A cousin got me started in computer genealogy, then I took the plunge and tried the internet in 1999.When the LDS site came on line http://familysearch.orghttp://familysearch.org (you can use cut and paste to save the long addresses), it put a location to the names and dates I had.
If you go to USGENWEB map: http://usgenweb.com/statelinks.htmlhttp://usgenweb.com/statelinks.htmlyou can click on the states and then look for a list of counties and click on the county you need. Some counties have more information than others, but still a great resource with people that want to help.
Then there are great sites to find information: Some birthdays are at:http://anybirthday.com/search.htm , you can search the Social Security Death Index by any category, first name, last name, birth date, death date, residence etc. at: http://www.ancestry.com/search/rectype/vital/ssdi/main.htmhttp://www.ancestry.com/search/rectype/vital/ssdi/main.htm , heres a dandy little place to see what county that town is in: http://resources.rootsweb.com/cgi-bin/townco.cgihttp://resources.rootsweb.com/cgi-bin/townco.cgi , then if any ancestors bought land in the midwest you could try the Bureau of Land Management Site: http://www.glorecords.blm.gov/http://www.glorecords.blm.gov/click on "Search Land Patents" on the left side. I found several in Missouri and Arkansas.
Be sure and experiment with postings on GenForum, I found cousins in Ireland a while back through the Irleand forum. And go to Rootsweb.com and experiment with the tab that says "mailing lists" I wish I had when starting out!There are lists for surnames, places, computer software, most anything you can think of.You can subscribe, be careful though, you may start to get a zillion e-mails right off the bat, or at the bootom of the subscribe page for each list, there is a "search" feature and a "Browse" feature where you can read the messages without subscribing.
So there are lots of places to search for free.Pennsylvania is the best for death certificates, open records, only $3.00 so far and it doesn't take too long!