I have been working on and off on my familys and my husbands familys trees for a few years now. Only using the internet mind you and I am so fascinated with it! Its EASY to do and its like putting together a huge puzzle. Every piece is exciting! It is very eye opening and I highly recommend trying it if you havent. The Mormons have a terrific site www.familysearch.org and I also use www.ancestry.com . I was inspired to do this because my mother said that her own dad, my grandfather, never mentioned the names of his own parents! He never mentioned if he had brothers or sisters...or any relatives at all! My mothers mother didnt even know the name of HER father and her mother came over here with three babies alone from Sweden in the late 1800s so we didnt know past my own parents anything about our family. It turns out my grandfathers dad married three or more times...and my grandfather had SIX half brothers and sisters and not ONCE did I ever hear that I had all those potential uncles and aunts and cousins out there...and all of them raised in Chicago only a few miles away.
You can see the ORIGINAL censuses they wrote out online. Those alone are soooooo cool to see. You can see the original ships manifests of when your relatives came over to this country. You can find obituaries, Social Security applications, military records and draft registrations...all in the original handwriting of your relatives. There are articles from the papers where they lived, you can see and FEEL what it was like to live 100-200 or more, years ago. And now they have available a DNA test you can write for and have your own DNA tested to see where in the world your ancestry is from...places you hadnt figured on. :)
The mormons may have an unusual belief that they can baptize the dead, but on the other hand their records are impecable and you will probably find your family between those two web sites. Also, in doing my own tree, I ran into relatives in my familly doing the same thing and we have gotten to know each other and shared stories.
I just met my dads brothers son...his firstborn...my FIRST COUSIN whom I never met before in my 53 years...and we found each other online here. He said his dad had been married to someone before he was born, and that he had two half siblings out there but didnt know who they or this mystery woman were. His father refused to tell them. It turned out that not only did I have a PICTURE of his father and that first wife because my dad was a groomsman, but that my research on the family had a LISTING of that woman, her maiden name and the dates of birth and the full names of his two missing siblings! He was STUNNED...it was like this huge gapping hole in his life disappeared within just half an hour of he and I finding each other. And...he lives only 3 hours from me here too!! I cant wait to meet he and his wife in person!
Its cheap, its fun and its something you can pass down to your kids. The internet has brought us all closer together on this little blue orb :)