No, You DON'T Need a Paid Subscription for Genealogy Research Here's Why

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.

Make Instant Discoveries in Your Family Tree Now
Imagine adding your family tree to a simple website and getting hundreds of new family history discoveries instantly.

MyHeritage is offering 2 free weeks of access to their extensive collection of 18 billion historical records, as well as their matching technology that instantly connects you with new information about your ancestors. Sign up using the link below to find out what you can uncover about your family.

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.

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.

18 Billion Genealogy Records Are Free for 2 Weeks
Get two full weeks of free access to more than 18 billion genealogy records right now. You’ll also gain access to the MyHeritage discoveries tool that locates information about your ancestors automatically when you upload or create a tree. What will you discover about your family’s past?

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

31 thoughts on “No, You DON’T Need a Paid Subscription to Do Genealogy Research: Here’s Why”

  1. All of these websites are misleading including this one, I want true access to history the old fashioned way, the way before the internet got in the way of everything substantial, where are the archives, who do I contact?

  2. There is no easy solution to life or genealogical research. It stills takes time and money, but there is so much available online, sometimes at a cost, but still way cheaper when you consider all of the previous research costs involved, time, money, wear and tear on both yourself and your automobile etc..
    Today, compared to the “Good Old Days”, research is a piece of cake. Nothing good comes without a cost.
    I had 5+ generations on over 100 families, ties to thousands of relatives all due to the “Good Old Days”, prior to 1990. I now have 8+ generations, all due to the additional data available from the FREE and NOT SO FREE internet. May your dig be successful!
    (p.s. I am impeccable with checking sources so unless I can verify the source it doesn’t get added.)

  3. I am doing my genealogy thru the LDS records. I would like to know where I might find an experienced person in photography to determine how I should handle my hundreds of photos, many of the very old? I would like to learn how to handle and fix photos to be sent to a photo firm and put on a thumb drive. Any specialists in photos I can communicate with?

  4. Your site is a lie. The links you provide that you claim are with out free trials or subscription are in fact exactly that. The links go directly to subscription and trial registration sites and also require a person to signup for other products/applications. What a scam !!!

  5. LDS Family History Centers are in many LDS church buildings. They have access to Ancestry, as well as other data bases FOR FREE. Some are only accessed at the Family History Center, but they are free. If you have not checked them out, find out the hours the Family History Center nearest you is open (they are manned by volunteers) and check out the new data bases which are available at the FHC.

  6. I, like some of you, have been researching my family tree for decades. I find it extremely frustrating to get sucked into traps of promised info that is not free nor what I want. The ads kill my time. There should be a site that we can go to and report these bloodsuckers. As you can tell, I call it what it is.

  7. Yawn!! I don’t know about anyone else but I get exhausted of the never ending dead end trails that I spend or rather, waste precious time on research with no results or with mindless ads getting slammed into it i just give up. Yet paying ancestry at least $20 a month and if you don’t use it consistently you throw money away. I mean $20 to me is a lot on a small fixed income, why can’t ancestry offer an “as usage” rate? By the hour or day? But perhaps it may cost more than $ 20 as all those little rates are up to a big bill!
    Anyway yes you can find free information from same resources as ancestry uses you have to find that resource through your state,county,city,library,and local genealogy put together by the communities like a women’s group or society. Even through state colleges with genealogy departments. You will be surprised what comes up in these sites and they are a great start.
    Need to go now I’m tired!!!

  8. I have a sneaky feeling that I might regret posting here because I think my message may not be well received because my opinion may be made out to be one in which others may think I may not know what I am talking about. I started out doing genealogical research when I was 20 years old. I am now 66 years old now. You do the math. I will also let you know that I have been doing research almost every single day of my life. I have also spent a goodly amount of time (years) working at a local Family History Center of the LDS church. I am well versed at what is available at the holdings on microfilm that the Family History Library has. I also know that much of what they have is not currently on-line, yet. Even if the LDS church suddenly completes its goal of achieving of putting everything they have on-line, IT still will fall short of having all of the records online. They the LDS church, does not have the sum total of all the world records. This is also true of other free websites of databases. I also know that you can’t get all your research questions answered from other free websites. Also, those other paid website, don’t have all the answers either. You should not put out the information to newbies to genealogical research that their genealogical answers can be gotten by those free websites. All those free websites and paid websites are necessary. Try getting information on Irish research/databases on free websites. You will not get all your answers. You have to consult paid websites for Irish resources. Try getting information on Scottish research/databases on free websites. You will not get all your answers from free websites. etc etc etc on all ethnic backgrounds. Try getting information on Pakistani or Indian countries. How about Chinese, or Japanese? There are no websites to consult. If you are Italian, you can’t get all your answers from a free website or a paid website. I know full well that the LDS church does not have all records on Italian research, simply because they don’t have all the microfilms of all the records available in Italy. If you are scottish, you can’t get all your answers from FamilySearch. Same in Irish research. You will eventually need to consult paid websites in order to achieve your answers. I could go on and on. STOP GIVING THE IMPRESSION TO NEWBIES THAT THEY DO NOT HAVE TO CONSULT JUST THE FREE WEBSITES, because they will not be able to get all their answers to their research from just the free websites. You have to consult both the free websites as well as the paid/subscription websites. I will also point out that they do not have to take out a one year subscription. They can take short term subscriptions on most of these paid websites. There is nothing wrong in consulting with Ancestry.com, Emerald Ancestors, Scotlands People, FindMyPast, Genealogy Bank, Newspaper Archive, etc. etc. etc. No one has all the answers! Don’t mean to ruffle any feathers here!

    1. I agree with you. Ancestry has a huge amount of info on its site and they add more sources all the time. They also provide tutorials to help search. I use it as my go-to site and then branch out to other sites as necessary. I also sync my Ancestry trees with the trees on Family Tree Maker. Yes, I pay for those, but for me it is worth it. I also take note of lists like the one in a link from this page that suggests free sources. Use everything!

    2. Like all the paid sites, they only offer a short term free access and as you have stated…it definitely takes more than 2 weeks or one month…so you are back to paying for the info…I will tell you, I paid and all of the info I received was proven to be false…so I wasted my money…from now on I will go to “the horses mouth” so to speak…do some one on one with my local librarian…I have found so much better info when it’s done in person..as for the paid sites…I consider them as scams just like having to pay a monthly fee to a phone number site to get just one number…phone books were always delivered free of charge and all I had to do was look in them for a number…some say this is the future…you have to pay for everything….well some sites are taking advantage of the ignorant and making a huge profit…stick to those who do it for free as many of them do it out of compassion…like LDS, huh?…or is the church now among the tax collectors?…

  9. 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.


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

  11. Loraine Goodhue

    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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

    1. Catherine Lierley

      There is a short tutorial on how to merge trees on Family Search and Ancestry but in short it is really simple. On the top right hand side, more towards the middle, you will see an arrow, you need to be logged into both sights but just click on it and it asks if you want to merge.

  15. 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

      1. 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!!

    1. The article isn’t about someone else doing the research for you…it’s about you doing it yourself using free resources.

      You would be shocked that in my 14 years of doing genealogy research as my career how much info I find out there for FREE! If I told people every where I find those records, Ancestry.com and the other subscription sites would be out of business. In fact, if you pay close attention to the reference boxes at the bottom of the page when you look up a record on Ancestry, you’ll see that over 50% of the records you pay for on Ancestry actually come from FREE sites. Check it for yourself.

      What you actually are paying Ancestry for is the ease of having everything in one spot and the hints that half the time aren’t even close.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

    1. 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.

  18. 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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