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


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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.

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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!

By Melanie Mayo, Family History Daily Editor

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Related:  What's Your Favorite Free Genealogy Resource? Please Share
8 Comments
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  • Beverly culbreth
    January 7, 2017 at 4:51 pm

    the word Free is very loosely used, all sites are free to look at, but when you say free records, and them you find 100’s they you find out nothing is free anymore, just tell the truth, my time is limited and to go to these sites,I just want to yell LIAR,LIAR… anyone else feel this way.

    • 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

  • 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.

  • 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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