No, You DON’T Need a Paid Subscription to Do Genealogy Research: Here’s Why

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No, You DON’T Need a Paid Subscription to Do Genealogy Research: Here’s Why

If you have been doing family history research for a while, you are probably fully aware of the fact that there are many free genealogy sites available to you. But for those that are just starting out, it can be very hard to see past the well-promoted paid subscription sites and many people become frustrated when trying to locate records and resources that are actually free.

While paid genealogy websites do offer many excellent resources for family historians, and sometimes provide records that you will have a hard time finding elsewhere, you do not need one of these subscriptions to build a family tree. In fact, restricting yourself to paid sites means that you will miss a huge number of records available elsewhere. So whether you are having a hard time affording a paid option, or are simply looking to expand your research in new directions, the following resources will help you explore your family’s history at no cost to you.

Genealogy Research Sites That Do Not Require a Paid Subscription

At Family History Daily, we have spent a great deal of time researching and sharing genealogy sites that don’t require a paid subscription — and there are many. From databases focused on a specific research topic or location, to large organizational and governmental sites with millions of records, there are an increasing number of options.

Here are just a few of the articles we have created on Family History Daily that share these free resources. You’ll find sites in these articles that contain birth, marriage and death records, newspaper articles, family books, land and military records, church records, censuses and much more. We have very carefully researched all of these sites to make sure that they offer all, or nearly all, of their resources without a paid subscription or free trial.

Using Your Local Library to Access Genealogy Records

In addition to the many research sites now available at no cost, your local library is a wonderful resource for accessing paid genealogy records for free. Not only do many libraries provide access to large paid databases on site– more and more are now also offering this free access online to card holders.

Read this article on using your local library to gain access to paid subscription sites for help on how to find and access these options.

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Taking Advantage of a Local FamilySearch Center in Your Area

While we’re talking about accessing resources locally, we don’t want to forget to mention FamilySearch Centers. There are thousands of them across the US and the world and they provide free, easy access to most records from the massive Family History Library in Salt Lake City.

The process to request and view records locally is actually fairly simple and we have written a step by step how-to on the process here.

Using Online Libraries to Find Free Genealogy Records

Sites like the Digital Public Library of America or HathiTrust are not to be missed resources for family historians. Both of these online libraries provide search boxes for locating a wide variety of free records offered by local historical societies, libraries and other repositories online. These online libraries make the job of searching through many repositories at one time simple, even allowing you to search for records by a person’s name.

You can read our how-to on the DPLA for genealogy here and our breakdown of Hathitrust here.

Using Google to Find New Free Resources

While the above resources will provided you with a seemingly endless assortment of genealogy records without a paid subscription, it is also important to know how to locate additional repositories and collections online. In our article on Google for genealogy, we have laid out 6 tricks that will help you refine your searches and increase your chances of locating the family information you’re looking for.

Happy FREE Searching!

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By Melanie Mayo, Family History Daily Editor

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17 Comments
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  • Jane
    July 1, 2017 at 7:42 pm

    Long ago, before everyone did everything online, there were email lists. Those lists, with all their information is still there: USGenweb.com is one with tons of information, questions, and answers on it. Rootsweb.com is now owned by Ancestry, but it’s free.

  • CAROLINE T IACONO
    June 30, 2017 at 6:36 pm

    Many of the free sites will do a free search for you, but you have to become a paying member to view the results.

  • Loraine Goodhue
    May 7, 2017 at 4:51 am

    Iam right there with you! It should be illegal to bait youthen try to hook you. It should be so noted at the very get go.

  • Debbie
    March 7, 2017 at 8:12 am

    Go to your local- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons) they have volunteers to help you use their computers and genealogy sites.

  • Scott
    January 17, 2017 at 4:54 pm

    I agree. I also agree that since they have to pay for the server etc that a cost is necessary. That being said I do think one in particular charges too much since the “members” contribute a lot of info. and resources they have gathered themselves.

  • Laura Tully
    January 7, 2017 at 12:56 pm

    The only two free genealogy web sites I’ve ever seen and use are familysearch.org and findagrave.com. Findagrave is just a bunch of grave marker memorial pages and sometimes there are more than one and some have photos. I find a lot of errors on that one. However, familysearch.org is free and you do not have to be a Mormon to use it. I am not a Mormon and have my family tree there and on ancestry. My sister is a Mormon and has a tree on familysearch AND she gets a free subscription on ancestry BECAUSE she is a member of the Mormon church. We could merge both our trees from both ancestry and familysearch and I wouldn’t have to pay a dime, but I don’t know how to do that. When I add or change something on my family tree on familysearch, it’s automatically updated on her familysearch tree as long as the ancestral file number for that certain person matches what’s on both trees. It’s confusing, I know, but familysearch also gives you “hints” of genealogical information you can find and view.

  • Larry Epling
    January 2, 2017 at 5:49 pm

    Yes you do need to pay for genealogical information! The idea of “Free” is so totally wrong. A person who has a family to feed gathered this information. a person with bills to pay posted this information. Why do you think you should have this persons time and effort for “FREE”. Your willingness to steal this persons time, and effort for nothing is reprehensible

    • April 28, 2017 at 12:45 pm

      Larry,

      Thank you for your comment. There are many free genealogy research websites that are created by government entities, research organizations, historical societies and volunteers for the public and are offered willingly. You can find 50 of them here: http://familyhistorydaily.com/genealogy-resources/50-free-genealogy-sites/

      • Sourdoughjoe
        April 29, 2017 at 5:47 am

        YES…there are MANY government websites with VERY good information and you SHOULD use them. Their information is pretty much reliable up ’til recently, about the last 10-15 years. The information is getting LESS reliable due to the fact that the ’til recently the people entering the information are just not as reliable and as conscientious as they once were, we can see this with people getting CURRENT information screwed up in our present daily dealings today. Seems today’s society just doesn’t give a @#&% about accuracy as they used to be. BUT…it is NOT FREE by any means. We are ALL taxpayers and OUR tax dollars PAYS these government employees wages to record/input the information. The Mormon church probably has as good or even BETTER records they have collected than government records, at least they were/are MORE diligent with their information. I have used their FHC many times and have NEVER been approached to join their church and they have been more than helpful with my genealogical research. The thing is the Mormon Church has collected government records from all around the world. While we DON’T pay directly as with the FEE based genealogical websites WE are still paying for the information. Just wish the reliability was better. IF there is a visual document that you can ACTUALLY see/view then the information you get is still suspect. When immigrants went through Ellis Island, Americans would spell foreign names phonetically, as the names sounded to them, and misspellings were more common than we realize. Census takers made similar mistakes. All I can say is VERIFY…VERIFY…VERIFY…just saying!!

  • Abbie
    December 29, 2016 at 5:33 pm

    There were no .com genealogy websites when I started researching my family history. There was no internet. But, there was no record that couldn’t be accessed either through a visit to the repository, local libraries and larger libraries that had genealogical holdings, court houses, cemeteries, etc. We joined genealogical societies and received newsletters, wrote letters and included SASEs when asking for information from courthouses, etc.. We wrote to others with the same surname interests and did reciprocal research with others who lived in an area that we had an interest in. We paid for our own travel expenses, planned vacations around our ancestors hometown / homeland, paid for copies and paid others for their trouble. We scrolled through cabinets full of un-indexed reels of microfilm and microfiche to find a newspaper article and had available to us the LDS Family History libraries in neighboring counties for access to their amazing reserve of records. In hindsight, the biggest drawback then was not knowing the language in other countries but even that could be overcome.

    There was no excuse or reason for not obtaining primary resource documents before the ‘world wide web’ and there still is no reason today when many – but not all – resources are available at our fingertips. My monthly subscription price for Ancestry is less than what I once paid for just gas, stamps and copy charges for the most part. Not everything that would enhance one’s genealogy research is found online and we don’t have to be a celebrity on WDYTYA to obtain the primary documents in other countries. The biggest bonus was that we built our own family tree. There was no reason and very little opportunity to ‘copy and paste’ a tree or a branch from someone else – documented or undocumented, with or without mistakes. We gladly shared information with others and we thanked them for sharing and acknowledged what we learned from another researcher.

  • Sandra Johnson
    December 2, 2016 at 10:08 pm

    You can have a free account at Ancestry and have a public tree there. There are subjects that are free like the 1940 census. Then if you want to go deeper you will need a subscription or use it at a public library or family history center.

  • Dee Fitton
    November 30, 2016 at 10:51 am

    I clicked on your “Free Genealogy Research” button and it took me to Ancestry. com which as we all know is NOT free.

    • Sam Maynor
      May 15, 2017 at 5:47 am

      I clicked on the link to “Free Genealogy Research” and it took me to another Family History Daily page showing a list of 50 links to free research. I’m not sure how you could have gotten to Ancestry from that link.

  • Geoff Nicholson
    November 16, 2016 at 8:23 am

    If you want to do your own ORIGINAL research, then you should try to get sight of the relevant records via your own efforts, ie by visiting, wherever practical, County Record Offices, local reference libraries and, your local (regional) Family History Society. The Federation of Family History Societies has member societies covering the whole of the UK. Many of them run their own library of local material, including usually many transcripts NOT AVAILABLE ELSEWHERE. Those societies are also usually the repositories of a vast amount of local knowledge, without which you may have great difficulty in deciding which of, say, two possibilities is most likely to be the correct one. All of this is FREE. If you can’t easily reach, say, the local County record Office, then most offer some sort of postal service, usually at a reasonable price, especially if you know what they have (see on-line catalogues for most of them) and what you want them to look up for you.

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