Totally free genealogy resources

One of the best things about family history as an interest is that it doesn’t have to cost you anything. That’s right! There are so many free sources of information online that you can make significant inroads into creating your family tree without spending a penny. 

Don’t get me wrong, if your interest turns to borderline obsession (very possible) or you encounter a particularly tricky problem then you might have to buy a certificate or record to help you out. But, with patience and where needed use of free trials you can often get what you need. There is so much available that this is by no means an exhaustive list – in fact I have limited it to my top 10!

Feature Image from the Newcastle Libraries Collection. P.s. Libraries are also an excellent free source of family history and research information!

1. FamilySearch

What is it? Family Search is a free service and extensive source of global genealogy records and family history information. The service is provided by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who also operate a number of Family Search centres worldwide.

What records/information can I find? There are a huge number of records on Family Search including indexed records (birth, marriage, death, probate etc.), image files and other users family trees. The search interface is intuitive to use and there are multiple variables you can search by.

Requirements: You do have to create an account to use Family Search but there is no charge to do so or to access any of the information on the site.

2. Free UK Genealogy

What is it? Free UK Genealogy is a UK based charitable organisations offering three different sites FreeBMD, FreeCen and Free Reg. For each of these sites groups of volunteers transcribe records and makes them available online for free.

What records/information can I find? FreeBMD offers transcriptions of civil birth, marriage and death records from England and Wales. FreeCen has transcriptions of UK Census Records. FreeReg is a source of transcriptions of UK parish records.

Requirements: You don’t need an account to search any of these sites – start searching any of them straight away and for free!

All of these sites are in need of volunteers to help transcribe the massive number of records out there and make them free for all. If you have free time and an interest in genealogical records why not lend a hand.

3. WikiTree

What is it? WikiTree is a collaborative venture to create the worlds largest single family tree. To support accuracy users are encourages to check details and cite their sources.

What records/information can I find? You may find members of your family are already recorded here and connected to the collective family tree. If this is the case there should be documented sources of information and you may find new ancestors that you were not aware of. You can also send messages to other users and record managers for more information.

Requirements: Everything on WikiTree is totally free but if you want the full benefit of the site you need to create an account and sign the WikiTree honour code.

4. RootsChat

What is it? RootsChat is one of the largest family history forums in the UK. 

What records/information can I find? You can search all of the previous posts for helpful information. Additionally the forum is used by a large number of family history enthusiasts and extremely helpful people. You can post information requests, questions, ask for help interpreting old handwriting or any other family history related question you can imagine. You never know as your research progresses you might be able to help other people too!

Requirements: You can search all of the posts without an account, but if you want to make full use of the forum you have to register (which is free).

5. The National Archives

What is it? The National Archives in the UK literally houses billions of documents and records. It is the largest archive in the UK (and one of the largest in the worlds). 

What records/information can I find? The National Archives records are all free to search online in its Discovery catelogue. Some of the records are available to download digitally for free too, including WW1 medal cards. The archives website also houses a large number of research guides on a wide range of topics, which will point you in the direction of other sources and give advice on approach to your research.

Requirements: You can access the research guides and search the discovery catalogue without an account. However, if you want to download digital records for free you have to register.

You can also request research support or copies of materials from the National Archives but you have to pay for this service.

6. GENUKI

What is it? GENUKI is a free online reference library covering the UK and Ireland. It’s a good place to start if you don’t know what records are available in a particular area and/ or where to find them.

What records/information can I find? GENUKI is more of a reference source in that is tells you where you can find other records. It will often point you to external websites (some of which are not free) but at least you will know what is available in a given area and where to find it. Information is sorted by Country and Parish.

Requirements: You do not have to register to access this information. It’s all totally free and maintained by a team of volunteers.

7. Find a Grave and Billion Graves

What is it? I am cheating here – this is really too resources! I promised that I would restrict myself to ten and both of these sites serve a similar function. Find a Grave and Billion Graves are both databases housing photographs and transcriptions of graves and memorials worldwide.

What records/information can I find? On both of these sites you can find photographs of graves/ memorials and transcriptions of them too. You can also find information on and photographs of graveyards, churchyards and cemeteries. Sometimes this includes plot maps which can be helpful if you have a plot location from a burial register but there is not marker/ gravestone.

Requirements: You can search and access all the records for free. However, if you register you can also message other users and place requests for local volunteers to visit a graveyard and photograph a gravestone/ memorial for you.

8. Irish Genealogy

What is it? Irish Genealogy is a site provided by the Ireland Department for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport & Media (phew a bit of a mouthful) to help everyone research their Irish family history.

What records/information can I find? The site houses Church Records from Ireland and Civil Records from Ireland and Northern Ireland. It also has a number of useful guides to help you research your Irish ancestors and point to other available sources of information.

Requirements: You do not need to register to search or view records, but as part of the search you are asked to provide your name and tick a box to confirm that your search is in line with Section 61 of the Civil Registration Act, 2004.

9. Scotland's People

What is it? Scotland’s People is the Scottish Government’s website to help you search their archives and records.

What records/information can I find? There is a huge amount of information available, including civil records, church registers, census returns and other archived documents relating to Scotland. 

Requirements: You have to register in order to search and view records, which is completely free. You can also order copies of birth, marriage and death certificates through this site but this is a paid for service.

10. Free Trials and Features

What is it? Many subscription services that you have to pay for offer a free trial period where you can access their records. Better yet many of them have features that you can access for free without a paid subscription. 

What records/information can I find? Details of a number of genealogy free trial subscriptions can be found on my blog post here.

As an example of free features, on Ancestry (affiliate) you can create and store your family tree for free. You can also message other users, access free research guides and use the Ancestry free records index

Requirements: You have to register to the subscription services to use any free features. Additionally, for most free trials where you can get access to a wider range of records you are required to input card details.

There are lots of free genealogy resources available online for those of you, who like me, are frugal genealogists! Sometimes the most surprising sources can result in the best results. Don’t forget that there is also loads of information available locally from archives, libraries and local history groups. They may take a little more effort to visit but are often very useful sources of information.

Have I missed anything that you’ve found useful in your research? Please comment below and share your favourite free resources.

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