10 Top Databases for British Genealogy

Millions of records from Great Britain—the countries of England, Scotland and Wales—are available online in the form of digital images or transcriptions. The variety and number of websites offering these resources, however, can be overwhelming! Whether you're just getting started, or want to make sure you haven't missed any gems, these 10 websites are a great starting point for anyone researching British ancestry. 

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Access millions of genealogical records from the British Isles online for free from the FamilySearch website.
Access millions of genealogical records from the British Isles online for free on the FamilySearch website. © 2016 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) has millions of records—both transcribed and digitized—available for free online for the British Isles, including a wealth of parish registers, plus census, military, probate and wills, land and court records. Select "Search Historical Records" from the Search tab, and then the British Isles region from the map, to search and/or browse available records for England, Scotland and WalesFree.

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Explore the growing digital collections of the National Archives, or use their catalog and research guides to learn what else they have available.
Explore the growing digital collections of the National Archives, or use their catalog and research guides to learn what else they have available. The National Archives

The National Archives offers a wide variety of digitized public records including Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PCC) wills from 1384 to 1858, WWI Campaign medals, service registers of Royal Navy Seamen (1873-1923), the Domesday Book, naturalization records, and census returns for England and Wales, 1841-1901. In general, index searches are free and you pay individually for each document you choose to download and view. While there, don't miss the Discovery catalog and research guides to learn about the millions of other records available in the National Archives that aren't yet online. Free and pay-per-view.

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Search over 100 million Scottish historical records on this official Scottish government website.
Search over 100 million Scottish historical records on this official Scottish government website. ScotlandsPeople

Through Scotlands People you can access more than 100 million Scottish historical records online, including indexes to births, marriages and deaths from 1 January 1855, as well as images of the actual records on a pay-per-view basis ( birth images through 1915, marriages through 1940 and deaths through 1965). They also have all census records for Scotland from 1841-1901, old parish registers of baptisms and marriages from 1553-1854, and wills and testaments held by the National Archives of Scotland. This is the type of site that really fulfills the need for instant gratification, although you will have to pay for the privilege. Subscription.

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Subscription-based FindMyPast offers some unique resources for British genealogy, including British historical newspapers and the 1939 Register.
Subscription-based FindMyPast offers some unique resources for British genealogy, including British historical newspapers and the 1939 Register. findmypast

FindMyPast also offers the basic British records you would expect from a subscription-based website, including census records, a large collection of parish registers, military records and emigration records. Where they are different, however, is in their access to collections such as British historical newspapers, electoral registers, Royal Navy and Marine service and pension records, and the 1939 Register. Subscription and pay-per-view.

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Husband and wife looking at tablet
Pete Barrett/Photodisc/Getty Images

This free website hosts three large volunteer transcription projects for the UK. FreeBMD hosts over 300 million transcribed births, deaths and marriages from the civil registration index for England and Wales. Once your research takes you back past the onset of civil registration in 1837, check out FreeREG for a companion project of transcribed parish and nonconformist (non-Church of England) registers. FreeUKGenealogy also plays host to FreeCen, a free, online database of census data from the 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871 and 1891 British census. Free.

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Subscription-based Ancestry.co.uk offers not only census and civil records of birth, death and marriage, but also military, occupation, emigration and criminal records.
Subscription-based Ancestry.co.uk offers not only census and civil records of birth, death and marriage, but also military, occupation, emigration and criminal records. Ancestry

Ancestry.com offers online access to digitized images of all census returns from 1841 to 1901 for England, Wales, Scotland, the Channel Islands, and the Isle of Man, along with a wealth of parish registers and military, emigration and probate records. They have some unusual record collections as well—such as war diaries, Freemason records, and Police Gazettes. You can access these records through a World Membership at Ancestry.com, or purchase UK only access for a monthly or annual subscription fee. For research in their British records they also offer limited pay-per-view access, which isn't an option for American-based Ancestry.com. Subscription.

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British genealogy research is the sole-focus of this affordable subscription-based website.
British genealogy research is the sole-focus of this affordable subscription-based website. Genealogy Supplies (Jersey) Ltd

Pay-per-view all-inclusive subscriptions are inexpensive here, and the credits are good for up to three months or a year, depending on the subscription you choose. This site from Genealogy Supplies (Jersey) Ltd. offers excellent value for its wealth of genealogy databases focused solely on British genealogy, including the full BMD index (births, marriages, and deaths), census records, parish and nonconformist registers, directories, and a variety of specialty databases. Don't miss their tithe maps! Subscription and pay-per-view.

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Access millions of British military records from WWI, WWII, Boer War and the Crimean War.
Access millions of British military records from WWI, WWII, Boer War and the Crimean War. © 2016 Forces War Records

If your focus is researching military ancestors, then you'll enjoy searching and browsing the military records of over 10 million British Armed Forces on this specialist website offering records from WWII, WWI, Boer War, Crimean War and beyond. The site also offers some more unique resources such as military hospital records and WWI troop movements. Subscription.

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Search by country, region, county, burial authority or crematorium for grave locations and burial records of deceased ancestors.
Search by country, region, county, burial authority or crematorium for grave locations and burial records of deceased ancestors. © 2016 Deceased Online Ltd.

This website offers a unique centralized database of statutory burial and cremation registers for the UK and Republic of Ireland. They work with hundreds of independent burial and cremation authorities to convert their register records, maps and photographs into digital form, and are also adding records from private churches and closed cemeteries. Subscription and pay-per-view.

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Browse by newspaper title, date, or place of publication to explore almost 16 million digitized newspaper pages from British history.
Browse by newspaper title, date, or place of publication to explore almost 16 million digitized newspaper pages from British history. © 2016 Findmypast Newspaper Archive Limited

With almost 16 million pages from historic British newspapers from England, Scotland and Wales, plus Northern Ireland, the British Newspaper Archive offers a treasure trove for digging into the lives and history of your British ancestors. This website is also available as part of a premium subscription to FindMyPast. Subscription and pay-per-view.