Who doesn’t like free?! Knowing your family story shouldn’t be deterred by costly subscriptions and fees, so consider starting or continuing your genealogy journey with these 25 websites that offer information and resources at no cost. This is by no means considered to be a “Best Of” list, but rather free websites and databases that have helped me in my own experience. I’d like to hear from you about what other free sources would make your “Favorite” list. This post has been added to my “Research Toolbox” page and can be downloaded as a .pdf document.
- FamilySearch.org (https://familysearch.org)
With over one billion records free from over 100 countries, there is no reason why family history cannot be accessible to anyone. FamilySearch.org is a great site for beginning your journey in genealogy. It is also a valuable tool for genealogy education because of the FamilySearch Wiki (https://familysearch.org/wiki), providing guides to county, state, and national records. These articles are very useful as a checklist of sources in your own project.
2. Google (http://www.google.com)
Google’s capabilities for accessing information instantaneously is so powerful because the tools embedded in Google’s search operators are geared to think like researchers. Don’t overlook the other features of Google, including 25 million digitized books, scholarly journals, and newspapers in Google Books, Google Scholar and Google News respectively. In addition, Google Earth is an excellent tool for mapping out your family history.
3. Internet Archive (https://archive.org)
Search through the entire texts of thousands of genealogies, county histories, and more in the world’s digital public library.
The collaboration of genealogists and volunteers has led to free searchable data for millions of headstones. Both these websites are a great place to start finding your ancestor’s burial information. You can even get involved; install the apps for either of these websites and upload local headstone photos straight from your smartphone.
5. National Archives of Ireland (http://www.genealogy.nationalarchives.ie)
An excellent example of a database that meets the standards of genealogists. Rich information on Irish Families is available through databases for Irish Census Records (1901, 1911, and all surviving 19th century schedules,) Wills and Administrations, and the Tithe Applotment Books.
6. AfriGeneas (http://afrigeneas.org)
Start here if you are researching the genealogy of African American families. This is a great site containing census records, marriage and death records, and extensive resources.
7. WorldCat (http://www.worldcat.org)
The world’s largest library catalog offers you to find the contents of almost any library in the world. This is a great tool for researching and tracking down specific manuscript sources that may not be digitized online.
8. One-Step Webpages by Stephen P. Morse (http://www.stevemorse.org)
Dr. Morse created an amazing website that serves the genealogy world in a number of ways. The power of this website is in it’s ability to retrieve better results from a number of large genealogy databases, when their own search operators may miss your ancestor’s data entry. This is a particularly useful site for researching passenger lists and immigrants to the U.S.
9. Facebook (https://www.facebook.com)
The social media revolution changed forever how we connect. Facebook can not only help in facilitating contact with relatives, but many genealogy groups are administered by dedicated volunteers who would like to help answer your questions.
10. National Library of Ireland (http://registers.nli.ie)
2015 witnessed a milestone in Irish Genealogy when the National Library of Ireland digitized 373,000 pages of Catholic parish registers from Ireland recording vital and religious events up until 1880.
11. National Gravesite Locator (http://gravelocator.cem.va.gov)
The U.S. Dept. of Veteran Affairs has uploaded burial information on veterans and their families located in National Cemeteries.
12. Linkpendium (http://www.linkpendium.com/family-discoverer/)
Linkpendium is a great asset for searching the web’s free genealogical data. The site continuously indexes every family tree and genealogy web page appearing on the Internet.
13. ItalianGen.org (http://italiangen.org)
The Italian Genealogical Group is dedicated to furthering Italian family history, but has also made available to users databases for vital records and naturalization papers from all five boroughs of New York City. This is an excellent resource for anyone researching immigrant families in the greater metropolitan area of New York.
14. MapofUS.org (http://www.mapofus.org)
Many brickwalls in genealogy are the result of not looking in the right place. Boundaries of states and their counties have changed overtime. This website uses AniMap software to re-draw historical boundaries and is an essential tool in figuring out the exact jurisdiction of a particular event in our ancestor’s life.
15. National Archives and Records Administration (http://www.archives.gov/research/genealogy/)
Our ancestors living in America most likely left a paper trail of records from interacting with the Federal Government. Learn more about genealogical research at the National Archives and accessing Federal Records.
16. JewishGen (http://www.jewishgen.org/databases/)
An excellent website for research on Jewish families that live all around the world.
17. Fulton Newspapers (http://fultonhistory.com/Fulton.html)
Despite minor flaws, this website is an amazing feat because one man has digitized 34 millions of pages of newspapers that are fully searchable. Most of the newspapers are from New York, but other states are starting to come online as well.
18. Daughters of the American Revolution (http://www.dar.org/national-society/genealogy)
Find your patriot ancestor using the DAR’s genealogical research databases. Ancestor searches retrieve basic information on the soldier and users can retrieve potential sources in the DAR Records Committee Index.
19. Bureau of Land Management – General Land Office Records (https://www.glorecords.blm.gov/default.aspx)
Your ancestor could very well have bought land from the U.S. Government. This website contains a database for federal land patents, providing users with coordinates of the land plot and a digitized copy of the original patent.
20. The Massachusetts Vital Records Project (http://ma-vitalrecords.org)
Have deep roots in the Bay State? Try this website containing transcriptions of vital records for Massachusetts towns predating 1850.
21. Boston Public Library – Electronic Resources (http://www.bpl.org/electronic/)
Massachusetts residents and individuals who work in Massachusetts are eligible for a free E-card from the Boston Public Library. This allows you to access to many research databases, including American Historical Newspapers dating back to 1690.
- Library and Archives of Canada (http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/search/Pages/ancestors-search.aspx)
Start here for genealogical research in Canada. They host an impressive array of databases including vital records, census records, deeds, passenger lists, military records, and biographical dictionaries.
- The USGenWeb Project (http://www.usgenweb.org)
This is a community project run by volunteers, with pages organized by state and their under by county. This includes many abstracts and transcriptions of genealogical sources, but vary in scope and content depending on quality of the administrators for each county.
- National Parks Service – Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Database (http://www.nps.gov/civilwar/search-soldiers.htm)
The National Parks Service has gone to great lengths to transcribe the service records of Union and Confederate forces into a free online database. Start here to locate some basic information on your Civil War Veteran.
- Cyndi’s List (http://www.cyndislist.com)
For 20 years, Cyndi Ingle has graciously made available and maintained the largest directory of genealogical resources on the web. This is a great tool for finding websites and resources based on location, subject, and more!
Copyright (c) 2016 Jake Fletcher.
Jake Fletcher. “25 Favorite Free Genealogy Websites.” Travelogues of a Genealogist, posted 7 Apr 2016. https://fletcherfamilytree.wordpress.com/2016/04/10/25-favorite-free-genealogy-websites