Free Genealogy Resources
Genealogical research has absolutely exploded in popularity among the general public over the last few years. This isn’t a huge surprise since tracing your own lineage back through history is often an exciting and rewarding experience. The process easy in today’s world since there is so much information available online. Modern technology makes it possible to conduct research that would have once required extensive travel and expense. However, there are so many genealogy websites that it can be a little overwhelming just figuring out where to start. The sites on this list are great, informative resources that are free to use (though some are only free for a limited period, and are listed accordingly).
Local History Sites
These sites are dedicated to particular localities, and are all run by university libraries. They are rich with historical information and documentation that might be of particular value if you are researching early European immigrants to the U.S. and Canada.
- North Dakota Historical Archives – This site, run by North Dakota State University, features a vast array of free resources for searching area records. There are even pioneer biographies to peruse.
- Louisiana Genealogy – From Southeastern Louisiana University, this site provides records and information about Louisiana residents past and present.
- Penn State Family History Site – Pennsylvania State University Library’s Genealogy and Family History directory contains local records, helpful research guides, and links to other useful sites.
- Lowell Center for History – From the University of Massachusetts’ Lowell Library, this site provides access to valuable New England genealogy resources like the Boston Library’s database of area obituaries.
- Queen’s University Genealogy Database – This site was not originally started for the purpose of genealogical research, but rather as an archival source for the school’s students and graduates. Over the years, however, much valuable genealogical information pertaining to Ontario, Canada has been added and the site is now a favorite among researchers.
- Ellis Island Learning Center – Ellis Island’s Genealogical Learning Center has gathered a nice collection of external resources, advice for the newbie researcher, and even downloadable charts and graphs to help in mapping out your family tree.
U.S. and Canadian Archives
The following sites all offer free historical and genealogical information from U.S. and Canadian sources. Most are run by either government agencies or non-profit organizations.
- U.S. Census.org – A not-for-profit site containing a large database of U.S. Census information. Search through thousands of pages full of Census data, and even volunteer as a transcriber to upload more.
- The USGenWeb Project – A volunteer-run site that is 100% free and updated regularly with links to loads of U.S. historical records sorted by state and county.
- BLM Land Office Records – This site, run by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, features records having to do with land and property in the United States dating back to1820 including land patents, land titles, and researcher field notes.
- Obituaries.com – This site features a huge directory of links to current and archived obituaries from virtually every major news publication in the United States and Canada.
- Olive Tree Genealogy – Started by a researcher in 1996, this site has a very easy to navigate interface geared toward beginners just starting to gather information about their ancestry. You can search several pools of information, including passenger logs for immigrant ships.
- Library and Archives of Canada – From this site, you can access information from a wide variety of sources including church records, criminal records, death archives. Searches can be generated by family name, locality, or even by cause of death.
For searching ancestry around the world through archives and records for countries across the globe, these free sites are filled with valuable resources for filling in those missing branches on your family tree.
- Worldwide GenWeb – The international version of the GenWeb Project. It is run entirely by volunteers (and is always seeking more if you are interested in contributing).
- Internment.net – A free searchable database consisting of cemetery records from all over the world. There are even special collections featuring categories like “flooded cemeteries” and “cemeteries of the California missions.”
- BYU Family History Records – Brigham Young University’s database of research documents, like English marriage records. Entirely free, the site operates as part of the LDS church’s network of genealogy resources.
- Jewish History Links – From the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, a collection of links to free databases for searching for ancestry through Jewish lineage.
Free Trial and Limited Access Genealogy Resources
The sites on this list normally charge a fee, but offer a free trial period, during which you can conduct research using all of their resources and features. Most also allow you to search their site within limited parameters without paying anything. This can be a great option, especially when you’ve exhausted 100% of the free resources and are still seeking information.
- Genealogy Today Database – A searchable database with access to several archival sources like railway worker records, criminal records, ration books and more. You can search much of the site for free, but will need a paid membership to see more in-depth records.
- Access Genealogy – Access is loaded with information and records. It is more extensive than many similar sites and also has Native American tribal records available. Most of the site’s features can be used for free, but you still have to purchase a paid membership to dig down deep.
- FamilySearch.org – A very comprehensive resource provided by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS). You’ll be able to access a lot of information for free, although you’ll have to be a member of a paid site like Ancestry.com (or part of a research organization) in order to access more in-depth information and see photocopies of actual documents like census records and death certificates.
- Ancestry.com – The Ancestry.com family of websites is one of the most popular genealogy resources, providing users with access to literally billions of records. The site charges its members for use, but offers a free two-week trial period after which you can cancel.
Return to the Resources Page for more free resources.