Top 10 Free Genealogy Websites to Find Ancestors

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free ancestry searchA few years ago, during a family reunion, I learned for the first time that my granduncle on my father’s side had fought and died in World War II. The story of his demise sparked a personal interest toward my own family history.

So, I did what I always do when I have something to research – I first turned to the Internet. I quickly discovered that while there are certainly free genealogy websites out there, the truly valuable or unique ones where you can do a free ancestry search are few and far between.

During this research, I learned two things about people interested in genealogy. First, many of them are clearly not web page designers. Second, they really, really love links.

10 Free Genealogy Websites for a Free Ancestry Search

Without exaggerating, there are thousands of genealogy websites out there. MakeUseOf has touched on genealogy resources before – such as Mackenzie’s review of the GRAMPS software that lets you track your research, or Kinshuk’s review of the Kindo family tree building tool. When it comes to genealogy websites, they mostly all seem to be nothing more than lists of links to other resources.

Occasionally you’ll find a truly useful website with a free ancestry search feature that accesses real data. For the purpose of this article, I will provide a list of the top 10 free genealogy websites that would be most valuable to anyone first entering into the hobby. These sites provide valuable tools, guides and access to databases that are overflowing with historic data.

10. KindredTrails.com – Lots of Links to Valuable Resources

free ancestry searchThere are two things that mark KindredTrails as a “typical” genealogy website. The first is that there are links to Ancestry.com on almost every page. This seems like a sort of pandemic with genealogy sites.

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Secondly, like most other ancestry sites, KindredTrails is very much a link-oriented site. However, it does make it onto the top ten list because the site is well designed, the links are well organized. Additionally, the links provided on this site are very useful and valuable.

9. Access Genealogy.com – A Great Mix of Research Resources

ancestry searchAccess Genealogy is up a notch from the typical ancestry website. Its main page is pleasantly clean and well organized. Along the left side you’ll find links to some of the most unique research sources including charts, links to old letters, military records, native american records and much more.

One of the more fascinating resources here are the transcribed cemetary records. There are researchers in every State around the U.S. that walk through the oldest cemetaries and actually transcribe names along with birthdates, date of death and family members. This resource alone will hold your interest for hours.

8. The Olive Tree – The Starting Point for Any Amateur Researcher

genealogy3Olive Tree Genealogy is another private researcher’s website holding a collection of links and resources for historical data. One thing that sets this site apart from others is that it’s apparent a great deal of research went into the provided links. The website creator, Lorine McGinnis Schulze, writes that she started the site in 1996 in order to provide free resources to other researchers.

The truth is, she delivers well on that promise. One of the more impressive links on the site are the ship passenger lists where you can search through the names of your ancestors who immigrated to the U.S. decades ago. Another very useful resource for anyone first starting out in genealogy is the “guide for beginners” that walks you through each step of finding your ancestors, and gives you the specific resources you should check out first in order to conduct that research.

7. GeneaBios – Reading about Life Stories

ancestry searchAncestry research aside, if you’ve ever found yourself fascinated by the life story of someone who lived a hundred or more years before you were born – then this biography database should be your first stop. You can search through the database alphabetically or just do a free ancestry search by specific name.

This database turns up a very long list of biographies written up by genealogy researchers who’ve conducted a thorough investigation and provide their results. Read about the person who built the old stone tavern in the middle of town, or the lives of the people who founded the community where you live.

6. Family Tree Searcher – Online Quizzes to Help Your Research

ancestry searchThe family tree searcher is another website created by a private researcher. This site is unique in that some of the resources are actually interactive quizzes that allow you to customize your research method.

One very useful quiz in particular is the “free advice” quiz, which asks you a series of questions about what you’re looking for, and at the end it provides you with a customized “research plan” along with the free resources that are most likely to help.

5. Genealogy Today – The Google of Ancestry

free genealogy websitesOf all privately created websites, this one is probably one of those that you could bookmark and use for all of your research needs. This site provides links to the usual resources like census data or death records.

What makes this site stand above the rest are the more creative sources offered, such as funeral cards, ration books, criminal records and even business cards. As many researchers know, the most successful results usually come from the more unorthodox methods.

4. U.S. National Archives – The Prime Source for U.S. Ancestry Information

free genealogy websitesIf you’re in the U.S. and you’re a historical researcher, the National Archives should be at the very top of your resource list. Eventually, most other websites end up linking to these resources anyway, so why not just start at the source?

This is where you’ll find census information, military records, immigration records, and even bankruptcy records. There are even articles and information on historical researching techniques.

3. U.K. National Archives – A Plethora of U.K. Historical Data

genealogy11The UK also has a valuable resource for history buffs in the form of its own National Archives website.  The main page of this website offers links to data such as births, marriage and deaths, census records, passenger lists and much more. European history is long, and these resources are unbelievably thorough and archived all the way back a thousand years.

On this website, you’ll also find valuable guides and articles on researching family and military history.

2. US GenWeb Project – The Top Source for U.S. Researchers

free genealogy websitesOne of the largest and most valuable resources for historic information available to U.S. genealogy researchers is the USGenWeb project.

This project is made of up historical enthusiasts who actively volunteer their time and energy to provide free information for other researchers throughout the country. Just click on the State where you’re looking for information, and you’ll go directly to the State’s GenWeb site where the free resources for your community and local history are provided.

1. WorldGenWeb Project – World History Buffs Unite!

free ancestry search

Once you get involved in genealogical research, the fastest thing that becomes apparent is that the hobby knows no borders. You’ll find expert researchers in just about every country from all around the world, and the best research available that brings all of these global enthusiasts together is the WorldGenWeb Project. This resource provides researchers with a safe place where they can focus on valuable and useful resources to conduct their research. Click on the country of your choice and eventually you can drill down to the specific community, and related free genealogy websites where you can find other free ancestry search tools to hunt for more ancestral information.

Are you a history or genealogy enthusiast? Do you have any of your own favorite resources? Share them with other readers in the comments section below.

Photo credit: maralina!

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Comments (24)
  • Eyþór Jónsson

    None of those Ancentry Societyes that I come across seem to be interested in gathering information from people outside theire family tree, I have seen some I might have been able to solve when Brovsing through some of them, but not sure I could find them again. Just a reminder that you might get som usful info. if each Society had a space for outsiders to comment. Best regards Anomyn

  • Evan KG

    This is what I love about modern genealogy–there are more resources than ever for people to research their ancestry online for free! I think one of the most underutilized resources is a regular old Google search. It may sound kind of crazy, but I found a photocopy of my 5x great-grandfather’s will that a distant relative of mine had posted on his personal blog-just by Googling my ancestors name! The internet is full of gems like that if people are willing to look. Thanks for the great list of sources :)

    I list free genealogy sources on my website as well, findmyancestry.net.

  • Raphael Mann

    A good deal of the information on the Mormon site (familysearch.org) is actually free. They give you external links to pay for stuff that they don’t have, but if they have it themselves it’s free, and they have plenty. I managed to trace back about 500 years over the course of a few days without spending any money , just from browsing their site.

    Linda, I don’t know about any other countries, but for UK births, deaths and marriages you can apply for a certificate in a conditional basis. So you pay up front, and give them the info you have, and if it doesn’t match with what’s on the certificate they won’t send it out and they’ll refund your money in full.

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  • Linda Hansen (@witornado)

    I hate being told something is free until after results are found. Then, in order to view them, either sign up for a free trial or subscribe immediately. How can I even be sure the results match my criteria if I can’t see them? I had signed up for “marriage” notifications on ancestors through one site, and keep receiving emails on his birth or death. But the birth/death info doesn’t even come close to matching my search criteria…. why bother searching any site for this type of aggravation?

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For more details, please read our disclosure.
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.