101 Ways to Research Your Family Tree for Free

Alternatives to Pay-For-Use Genealogy Sites on the Internet

Old Family photos
vgabusi/iStock

Is free genealogy a thing of the past? With the constant addition of subscription genealogy databases on the Internet, people often wonder if there will soon be an end to free genealogy research via the Web. For those of you with this concern, take heart - free genealogy databases aren't going anywhere anytime soon. Web sites from all over the world contain free genealogy information of use to family tree researchers which has been contributed by individuals, companies and even governments.

Birth records, marriage records, military records, ships passenger lists, surnames, census records, immigration records, wills, photos and much, much more are available on the Internet for FREE if you just know where to look. These 100 free genealogy sites, in no particular order, should keep you busy searching for weeks!

1. FamilySearch Historical Records
This 100% free research site from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a veritable treasure for all genealogists, with billions of free family history records for those concerned about the budget, and excellent image quality and indexes for researchers looking for alternative access options. In addition to transcribed census, vital and other records, over one billion digitized record images can be explored in 1700+ collections from over 45 countries around the world. 

2. Rootsweb - World Connect Project
Out of all of the online databases of submitted family tree information, my favorite is the World Connect Project which allow users to upload, modify, link, and display their family trees as a means to share their work with other researchers.

The reason why this particular project is my favorite is it is one of the largest, and it also allows people to add to, update or remove their information at any time. While this by no means ensures that the information you will find here is correct, it at least increases the probabilities of finding current contact information for researchers with information which interests you.

This free genealogy database currently contains over 3 billion names in over 300,000 family trees, and you can search them all online for absolutely no charge! You can also submit your own family tree information in GEDCOM format for free.

3. HeritageQuest Online
The data on this site is only available through subscribing institutions, but free online access is available to many with a membership card from their 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. 

4. U.S. Federal Land Patent Records
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 more than five million Federal land title records issued between 1820 and the present. 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.

This site does not currently contain every Federal land title record issued for the Public Land States. In particular, records of Homestead applicants who never completed the process and received a patent (about 60%) will be found in the application files at the National Archives, but not in this database.

5. Interment.net - Free Cemetery Records Online
You're likely to find details on at least one ancestor in this free genealogy database containing over 3 million records from over 5000 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.

Next Page > Free Genealogy Sites (6-10)

<< Free Genealogy Sites 1-5

6. WorldGenWeb
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. Each region, country, province, and state has a page on WorldGenWeb with access to free queries, links to genealogy information and, often, free transcribed genealogy records.

7. 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.

8. Canada Archives Search
Search the index of over 600,000 Canadians enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) during the First World War (1914-1918) right online! An index to those WWI personnel files held by the National Archives, the CEF database also includes over 800,000 digital images of the original Attestation papers. Archivia Net, a service of the National Archives of Canada, also offers numerous other free genealogy databases, including the index to the 1871 Census of Ontario, 1901 Census of Canada, the Canadian Census of 1851, 1906 Census of the Northwest Provinces, Home Children, Dominion Land Grants, Immigration Records, and Colonial Archives.

9. Geneabios - Biographies for Genealogy
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.

10. The 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. There is also an English version.

Next Page > Free Genealogy Sites (11-15)

<< Free Genealogy Sites 6-10

11. Ancestry.com - Free Trial Membership
While Ancestry.com is a subscription genealogy service, they do offer a 14-day free trial, allowing you unlimited access to over 1 billion names! If you like what you see, they offer a variety of monthly and annual subscriptions. If not, you can cancel any time during your trial membership and owe nothing. Be aware that you will have to provide a credit-card number to access the free trial period and you will be charged for an annual subscription if you do not call to cancel before your free trial period has ended.

And no, this is not an affiliate link.

12. 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. 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.

13. 1901 Census for England & Wales
Search for free in this comprehensive name index to over 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. A similar site is available for the 1911 UK Census.

14. Obituary Daily Times
A daily index of published obituaries from around the world, this free genealogy index grows by approximately 2500 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.

15. RootsWeb Surname List
A list or registry of over 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.

Next Page > Free Genealogy Sites (16-20)

<< Free Genealogy Sites 11-15

16. 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 1900's. This free genealogy database is accessible through the FamilySearch.org Web site. More Information About the IGI

17. 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.

18. USGenWeb Archives
Most people with 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!

19. 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 over 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).

20. Missouri Death Certificates, 1910-1958
This free database from the Missouri State Archives offers a searchable index, plus actual certificate images for Missouri deaths 1910-1958. They also have a database of abstracts for Missouri births and deaths recorded prior to 1910.

Next Page > Free Genealogy Sites (21-25)

<< Free Genealogy Sites 16-20

21. The Genealogical Server (GenServ)
One of the first projects to share GEDCOM files over the Internet, GenServ has been online since 1991. Over 21 million individual's names and data are held in over 15,300 different databases. You do have to pay a small fee for access to all of the databases but, in the spirit of free genealogy, you can add your database for free. Anyone interested is also entitled to one FREE surname search.

22. inGeneas Database
Free searchable databases containing 50,000+ Canadian passenger and immigration records (c1750 to 1900) including the only electronic version of the free National Archives of Canada Miscellaneous Immigration Index. For the passenger and immigration records, the free search will generate a list of records which meet your search criteria. Each record will include the name and age of the individual (if available), the year of the record and a description of the type of document from which the record was transcribed and what additionally information you would typically expect to find in records from that document. If you find a record which interests you, you can order a transcription from InGeneas.

23. Books We Own
Over 1500 volunteers are willing to provide free genealogy lookups in various genealogical books and resources which they either own or have access to. This master index directs you to the independently updated Books We Own pages, organized by locality.

24. Australian War Memorial
Search for free through several Australian military databases including: the Boer War Nominal Roll, details of over 17,000 service people in the Boer War; the First World War Nominal Roll, details of 324,000 members of AIF 1914-1918; the Commemorative Roll, details of about 3,000 commemorated Australians; and the Roll of Honour, details of over 102,000 of Australia's war dead.

Plus a database of over 200,000 military related photographs.

25. ARC - Archival Research Catalog
The U.S. National Archive's replacement for NAIL, ARC offers free searches in many digital databases of interest to genealogists. Browse through this page, which is an assortment of links to information and data, and you'll find links to free genealogy databases such as the Dawes Rolls; Enemy Alien Registration Affidavits; World War II Draft Registration; Casualty Lists from WWII, Korea and Vietnam; Indian Bounty Land Applications and Criminal Case Files.

Next Page > Free Genealogy Sites (26-30)