Top 10 Free Genealogy Websites to Find Ancestors

3337591976 1fd9dcb8be   Top 10 Free Genealogy Websites to Find AncestorsA 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

genealogy   Top 10 Free Genealogy Websites to Find AncestorsThere 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.

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

genealogy2   Top 10 Free Genealogy Websites to Find AncestorsAccess 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

genealogy3   Top 10 Free Genealogy Websites to Find AncestorsOlive 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

genealogy4   Top 10 Free Genealogy Websites to Find AncestorsAncestry 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

genealogy5   Top 10 Free Genealogy Websites to Find AncestorsThe 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

genealogy6   Top 10 Free Genealogy Websites to Find AncestorsOf 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

genealogy7   Top 10 Free Genealogy Websites to Find AncestorsIf 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

genealogy11   Top 10 Free Genealogy Websites to Find AncestorsThe 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

genealogy9   Top 10 Free Genealogy Websites to Find AncestorsOne 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!

genealogy10   Top 10 Free Genealogy Websites to Find Ancestors

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.

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18 Comments -

0 votes

Lisa Louise Cooke

Discovering your family tree is incredibly rewarding. Thanks for encouraging your readers with this list!

As an experience genealogist I can tell you familysearch.org is the #1 free site for online genealogical records, and is available to everyone.

In addition to online records, would-be family historians will want to get up to speed on the research process to make the most of their efforts and avoid valuable wasting time.

My free podcast Family History: Genealogy Made Easy regularly ranks #1 in iTunes in the family history and genealogy categories and will teach you step by step how to build your family tree.

For researchers with some experience try The Genealogy Gems Podcast. Both podcasts are also free at genealogygems.tv

0 votes

Lisa Louise Cooke

Discovering your family history is incredibly rewarding. Thanks for encouraging your readers with this list!

As an experienced genealogist I can tell you that familysearch.org is the #1 free genealogy site with more free records than any other, and is available to everyone.

Before investing hours at these websites would-be researchers would be well served to spend some time getting up to speed on the research process. It can save you headaches and help you make the most of your time.

My free podcast Family History: Genealogy Made Easy regularly ranks #1 in the family history and genealogy iTunes categories. The show will walk listeners step by step through the genealogical research process.

My other podcast The Genealogy Gems Podcast provides research tips and expert interviews. Both are available at genealogygems.tv

0 votes

Ryan Dube

Lisa, thanks for your comment! It’s cool having an expert genealogy research providing feedback – thanks for the great resources.

0 votes

Steve

You can’t get into genealogy without running into the Mormons. Try out familysearch.org, or go to one of their local family history centers.

0 votes

D. Allen

My search there had turned up dry. You may have better luck as you go further back in years, to great-great-grandparents or beyond, but if you only know back to grandparents or more recent. My wife did find her family clear back to the 1400′s, but I couldn’t find anyone. Here comes the obligatory YMMV statement.

Please note that anyone may submit, but they prefer that you only submit your own relatives.

0 votes

Martina

Yes, you need the Mormons (familysearch.org/eng/default.asp), they have the biggest database. And you don’t have to be a mormon to use it!

0 votes

Ryan Dube

Hey everyone – thanks for the heads-up on familysearch.org. I agree, familysearch.org appears to be an excellent resource as well.

0 votes

Taby

Another site that helped me a great deal was gencircles.com, this one doesn’t have census records but it has family tree information in it and you never know when you will make a connection.

0 votes

Denise Olson

All the sites mentioned in your article – and the comments – are wonderful resources for family historians. I would also recommend WeRelate. It is an impressive adaption of MediaWiki for genealogy use. It combines a collaborative family tree with family histories, local histories, biographies, research guides and so much more – all free and all user-generated. It’s quite amazing.

0 votes

V. Chris & Tom Tinney, Sr.

The Family Genealogy & History Internet Education Directory:
Scholarly mega site map of world wide Internet resources.

This site provides:
“Free Coverage of the Genealogy World in a Nutshell.”

0 votes

shkirman

This resource provides researchers with a safe place where they can focus on valuable and useful resources to conduct their research

0 votes

david

Shoot! Let’s try that again…

And don’t miss out on (freegenealogytools.blogspot.com) Free Genealogy Tools. It has some very useful and unusual resources.

0 votes

tribalpages

Build your Free Family Tree website online.

0 votes

tribalpages

Build your Free Family Tree website online.

0 votes

Keith

Is there a geneology site where you can just type in the name, date of birth and place of birth and get some information for FREE! I am really tired of going round in circles, being told its free and then at the last told “yes we have your information but you have to pay to see it”, I hate that sort of thing. Ancestry.com do it & keep popping up all the time!

0 votes

Travel South Africa

Wonderful resources for family historians.

0 votes

Ivana

Visit RootsSearch.net, Free Genealogy Email, Search, Data online and more.

0 votes

Marie Stephenson

you said free, did you mean just free search? cause all those sites will search through hell for free but if you want results it costs you your second child as payment. no such thing as free. if it was i wouldnt be here.