths and Marriages web sites. All the Australian states and New Zealand, with the exceptions of Victoria and the Northern Territory provide sufficient information to identify long gone relatives. The Queensland BDM Family History Search records provide information on births, deaths and marriages that took place over 100 years, 30 years and 75 years ago respectively. Most other states have similar cut-off periods.
Another really interesting web site is Trove from the National Library. This site provides the ability to search for digitised historical newspapers, magazines and periodicals from all over Australia. You will be amazed at what the papers reported on in the past. It's possible to learn when your forebears went on holidays and, best of all, when and why they got divorced. Trove can provide more detail on birth, wedding and death dates and even point to relatives not found using other methods.
The National Archives can also provide mountains of information particularly with regard to World War I service men and women. The records of every person involved has been fully digitized and can be printed out for us dinosaurs who still like to read from paper. These records don't hide anything either – I'm pretty sure I know something about my grandfather my grandmother never knew!
There are many other areas available from the Archives but, in the main, they have not been digitized like the WWI veterans.
Other sites available for searching include The Australian Cemeteries Index which, while not complete, can provide some very surprising information. One entry I found for one of my ancestors revealed a previously unknown second marriage. If your family is lucky enough to come from Brisbane the very detailed Brisbane City Council Cemetery index provides information on every grave in all the Council's cemeteries.
Genealogy is a hobby open to everybody with internet access and a tiny understanding of how to use the search engines and to access the various sites holding the personal data. The only thing more exciting than finding something about your family that has been hidden in the past is not having to pay for it.
As the saying goes, however, you get what you pay for and while it is a cheap hobby it can also be addictive. Once it's got you and you want to really start climbing your family tree you will need to pay something.
If you are interested just get started; what have you got to lose?
Remember, no matter what, always enjoy your weekend.
I signed up to Ancestry.com a while back, just out of curiosity, but I found that could get practically nowhere unless I paid. Although finding out more about one's family tree is interesting, Im not interested enough to put any money towards it.