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How to View Thousands of Free Records on Ancestry Without a Subscription

When most of us think of, we think of paid resources. And, of course, the vast majority of Ancestry’s billions of records are behind a paywall. However, you might be surprised to hear that the site does offer a relatively large assortment of completely free collections, and they are 100% searchable.

When you attempt to locate a record on Ancestry via their main search function the free collections do get mixed into the results. If you don’t have a paid membership, though, it can be tedious scrolling through results trying to find selections that you can access. There is no way to limit results by membership level in this search–ie free vs discovery vs world explorer etc–and the only obvious sign that a record does not require payment is that its search result data is not censored.

Although we are not associated with Ancestry, we do sometimes act as an affiliate. When following links on our site we may earn a fee, which helps support Family History Daily. 

Also check out: Ancestry Crash Course – Learn to Use Ancestry Like a Pro

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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 20 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.

How to Search Ancestry Records for Free

There is, however, a much easier way to find all free collections on Ancestry, although they don’t make it very easy to locate. Their Free Index Collections page, linked to below, offers the ability to search and sort every single cost-free collection and provides a complete list of these collections at the bottom of the page.

As of late 2023 there are more than 1200 of these collections. They include vital records – such as birth, marriage and death certificates – military and services records, censuses, tax lists, poorhouse records, employment records and much more from countries around the world.

There are two types of genealogy collections in this free section – those Ancestry owns and ‘Web’ collections provided by other sites. Many of the Web collections are provided in partnership with well-recognized free family history leaders like The National Archives or FamilySearch, and others come from smaller sites. Other collections owned by Ancestry cannot be found elsewhere for free.

If you keep your family tree on Ancestry, or just like their format, this is an extremely convenient way to search and document data. It can essentially act as a large and free genealogy search engine, allowing you to find data from many free sites in one search.

You will need to log in to your free Ancestry account to take advantage of most of this data (you do not need one only for Web collections).

When trying to access a free record they will simply prompt you with the free membership signup page if you do not already have an account. But since they cannot charge you without credit card information, there is no risk you’ll accidentally sign up for the wrong account. You do not need to sign up for a 14-day trial to search or access the free records. If you are asked to enter credit card information you are trying to view paid resources.

20 Billion Genealogy Records Are Free for 2 Weeks
Get two full weeks of free access to more than 20 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?

Despite the fact that the title of the page is Free Index Collections, not every free collection is an index. Quite a few offer both an index and scanned images. This is true for many census records and some others we were able to discover, like the Washington Marriage Records, 1865-2004. Other indexes link to scanned records on other free sites.

Here’s the scanned image from that collection that we were able to access for free.


You’ll notice when browsing the list of available collections that some say “free” next to them and others say “free index.”

ancestry free collections search

As suggested, those with the term “free index” next to them offer only an index for free. Access to the original image, if available, requires a paid membership. Others are completely free or free scanned images are linked to from other sites.

If you try to access an image associated with one of these free index collections, and the image is part of a paid collection, the image will simply not load properly. For some reason, Ancestry did not automatically prompt us to buy a paid membership when trying to view these images. If you want to see the image you will need to click the subscribe button at top or sign up with a free trial.

Again, it is important to note that in some cases the images associated with these indexes may be free at other sites, so check before buying a subscription.

To access the Free Index Collections, go here. You may search them all at one time using the provided box or you can scroll down and chose collections your would like to access.

For the rest of the collections (that state “free” next to them) you can expect to be able to search and access the entire collection for at no cost, although in many cases the entire collection is simply an index anyway. Despite this, we did find a great deal of valuable information in our free searches, as well as many original records. And, frankly, we’re thrilled to be able to take advantage of the Ancestry site on those months when we don’t want to (or can’t afford to) pay a fee for membership.

A few additional thoughts and reminders before you conduct a free Ancestry search:

  • You will need to be logged in to a free Ancestry account before accessing most of these records, but will not be required to have a paid membership.
  • The free collections on Ancestry could change at any time. Ancestry may remove no-cost collections without notice, so if you find something valuable, take advantage of it. However, the trend has been to add more offerings to this section and it has doubled in the last 5 years.
  • Ancestry may suggest paid resources when viewing free records, or may prompt you to upgrade to a paid account on free pages. Only enter credit card information if you intend to pay for a membership.
  • Signing up for a free membership means that Ancestry will send you emails. You can opt out of these if you like (and change other privacy and notification settings) in your membership area.

Good luck in your searches!

What Records Might You Be Missing on

Whether you’ve just started your research, or have been at it for years, you might be surprised to learn that it’s incredibly easy to miss records on The more records they add to their site the more important it becomes to know the right search techniques to uncover what you’re looking for. Our unofficial crash course will take you through these techniques in easy, online lessons.

By Melanie Mayo, Family History Daily Editor

You might also like:

Our Full Review of the Top 6 Family Tree Options, Including

Stop Saving Records to Your Ancestry Tree Until You Read This

Image: New York Yacht Club, Oyster Bay, L.I., 1905, Library of Congress

Originally published in June 2015. Updated March 2017, updated Dec 2023.

42 thoughts on “How to View Thousands of Free Records on Ancestry Without a Subscription”

  1. Victoria Tutwiler kimble

    Paul Tutwiler of Alabama a white married male 5 children Wife black? Maiden name ?
    One of 5 children name Otis ?
    Would like to know who Paul Tutwiler parents and ethnicity

  2. Hi
    I am becoming increasingly convinced that I may be a descendant of Alexander Selkirk (the Robinson Crusoe one). How can I research this further for free?

  3. Hi… I wish that you had a special rate for the older generation after all the clock is ticking fast and Im not sure if I will get things solved before I join my ancestors !
    Thank you…Carol aged 78yrs.

  4. I would like to find out info on my grandparents Domenico and Adelina Miscio, Jessie. They were born in Italy

  5. I am 87 years young–need to clue family members of their history–need to start SOON!!! Every day is a GIFT from GOD!!!



  7. My sister and I share one account. We both have access to the same account by just logging in with the same email and password.
    Also as I replied to above try your local library or a genealogy club.

  8. Try your local library. My branch gives us access to ancestry information as long as we are a member of the library. We can use the library computer or us your laptop but you only have access to all (world) records as long as you are in the library. You may not be able to have a tree on ancestry but you can save the documents you find buy sending them to your email address or saving to a flash drive. Good luck and give your library a try.

  9. Sir
    I am looking for a cousin of mine, his name is George Vaughn Jameson, I have tried
    several avenues, however each one keeps asking for a credit card.I am an 84 year old
    gentleman, and on a fixed income. Social Security does not provide me with enough
    income to purchase anything extra. I do not know just where turn. Can you please
    help? I thank you for your time.
    B.J. Bennett
    email [email protected]

  10. Don’t bother with DNA tests from ancestry or 23andme. both use different databases so you’ll get a different result. not to mention, they only compare DNA to modern populations and given that human history has been one giant migration, it doesn’t tell you anything about your ancestry.

  11. I am dumbfounded! So I paid to have my dad and mum do their DNA knowing that will not allow me to enter their data on MY data base. Okay, fair enough, whatever! So I set up an account for my mum and one for my dad. Supposedly, that is so my mother and father who have nothing to do with this whatsoever in any way shape or form can have privacy. They gave me permission to use their DNA on my TREE and are rather dumbfounded themselves at all the mock accounts and e-mail addresses I have to set up in order to satisfy ancestry. I am paying for THREE subscriptions in order to enter the data from MY tree into my Mum and Dad’s trees. Be warned! You will not be able to get the details from your matches without a subscription! Thus the need for three accounts. So you will want to accomplish your research within a deadline in order to accomplish it. Ancestry also has various algorithm designed to thwart accurate results. They will give, for example hundreds of totally ridiculous results that bear no relationship to the person you are looking for. The accurate results which are on MY TREE are rarely amongst the results. So when I ask how to FIND mine by username or number, all I find is a big long long winded lectures about not using other people’s data bases to fill your own. Happy Day. Meanwhile, once this ordeal is over, I can hopefully revert to the status quo and enjoy researching again. Shame on ancestry for this glitch in an otherwise pleasant experience. Kindest regards, S. J.

  12. I am dumbfounded! So I paid to have my dad and mum do their DNA knowing that will not allow me to enter their data on MY data base. Okay, fair enough, whatever! So I set up an account for my mum andt one for my dad. I am paying for THREE subscriptions in order to enter the data from MY tree into my Mum and Dad’s trees. What a bunch of crap! Ancestry has an algorithm that will give me no end of choices of trees, but NOT MINE. So when I ask how to FIND mine all you get is a big long long winded lecture about not using other people’s data bases to fill your own. Are you kidding me. I have a singleminded goal and that is to get all the information from mine in TRIPLICATE so the DNA matches will be available to share. THEN I am going to cancel my membership and NEVER again deal with the frustration again. Seriously frustrating to know that ancestry PURPOSEFULLY thwarts it’s members in order to make as much money as possible. Done with you soon.

  13. I think that they have become too money orientated but they do, do a great service and make it very convenient to do research from home. Unfortunate due to this, many people just copy other people’s trees. One would be better off putting their tree on, which is owned by now, but the trees still can be accessed for free.

    It does cost money to maintain their servers though, so they do incur some cost. However, now it seems as if they are too much for profit.

  14. To my recollection they do NOT pay a fee to go in a copy the records. They photograph them, or at least they did from what I understand. I’ve spent a lot of time at the LDS Family History Centers and their Temple in L.A. doing research long before even existed. It was pretty much Family Tree in the day before it became Ancestry.

  15. I transcribed them for a couple of years, and I can assure you I received nothing but the satisfaction for doing so. 🙂 You can go to their website and sign up as a volunteer to transcribe records.

  16. can be accessed for free at LDS Family History Centers. In addition, many local libraries offer it for free.

  17. What makes that ironic is that IBM (International Business Machines) made typewriters for businesses to begin with. They have been around since the early 1900s. They made Decrypting machines during WW2.

  18. Funny that it costs to print it. The purpose of printing was to eliminate costs by having the machine do it for you! Might as well go back to ledgers! IBM has gone back to typewriters not trusting digital storage anymore and that was during the windows 8 push to phones crap.

  19. The records that Ancestry has don’t get transcribed for free. They have made a huge investment organizing them. I don’t like shelling out a monthly fee anymore than the next guy, but I’m committed or addicted to finding and preserving family history.

  20. I have paid my subscription to Ancestry for many years now, it has been worth every penny! Thank you Ancestry for all the help you have given me.

  21. The best way to find out is DNA testing. I was astounded to learn that I have <1% Native American
    ancestry on both sides of my family, one side mostly German and the other mostly English.

    Good luck!

  22. Ancestry sends their people to courthouses, libraries, etc. all over the country , copies and places the records on their site. That saves me having to do lots of travel to gather information. My husband and I travelled to five states in 2000 to do research; it was expensive-travel expenses for fuel, and park our travel trailer, meals, copy costs, etc.

  23. Most local libraries offer free access to for searches. There is a link to have the information you find emailed. I will look something up on ancestry when I am at the library and email it to myself. Then I will have a copy of it and had to pay nothing. It is for searching only but I use for my tree. They are free and have access to most of the stuff that ancestry has but it’s free. You can also make a list of what you are looking for when going on ancestry. I plan on making that list and then paying on ancestry but only for 1 month access then cancelling.

  24. It doesn’t cost you to go see records at court houses or libraries, it didn’t cost them to see the records. It does and did cost to get copies made

  25. As a researcher I have paid hundreds of dollars to get copies of births wills deeds etc from court houses churches etc. ancestry has so many records on line. Why shouldn’t they charge? They don’t get this information copied free even if it is public information. So you can despise the fact that they charge but they are a business and if my paid subscription helps them get more then I’m all for it. Good job ancestry!

  26. Daniella Knurbein-Provera

    It is really sad that we have to pay to find out about our own ancestry. It should all be free and never cost a penny. It is public records after all.

  27. Kimberly K Sandoval

    I am attempting to see if my great grandfather was of Indian desent as rumor ed in family yet damnit I wouldn’t put in a credit card number due to being duped of believing this free enticement

  28. I most certainly agree and I also dislike Ancestry. They are in control of government (citizen owned) records.) Genealogy research has come to a standstill for me unless I wish to pay Ancestry.

  29. The private & public trees are not the main value of I intend no offense, but you are indeed missing the boat of the vast content that has little to do with the trees.
    —The German Genealogist since 1979, Karl-Michael Sala

  30. If you look off to the right of the list you will see a button that slides downward, that exposes the rest of them. Just like on your computer screen when you have a webpage open.

  31. Roderick Brentnall

    I despise Ancestry. People upload trees for free but it’s Ancestry who become billionaires. Too unethical for my tastes.

  32. Not tried yet , but I have posted to facebook , I will check it out later with more time , But what-ever still intend to re-join Ancestory S A P , because I found it the best site . good info , easy to follow , etc .

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