I have an ancestor who was in the Revolutionary War, so I typed his name, Elijah Park, into My Heritage (library edition) to see what would come up. I had to guess on his birthdate-let's see… 1775 minus 20ish…try 1752? I hit "Enter." The first thing that popped up was my Aunt Marcia's pedigree chart, which had my great grandma's name on it. I didn't even have to wonder if I had the right guy!

You've probably heard of Ancestry, but subscriptions to this site are expensive. Luckily, the library provides free access to My Heritage. On My Heritage you can research your ancestors by looking at the U.S. Census and many other documents. The basic site is free. If you want to add more than 250 people to your online family tree you will need to subscribe.

My Heritage and many other useful websites are located on NebraskAccess. You can access them from home with your Nebraska driver's license or a password. If you don't have a home computer, you are welcome to use one at the library. If you make an appointment, a librarian will be able to help you get started on your search.

Another free site is FamilySearch, which you can find with an internet search. Wikitree is an interesting site to visit as well; it contains ads and links to My Heritage. Each of these sites has a lot of the same information, but they also have different information and they work differently. If you are having trouble finding something, it may be good to check multiple sources. You can find a lot of other free genealogy sites, but these don't have popup advertisements and contain the bulk of what is available online.

Several people a year contact me via email to ask me to look through the Gering Courier for an ancestor's obituary. We have the Courier on microfilm starting in 1892. In addition to microfilm, we have an entire set of physical copies of the Courier and the Citizen. We also have most of the Gering High School Annuals. One of the more interesting collections we have are the City Directories, starting with 1954. You can use these to look up where people used to live in Scotts Bluff County. It gives information about what they did for a living and who their neighbors were. They are like a census, but they are published every year.

The West Nebraska Family History and Research Center at 1602 Avenue A in Scottsbluff is a great place to go for help, as well. They have a lot more genealogy and local history books than we do, but their best resource is their volunteer staff. They will be happy to help you start finding information about your ancestors.

On My Heritage, I found out that Elijah Park was married twice. He lived in Connecticut, Vermont, and New York. He had anywhere from 4 to 14 children. I discovered this by looking at other people's research. I stopped after looking at 10 of more than 30 different family trees featuring my Elijah Park. The different numbers of children are because genealogists have different research styles and priorities. (Research sounds like a future column.) When I take the time to research Elijah myself, I will have a better idea of how many children he actually had. 

With all the resources out there: online, and in our community, you may be able to find many new and interesting things about your family tree.