Did you know that you might already have free access to HeritageQuest Online? Or that you may be able to obtain such access easily?
HeritageQuest Online is a great genealogy resource that provides images of original U.S. Census records, Revolutionary War pension records, Freedman's Bank records, and more. My favorite is the library of 20,000+ family and local history books with every word in every book indexed. I use HeritageQuest Online frequently in my own genealogy research efforts.
HeritageQuest Online is a product of ProQuest, a Michigan company that provides all sorts of business and academic databases to subscribing libraries. ProQuest does not sell directly to individuals, only to libraries. However, many of the subscribing public libraries allow remote, in-home access to the HeritageQuest Online databases. You typically obtain the access by first connecting to the library's web site, entering a library user name and/or password, and then clicking on an icon or text link that connects to HeritageQuest Online. You do not need a HeritageQuest Online user name or password, only your user name and password for your local library. (See footnote #1 below.) If you have a card from a subscribing library, you can stay at home and access these great resources from your home computer. I am but one of the millions of Americans with free access.
ProQuest used to offer similar remote, in-home access to genealogy societies and private libraries. However, the company recently announced the termination of that offering. As a result, all the participating genealogy societies and libraries have either dropped the remote access or will do so in coming months. Remote access provided by public libraries has not changed, however.
A great outcry has arisen from within the genealogy community as a result. My e-mail in-box often is crowded with messages from genealogists who are dismayed with ProQuest's business decision to not offer remote access to genealogy societies and libraries.
Genealogists have traditionally paid money to obtain remote access via participating genealogy societies and libraries. I find it amusing that many are complaining about no longer being able to pay for access when, in fact, most of us already have free access! I have to assume that most of those who paid for access never knew that. Of course, the various genealogy libraries and societies that charged money for access never told you that, did they?
I did a quick scan of the information found in the Encyclopedia of Genealogy at http://www.eogen.com/HeritageQuestOnline and found that all residents of the following states already have free or low cost in-home access to HeritageQuest Online:
District of Columbia (via the Alexandria, VA Public Library or the Montgomery County (MD) Public Library)
Nebraska (your driver's license number serves as your library card number)
New York (free to Monroe County residents, other New York residents must pay $30)
Next, thousands of local and county libraries offer remote, in-home access to HeritageQuest Online for local residents. You might first check the Encyclopedia of Genealogy at http://www.eogen.com/HeritageQuestOnline to see if your local library system is listed. Check all the libraries in the state as many offer remote access for non-residents. (See footnote #2 for information on libraries that are not listed.) Keep in mind that the listing in the Encyclopedia is not complete; there are many more participating libraries than what you see on that page. Always ask at your local library to learn if that library offers remote access or if there is another library in the region that does.
Finally, the following libraries offer free or low-cost remote access to all American residents. That's right, you can obtain a library card from a participating library hundreds or thousands of miles from where you live. However, there is one major drawback: both of these libraries require you to appear in person to obtain the card.
If your future travel plans include one of the following areas, you might stop by the local library and obtain a non-resident library card:
Los Angeles, California, Public Library (free)
Providence, Rhode Island, Public Library ($25 annual fee)
Many other libraries also state that library cards are available to non-residents, but it is not clear whether or not those cards include remote access to HeritageQuest Online.
Before spending money to obtain remote access to HeritageQuest Online, I'd suggest that you first investigate the free or low-cost access methods that may already be available to you.
Footnote #1: Some people have told me that they are prompted for a user name and password when they go to HeritageQuest Online's web site. If so, that is an error at the local library's web site. You will not see that if (1.) your local library's web site is correctly configured, and (2.) you have properly logged onto your local library's web site.
If you are being prompted for a HeritageQuest Online user name and password, you must contact your local library to resolve the issue. HeritageQuest Online Customer Service cannot help you, nor can I. The only people who can resolve that issue are some of the employees of your local library or the firm that provides their web site. Once the local library's web site is correctly configured, you will be able to access HeritageQuest Online without being prompted for another user name and password.
Footnote #2: The Encyclopedia of Genealogy is a free-content encyclopedia created by its readers, people like you. The Encyclopedia of Genealogy is available to everyone, free of charge. Everyone can also contribute information, again free of charge. If you find a participating library that is not yet listed on the Encyclopedia of Genealogy, you are encouraged to add that information yourself.