How to look at your family tree
How to Find Your Ancestors for FreeHow to Find Your Ancestors for Free
By Family Tree Editors
Table of Contents
Free Genealogy Websites
Ancestry.com Free Features
FindMyPast Free Records
Free Genealogy Records
Free Genealogy Software
Totally Free Genealogy Websites
Finding your ancestors for free seems like an impossible task. Everywhere you turn, subscription-based access seems to be the only way to gain the family tree information you’re desperately seeking. But before you take out that second mortgage, take some time to do research on these totally free genealogy websites. We’ve included websites where you can build your family tree, search records, find genealogy books to borrow and reach out to volunteers who may help you with some of your genealogy research—all for free.
This grab-bag of free genealogy records keeps growing.
Allen County Public Library
Though based in Indiana, this library’s online reach extends much further—reflecting its status as the nation’s second-richest genealogy library.
This site offers free lookups of marriage, birth, death, immigration, land, military and census records in dozens of different resources.
Ancestry Library Edition
Your local library may offer you access to Ancestry.com’s immigration, census, vital and other records through Ancestry Library Edition. The library has to pay, of course, but it’s free to you as a patron.
Books We Own
The next best thing to owning essential genealogy resources is finding someone who has what you need and will do a free lookup for you.
The world’s biggest social networking site is a useful tool for finding cousins and getting help with research from volunteers. There are countless pages dedicated to helping beginner genealogists, specific states and heritages, surnames, projects and much more.
More than 2,000 online collections make this the internet’s largest home to free genealogy data.
This site points frugal genealogists to deals across the web—from free records access promotions and webinars to discounts on subscriptions and resources.
Smart, intuitive searching is the hallmark of the partnership with FamilySearch here, which quickly combs 80,000 digitized books.
Has someone already written a local or family history book relevant to your genealogy? Use Google Books to find out.
To get the most out of this digital library, you must log in with credentials from a participating institution (such as a university). But there’s plenty here accessible to the general public, too.
Free to your home computer courtesy of your library card via participating institutions, HeritageQuest is now “powered by” (but not owned by) Ancestry.com.
The long list of collections here ranges from 2.4 million library items to specialized collections for California and Portugal. Plus the Wayback Machine can find vanished genealogy sites from the early internet.
Library of Congress
Though not specifically focused on genealogy, the nation’s library has plenty to offer online. The Library’s genealogy collection began as early as 1815 with the purchase of Thomas Jefferson’s library.
Midwest Genealogy Center
This site from the Mid-Continent Public Library in Independence, Mo., taps one of the nation’s largest genealogy collections.
National Archives and Records Administration
Read all about the genealogical treasures stored at the National Archives, order military and other records, and browse historical maps and photos.
Olive Tree Genealogy
Since its launch in 1996, this modest website has grown into a useful collection of how-to help and databases.
Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness (RAOGK)
For research tasks in a distant library or archive, turn to this directory of volunteers and locations where they can do research tasks. (Please note you may be asked to reimburse small expenses such as photocopying or postage.)
This venerable free site still serves up how-to articles, databases of surnames and US locations, mailing lists, pedigree files and much more—making it an oldie but a goodie.
This volunteer site, with its state and county pages and special projects, remain as vibrant as ever.
Contributors here collaborate to build a single, unified family tree, with pages for more than 2.8 million people and 400,000 places. Register to add your tree; upload your family tree as a GEDCOM; and share documents, photos and stories.
More than half a million genealogists have contributed to this unified family tree, which now boasts nearly 18 million ancestral profiles (including living people, though they’re private except for invited people). Uniquely, more than 4 million profiles include information about DNA tests at various sites, which may help you confirm or reject your relation to that profile.
Find your family history in 2 billion items at 10,000 of the world’s libraries, then click to see holdings nearest you using WorldCat. (You may also be able to borrow the books you discover using interlibrary loan.)
Its offshoot ArchiveGrid searches more than 4 million descriptions of archival records from 1,000 different institutions. Learn about historical documents, personal papers, family histories and other materials that may mention your ancestors. A clickable map makes it easy to find archives near you.
David Fryxell and Sunny Jane Morton
NATIONAL GENEALOGICAL SOCIETY
18 Important Free Websites for Genealogy Research
26 Free Genealogy Websites
AMY JOHNSON CROW
7 Free Genealogy Websites That You Might Be Overlooking
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Ways to Use Ancestry.com for Free
Even outside of a free trial, the savvy researcher can take advantage of Ancestry.com without having a paid subscription. Check out these seven free features of Ancestry.com (and its sister sites):
- Search the free index collections, which include both US and international records
- Use the free Ancestry.com card catalog
- View record previews
- Take a peek at public member trees
- Learn from Ancestry Academy’s how-to videos
- Watch Ancestry on YouTube
- Test with AncestryDNA (You’ll need to pay for a test, but you won’t need a paid Ancestry. com subscription to view your results or contact matches.)
- Search free records on Ancestry.com’s sister sites
FAMILY HISTORY DAILY
How to View Thousands of Free Records on Ancestry Without a Subscription
Free Databases at Ancestry.com
ARE YOU MY COUSIN?
How To Do Free Genealogy Research on Ancestry.com
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Four Features of FamilySearch
FamilySearch.org is the world’s biggest, all-free, all-genealogy website, with the most global record content. Here are four features you should know about if you want to research your ancestors for free.
At last count, FamilySearch is home to more than 4 billion historical, high-quality genealogical document record images, painstakingly gathered over the course of several decades from repositories around the world.
The FamilySearch Wiki hosts nearly 100,000 articles to get you started (or help you break through a brick wall) with your current research question.
Family History Library Catalog
The catalog of the entire Family History Library is searchable on FamilySearch.org. Search the catalog by place to explore what resources are available for your locale of interest.
FamilySearch Digital Library
In addition to the shelves of the Family History Library, the Digital Library offers search results on about half a million titles made available through libraries, genealogy societies and university libraries.
Sunny Jane Morton
Unofficial Guide to FamilySearch.org: How to Find Your Family History on the World’s Largest Free Genealogy Website
FAMILY HISTORY HELP BY CAROL HILL
How to get HELP on FamilySearch.org
PORTSMOUTH PUBLIC LIBRARY
Guide to FamilySearch Resources
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Free Records on FindMyPast
Most of the giant genealogy websites, including Findmypast, allow users to create free guest logins and at least search their record collections for free. But viewing the actual record transcriptions and images you’ll find in search results generally requires the proper subscription. Findmypast’s free portal gives full access to the following to those who create their free registrations:
- 1940 United States Census and all Canadian censuses
- Parish registers, cemetery records and marriage indexes
- Passenger lists and travel records
- Irish Catholic parish records
- 1881 Census of England, Wales and Scotland
THE GENEALOGY GUIDE
4 Ways You Can Get Records at FindMyPast For Free!
ARE YOU MY COUSIN?
Get the Most from A FindMyPast Free Trial
How to Set Up a Findmypast.com Free Trial
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Free Genealogy Records
Here are some websites for tracking down more free genealogy records. Also keep in mind many public libraries, state archives, historical societies and universities host free digitized records on their own websites—so if you want to find your ancestors for free, you may have to do some extra digging.
It’s also possible to find free genealogy records at subscription genealogy sites, if you know where to look. Plus, be on the lookout for temporary, free full access to record collections on subscription sites, usually available around a specific holiday or anniversary of a historic event. You can easily find these at GenealogyBargains.com.
The Ancestor Hunt
My Free Census Records
The Ancestor Hunt
Random Acts of Geneological Kindness
(links on left)
Google News Archive
Online Historical Newspapers
Old Fulton New York Post Cards
Online Historical Directories
ARE YOU MY COUSIN?
Free Genealogy Records – A Guide To Frugal Genealogy Research
Genealogy and Family History
Free Genealogy Records: Where to Find Them and How to Contribute
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Free Genealogy Software
If your research has ranged much beyond one family, you’re probably scouting for a way to organize your family tree. Genealogy database software could be just the ticket—and you don’t have to spend and arm and a leg to get enough power to accomplish the task. Several great options are just a free download away.
This software has all the essential features for working with your family tree.
Gramps is a free software and community project, created, developed and governed by genealogists. Features include family groups, charts, events, repositories list, and much more.
MyHeritage Family Tree Builder
Use this software to create your family tree offline or on a secure site at MyHeritage. com. You can print decorative family tree charts from your online tree (order larger copies for a fee). The program supports 36 languages and its SmartMatching technology searches for matches to your ancestors in other users’ trees.
Legacy Family Tree Standard Edition
This free version of the popular software includes family and pedigree views, a to-do list, research log, event reminders and more.
You’ll get many of the core features of the award-winning RootsMagic software in this free version: the Source Wizard, loads of reports and charts, unlimited data capacity and more.
Lisa Louise Cooke
Free Genealogy Software
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6 Best Free Genealogy Software Downloads!
Genealogy Software & Family Tree Research
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Family Tree Editors
How to research your family tree without paying a dime
With the advent of DNA testing and various web-based companies using this technology to delve into ancestry, more and more people are researching their genealogical backgrounds.
But some companies that use DNA to trace family trees have been found to be not so reliable when it comes to protecting your data. In fact, one of the most well-known ancestry companies was sold to a private equity firm. Tap or click here to find out how to remove your data from this shady site.
In addition to questionable data storage and usage, these genealogy research sites charge money for their services, requiring one-time fees or ongoing memberships to gain access to all features. But there are a number of free resources available that the average person can use to dig into the roots of their family tree without signing up for complicated plans or risking compromising their data. Here are a few sites that can help.
One such website is FamilySearch.org, where you can create a free account and begin researching your family’s history by entering basic data including an ancestor’s name and dates of birth and death (if applicable.)
There is a lot of information available on the FamilySearch site, but there are two main ways to start researching your family’s history and current connections. One tool is the Family Tree database, and the other is the Search function.
The Family Tree is a good place to start to build your family’s chart and record information about relatives and ancestors. These databases are created and maintained by volunteer end users and can link to one another, so that you may potentially gather more information about your own family by browsing other trees. To use:
- Go to FamilySearch.org and create a free online account.
- Click the Family Tree icon.
- Enter the information you have gathered about your own family history.
- Add photographs, dates, and other pertinent information.
- Search other family trees to expand your own pedigree chart.
- Use the Search option to look up information about family members and add to your tree.
FamilySearch also uses indexing to create a searchable online database of historical records. You can search these records once they are entered into the database, and you can also volunteer to enter data from records provided. Because these records are in picture format they must be entered as text, which requires a small army of volunteers.
Another free online resource to learn about your ancestry is the genealogy section of National Archives. This site offers a wealth of information and search tools gathered from public records such as census data, military service records, immigration information and land records.
Go to the link marked Start Your Genealogy Search and you can begin searching through the vast array of available national records.Genealogy Resources from the National Archives
Similar to FamilySearch, Geni uses an open-source model to create and maintain family tree databases. According to its website, Geni connects nearly 150 million profiles through its database called World Family Tree. It’s just what it sounds like — it aims to be a family tree connecting the entire world. You can be part of it by joining for free!Geni World Family Tree
The genealogy section of USA.gov uses similar databases as the National Archives, which you can also access from this site. Additionally, users can search State Archives which offer records of Native American resources and Pioneer certificates. If your family history extends back that far this search tool is a great way to find out some interesting information!
State Archives also offers a list of agencies you can contact organized by state. You can also use the national Gravesite Locator and access Census records from the USA.gov site.
You can link to the Statue Of Liberty Ellis Island Foundation website from USA.gov as well. If your relatives came in through Ellis Island you can enter their names to search for information about their entry into the U.S. You can even find out the name of the ship they arrived on. These kinds of details are part of what makes genealogical research fun and rewarding!
Legacy Family Tree
If you are looking for a software program to download, look no further. Legacy Family Tree is a genealogical research tool that you can download to search for and store your family’s history.
There are two versions you can download, Standard and Deluxe. The Standard model is totally free and offers a variety of features. The Deluxe version requires a fee and offers extra tools such as hinting (minimally available on the Standard version as well), tagging, online backup and color-coding among others. Tap or click here for a more detailed look at the site.
Finally, if you want even more help, ask a librarian. Librarians know everything! Check the online version of your local library. There may be free resources available to you to search right on the web.
If you still need some extra help consider hiring a trained and respected genealogist, such as Rich Venezia at Rich Roots Genealogy. Having an expert walk you through the process may not be free, but your privacy and data are guaranteed to be kept safe.
Researching your family tree should be a fun and enriching experience. There are a wealth of free online resources available — and none of them require you to send DNA through the mail. Have fun and happy researching!
Find your ancestors in Family Tree
Are you trying to find an ancestor or deceased family member? If so, we encourage you to search our Family Tree, the largest single family tree in the world. It contains over a billion names. The tree is free and public, and the ancestor you're looking for may already be in it.
Gather everything you know about your deceased relative - their full name, birth or death information, if possible the names of parents, spouses or children - and follow these steps to find out if they are listed on Family Tree. Or click on the button below and go directly to our "Search" page.
Family Tree Search is a quick way to start building or adding more information to your family tree
If you want to find a relative who might be in the Family Tree, go to the FamilySearch website and then in the Family Tree tab select Find . Get ready to sign in or create a free FamilySearch account. (You can also access this page via the tab Search and select Family tree .)
On the Find page, enter what you know about your deceased relative. The system will open a page with a simplified search bar that works for the initial search. However, for best results, we recommend that you open the advanced search function by clicking More Options .
Tree Search looks and functions much like the FamilySearch Historical Record Search tool. We did it on purpose, of course. Any search strategies you have learned for this page will be equally useful here. Let's go through each filter individually and see how they work.
Consider some recommendations for filling in the fields for full name.
Entering the gender of a person Male or Female if known, will narrow your search results.
3. Events from life
In the line "Add event from life" enter the information you know about where this person was during his life. Be sure to change the filter from Any to Birth , Marriage , Residence or Death . This will probably make your search more accurate.
4. Family members
In section Add family members , enter what you know about the person's spouse, father, mother, or other relationship. You can use the same guidelines and strategies for entering names here as before.
5. Exact Search
Directly below the Family Members section is the radio button Show exact search . Be careful using this option. Use it only when the system produces search results in such a volume that you cannot analyze. The actual data in Family Tree may differ slightly from the names, dates, and places you enter, so it's best to be flexible with your search criteria.
It is important to note that by enabling the checkbox Show exact search , it is not necessary to immediately search for exact criteria. The system opens fields opposite all search filters on the screen, which you can select or leave blank. It is strongly recommended that you fill in only those fields for which you absolutely need to search by exact criteria. Start your search using a small number of these fields. In other words, you can search for exact criteria for a specific date of birth without using other fields.
After entering the information you know, press Search to search for your ancestor's profile in Family Tree. When the system returns the search results, click on the name to see a summary of that person's information. Then click on the name in the dropdown box to go to the person's page.
Helpful Hints for Finding the Right Person
Too Many Results
Use the gray button filters at the top of the page to quickly narrow your search results:
In the search, as shown in these screenshots, I first enter my great-grandfather's name. As you can see, this broad search brought up a lot of results - too many to explore. If I click on the filter Birth and select a specific region of the world, I can immediately decrease that number.
No results or matches
If your initial search was unsuccessful, use the search bar on the right side of the screen to change your criteria. Note: Depending on your screen size, the search bar may be initially hidden. If so, press Search in the right corner to open it.
To broaden your search, you can change things that might be too specific, such as the exact year. Increasing the date range for a particular event can be an effective way. You can also try selecting Birth or Place of residence instead of Any in the Life Event section. If applicable, use the "Name Option" line to enter your maiden name, alias, or other spelling of the first name. Then press Search .
If you still can't find the person you want after editing your search, that person may not have been added to Family Tree. In this case, you can add this person yourself.
To add a person to the Tree, you will need their name, and then you can enter as much additional information about them as possible, such as where the person was born or where they lived.
Hint: If you are missing information about your ancestor, try to find it in the historical record, for example, in a birth certificate, marriage certificate, military card or death certificate.
Using the "Settings" option to customize your search results
Experienced researchers will certainly appreciate the functionality of the "Settings" section that appears at the top of the search results page. In Preferences, you can make important decisions about formatting and exporting search results.
For example, the first option in the "Settings" section is the choice of displaying search results as a data page or as a fixed table: data page. The format makes it easy to scroll through and find matching results.
In contrast, with a fixed table, we can analyze a small subset of the search results that we think are promising and see how they match what we knew about the person.
Next in the Preferences panel is the Language Options section. Here you can choose to view the information as it was originally entered into FamilySearch, or view it with minor edits, which we call "translations," to make it easier to read. A simple example would be "January 1855" which, if refined or translated, would be "January 1855".
Last but not least in the Preferences panel is the option to download search results to your computer. Perhaps you have your own methods of accounting and filtering information. If yes, then you can download the information in any of the following file formats: XLS, XLSX, CSV, ODS, TSV and ODS.
Find your ancestors in FamilySearch Family Tree!
Ready to learn something new about your ancestors? There is room for everyone in our Family Tree. We want everyone to help in its creation!
Select a deceased ancestor and see if their name is among the 1.2 billion names in the FamilySearch Family Tree! Find a person's profile and enjoy stories, photos, timelines and more about them. Then think about what you know about this person and what you can add to their profile. Perhaps one of the relatives will thank you in the future!
How to grow your family tree?
- Author: German Klimenko
Do you want to know the history of your family, find distant relatives or just discover the blood of some noble family in your veins? Congratulations - with this manual, your search will not last for many decades.
Why study your family history?
Someone studies their own history in order to shed light on the dark spots of their biography, someone hopes to find missing relatives, and someone is engaged in genealogy in order to discover noble roots in themselves - there are very, very reasons to study their own roots a lot of.
In the process, facts are revealed that are connected not only with the history of the family of a single person, but also with the history of the whole country - after immersing in the topic, the seeker looks at the historical events that have taken place differently.
What should be done to restore family history? Where to go / call / write?
To begin with, interview blood relatives and draw up a birth certificate for each of them.
Interviewing each member of your family, try to fill in the maximum number of sections of the questionnaire. You need to start with your parents, then move on to grandparents, and then take on the rest of the blood relatives.
Remember that oral histories are extremely important information. Interrogate your relatives, get as much sensible information as possible: ask about the dates of birth and death of your ancestors, their names and surnames, places of work and residence.
Don't be afraid to ask naive questions - your great-grandmother's favorite outfit or great-grandfather's love stories will reveal bits and pieces of your general biography. And yes, don't forget to record your oral histories on a tape recorder!
Study the family archive. Collect old photographs (signed copies will be especially valuable), house books, letters, certificates of marriages and divorces, births and deaths. Keep an eye out for old envelopes, postcards, tickets, and stamps—an unsightly piece of paper can be an important part of your story. It is better to scan all found documents and collect them in one folder - caution is never excessive.
Also, don't forget to structure the received information - make tables in Excel and Google Sheet, take notes on your phone, write down data in your favorite notebook - organize everything in such a way that the data you find does not go to oblivion.
Remember that the necessary documents may not be in your closet, but in the attic of your dacha, in your cousin's desk or in the nearest registry office - you need to check everything.
With the collected information, you can raise more serious documents, photographs and metrics - for this you need to go to the archive.
Wait, can't I just google the necessary information?
If your ancestors do not include someone from the Jagiellonian or Poniatowski family, then a search query in the spirit of name / surname / patronymic will not give special results. However, you can use various international services created to restore the family tree.
There are many portals that allow you to find relatives using digitized parish registers, church records, population censuses and burial lists:
- use the sites MyHeritage.com and Familyspace.ru - there you can create your own family tree, build family branches and find matches with trees of other users; – if at the beginning of the 20th century your relatives went to work in the USA, try to find information about their activities on Ancestry.com;
- on the expanses of FamilySearch.org you can find data from registers of births that caring Mormons fished out of Belarusian churches and churches;
- in Google Books you can also find scans of documents that may include your potential relatives;
– You can find information about the victims of the Holocaust on the website of the Yad Vashem Center;
- the sites obd-memorial. ru, pamyat-naroda.ru and podvignaroda.ru will be useful if one of your relatives participated in World War II or the Soviet-Finnish War;
- if your ancestors were Russian, then you can find valuable information on the website of the All-Russian Genealogical Tree;
- if they were Jews - the portal "Jewish gen" will come to the rescue;
– ancestors from Poland can be found in the archives of the Szukaj w Archiwach service or on the Archiwum Zabużańskie website;
– you can find out about the victims of repressions in the database “Victims of political terror in the USSR”, on the website “Personal File of Everyone” and in the database of the project “Last Address”;
- the necessary information may be hidden in the virtual jungle of the National Historical Archive of Belarus.
Remember that due to constant transliteration, the names of your ancestors could change - try to enter different options in Latin, Cyrillic and Belarusian Latin.
Be careful with dates of birth - dates of baptism may be written instead.
You should also be prepared for the fact that the searches carried out on the above sites will not give results - in such cases you should contact the archive.
Which archive should I choose?
In Belarus, you can find information about your ancestors in two archival institutions: in the National Historical Archives of the city of Grodno and in the capital's National Historical Archives of Belarus.
The first archive contains documents on the territory of the Grodno province, the second contains materials on the territory of the Vitebsk, Mogilev and Minsk provinces, as well as on the Vileika and Disna districts.
All the necessary documents are collected - how to get into the archive?
First you need to write an application to the director of the archives - a sample can be found on the website of the National Historical Archives.
This application is considered within a few days, after which it is transferred to the reading room, where you need to come with a passport and a photo to issue a library card.
Present your library card at the entrance to the hall and work in a relaxed atmosphere.
Do you have to pay for archiving?
No, you can work in the reading room for free, but you will have to pay a symbolic amount for copying materials and commissioned consultations.
There are mountains of rare documents in the archive - where should I start my search?
Familiarize yourself with the scientific and reference apparatus of the archive - with it you will not get lost in the historical labyrinth and will find those funds in which the documents you need may be hidden.
When you find the fund you need, place an order on the form that will be given to you in the reading room, indicating the fund number, inventory and file - the documents you need will be delivered the next day.
Can you find similar documents somewhere other than the National Archives?
If your ancestors had a criminal past, you can explore the KGB archives - there you can get interrogation protocols and look at case files.
As in the case of the National Archives, here you will have to write a statement - while this can only be done by a direct relative of the person about whom information is requested, or his representative by proxy.
Attention: one request to the State Security Committee will cost 26 BYN.
I have money but no time - who can do all the searching for me?
In the same National Historical Archive and its branch in Grodno, with an advance payment of 288 BYN, archivists will restore one branch of your family tree for up to 1,440 BYN.
According to the norms, genealogical research lasts no more than 30 days - as a result, you will receive an archival certificate of the established form, which will include excerpts from documents that contain information about the requested persons and their male ancestors.
You can also contact the VEHA project, which will interview all members of your family, record the metric data of all relatives and turn the photographs you find into a printed book with stories of your family. You will have to pay at least 1500 BYN for such work.
I have collected an ocean of information - how do I create a family tree?
There are many different services where you can visualize your pedigree - "Tree of Life", "Family Tree Builder", "Geni", "GenoPro".
With a schematic tree, you can contact the designers - they will create a complete picture worthy of the most luxurious hall.
For help in compiling the material, we thank Lesya Pchelka, the organizer of the VEHA project, which, by the way, recently won second place in the nomination "Exhibition / Project of the Year" within the Bureau Award "Month of Photography in Minsk" .
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