19 Places to Research Your Family Tree for Free

Alternatives to Pay-Per-Use and Subscription Genealogy Sites Online

Is free genealogy a thing of the past? With the constant addition of subscription genealogy databases on the Internet, people often ask me how they can find their ancestors without paying. For those of you with this concern, take heart — web sites from all over the world contain free genealogy information of use to family tree researchers. Birth and marriage records, military records, ships passenger lists, census records, wills, photos and much more are available on the Internet for FREE if you just know where to look. These free genealogy sites, in no particular order, should keep you busy searching for weeks.

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FamilySearch Historical Records

Extended family posing for picture
Thomas Barwick/Getty Images

Over 1 billion digitized images and millions of indexed names can be accessed for free on the FamilySearch website of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons). In many cases, indexed transcriptions can be searched to locate available records, but don't miss the millions of digitized images available only by browsing. Available records are quite varied: census records from the U.S., Argentina and Mexico; Parish Registers from Germany; Bishops' Transcripts from England; Church Books from the Czech Republic; Death Certificates from Texas, and much more!

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RootsWeb World Connect

Out of all of the online databases of submitted family tree information, my favorite is the World Connect Project which allows users to upload, modify, link, and display their family trees as a means to share their work with other researchers. WorldConnect allows people to add to, update or remove their information at any time. While this by no means ensures that the information is correct, it at least increases the probabilities of finding current contact information for the researcher who submitted the family tree. This free genealogy database currently contains more than half a billion names in more than 400,000 family trees, and you can search them all online for absolutely no charge! You can also submit your own family tree information for free.

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Heritage Quest Online

The free genealogy records from the Heritage Quest Online service are only available through subscribing institutions, but free online access is likely available to many of you with a membership card from your local library. The databases are fairly US-centric, including digital images of the complete federal census, 1790 to 1930 (with head of household indexes for most years), thousands of family and local history books, and Revolutionary War pension files, plus PERSI, an index to articles in thousands of genealogical journals. Check with your local or state library system to see if they offer access. Most even offer free online access from home — saving you the trip to the library.

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Debt of Honour Register

Find personal and service details and places of commemoration for the 1.7 million members of the Commonwealth forces (including the United Kingdom and former colonies) who died in the First or Second World Wars, as well as a record of some 60,000 civilian casualties of the Second World War provided without details of burial location. The cemeteries and memorials where these names are commemorated are located in over 150 countries. Provided freely on the Internet courtesy of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

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U.S. Federal Land Patent Search

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) provides free online database access to Federal land conveyance records for the Public Land States, as well as images of several million Federal land title records issued between 1820 and 1908 for dozens of federal land states (primarily land west and south of the original thirteen colonies). This is not just an index, but images of the actual land patent records. If you find the patent for your ancestor and wish to also have a certified paper copy, you can order these directly from the BLM. Select the "Search Documents" link in the green toolbar at the top of the page.

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Interment.net — Free Cemetery Records Online

You're likely to find details on at least one ancestor in this free genealogy database containing more than 3 million records from over 5,000 cemeteries worldwide. Internment.net contains actual cemetery transcriptions as well as links to other cemetery transcriptions available on the internet from cemeteries around the world.

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No list of free internet genealogy records would be complete without mentioning WorldGenWeb. It began in 1996 with the USGenWeb project and, shortly thereafter, the WorldGenWeb project went online to provide free access to genealogy information around the world. Almost every region, country, province, and state in the World has a page on WorldGenWeb with access to free genealogy queries, links to free genealogy information and, often, free transcribed genealogy records.

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Canadian Genealogy Centre — Ancestors Search

Search the index of more than 600,000 Canadians enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) during the First World War (1914-1918), along with numerous other free genealogy databases. The free online Canadian Genealogy Centre from Archives Canada includes the index to the 1871 Census of Ontario; the 1881, 1891, 1901 and 1911 Census of Canada; the Canadian Census of 1851; 1906 Census of the Northwest Provinces; Upper and Lower Canada Marriage Bonds; Home Children; Dominion Land Grants; Canadian Immigration and Naturalization Records; and Colonial Archives.

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GeneaBios — Free Genealogy Biography Database

Search through thousands of bios of ordinary men and women posted by genealogists around the world, or post your own. A big plus is that this site, though small, links to most of the major online sources for biographical information to help you expand your search for biographies of your ancestors.

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Digital Archives of Norway

Are there Norwegian ancestors in your family tree? This joint project of the National Archives of Norway, the Regional State Archives of Bergen and the Department of History, University of Bergen offers online censuses (1660, 1801, 1865, 1875 and 1900), lists of Norwegians in U.S. censuses, military rolls, probate registers, church registers and emigrant records.

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British Columbia, Canada — Vital Records

Search for birth, marriage or death registrations in British Columbia, Canada for free. This free genealogy index covers all births from 1872-1899, marriages from 1872-1924, and deaths from 1872-1979, as well as WWII overseas casualties, colonial marriages (1859-1872) and baptisms (1836-1885). If you find a record in the index which you would like to request, you can do so by visiting the archives or another agency which holds the microfilms in person, or by hiring someone to do so for you.

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1901 Census for England & Wales

Search for free in this comprehensive name index to more than 32 million individuals who lived in England and Wales in 1901. This free genealogy index includes the individual's name, age, place of birth, and occupation. While the index is free, viewing transcribed data or a digitized image of the actual census record will cost you.

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Obituary Daily Times

A daily index of published obituaries from around the world, this free genealogy index grows by approximately 2,500 entries per day, with obituaries dating back to 1995. This is just an index, so if you would like the actual obituary you will need to request a copy from a volunteer or track it down for yourself. You can access the list of indexed newspapers and publications here.

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RootsWeb Surname List (RSL)

A list or registry of more than 1 million surnames from around the world, the RootsWeb Surname List (RSL) is a must-visit. Associated with each surname are dates, locations, and contact information for the person who submitted the surname. You can search this list by surname and location, and limit searches to recent additions. You can also add your own surnames to this list for free.

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International Genealogical Index

A partial index to vital records from around the world, the IGI includes birth, marriage and death records from Africa, Asia, the British Isles (England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Channel Island and the Isle of Man), the Caribbean Islands, Central America, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Mexico, Norway, North America, South America, Europe, the Southwest Pacific and Sweden. Find dates and places of births, christenings, and marriages for more than 285 million deceased people. Many of the names were extracted from original records from the early 1500s to the early 1900s. This free genealogy database is accessible through the FamilySearch.org.
Learn More: Searching the IGI | Using Batch Numbers in the IGI

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The Canadian County Atlas Digital Project

Between 1874 and 1881, approximately forty county atlases were published in Canada, covering counties in the Maritimes, Ontario and Quebec. This wonderful site includes a free genealogy database derived from these atlases, searchable by property owners' names or by location. Township maps, portraits and properties have been scanned, with links from the property owners' names in the database.

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USGenWeb Archives

Most people researching United States ancestors know about the USGenWeb sites for each state and county in the U.S. What many people don't realize, however, is that most of these states and counties have free genealogy records including deeds, wills, census records, cemetery transcriptions etc., available online through the efforts of thousands of volunteers — but you don't have to visit each state or county site to look for your ancestor in these free records. These hundreds of thousands of online records across the United States can be searched through just one search engine!

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US Social Security Death Index

One of the largest and easiest to access databases utilized for genealogical research in the United States, the SSDI contains more than 64 million records of U.S. citizens who have died since 1962. From the SSDI you can find the following information: the date of birth, date of death, state where the Social Security number was issued, the individual's residence at time of death and the location where the death benefit was mailed (next of kin).

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Billion Graves

Search or browse more than 9 million transcribed records (many including photographs) from cemeteries in the United States, Canada, Australia, and more than 50 other countries. The volunteer-run site is growing quickly with hundreds of thousands of new cemetery records added each month.

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Powell, Kimberly. "19 Places to Research Your Family Tree for Free." ThoughtCo, Sep. 8, 2021, thoughtco.com/research-family-tree-for-free-1421967. Powell, Kimberly. (2021, September 8). 19 Places to Research Your Family Tree for Free. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/research-family-tree-for-free-1421967 Powell, Kimberly. "19 Places to Research Your Family Tree for Free." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/research-family-tree-for-free-1421967 (accessed March 21, 2023).