Saturday, August 29, 2009

Free Lexis-Nexis for Family History Research



LexisNexis is one big honking database, boasting of access to more than five billion searchable documents.  And this is all high-class stuff.  None of your blogs, chats, and tweets here.  LexisNexis is for professionals.

And maybe that's why a lot of people are not very familiar with it.  But you should be!  There's tons of family history information just waiting to be unearthed by genealogists.

What does a legal and news database like LexisNexis have to do with family history research?  Plenty.  Many of your family members from current and past generations are likely to be found somewhere in LexisNexis' vast collection of newspapers, professional journals, magazines, court cases, patents, public records, and a whole lot more.

Ruth the Acrobat, for no special reason

This is especially true of their collection of court cases.  Every family winds up in court sooner or later, either on criminal charges, or by filing a lawsuit or getting sued, or as witness or participant in a case.  Their Federal and State court case records go back hundreds of years, and include everything from runaway slaves, to personal bankruptcies, to some of the great criminal and civil trials of the ages.

Thing is, though, accessing their records costs a bundle.  Is there a way to get LexisNexis for free?  Yes...sort of.

You can access the databases at LexisNexis by Credit Card...use the Pay As You Go option (unless you want to set up a longer-term account).

I did say free, right?  You can search the databases at LexisNexis for free, and see Google-like snippets for the results.  You'll have to pay if you want to access the documents in full, but often, just having the free snippet provides a lot of useful family history information.  You still have to provide your credit card information to register, but you don't have to actually spend any money to search.

Warning, though.  LexisNexis is no Google.  Searching is complex, and article retrieval is no picnic either.  And reading case law?  Hoo boy.  But if you can find some gems on your family's roots, it's all worth it.

One last thing.  If you find an interesing case in LexisNexis, try running the case name through a Google search.  With a bit of luck, you can pull up the entire case in Google, without paying a cent.


Visit the main page of Free Genealogical Tools for more, umm, free genealogical tools. 

And don't forget to also check for your family history at Ancestry.com and NewspaperArchive.com.These are subscription databases, but they are among the most powerful research tools available for looking into family roots.

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