If you're just getting started researching your family history, you may feel hesitant to shell out money for the pricey monthly or annual subscription fees charged by many ancestry websites. Luckily, if you know where to look, you will be able to find many resources on the Internet offering comparable historical record databases free of charge. The following are some of the most useful free genealogy resources.
Purported to be the world's largest genealogy organisation, FamilySearch is a service provided by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints as an online extension of their Family History Library located in Salt Lake City, Utah. The website does not require any registration and it allows users to search historical records from all over the world, including many of the same birth, death, marriage, military and census records that can be found on paid genealogy sites.
A division of Ancestry.com, RootsWeb is a free online community that allows family history researchers to collaborate and share what they know. The site contains user-submitted family trees from all over the world that can be used to jump-start your research; it also includes forums containing information on specific family surnames, as well as access to the Social Security Death Index, a searchable database that includes nearly everyone who has died in the United States from 1962 to the present day.
In addition to census records, HeritageQuest Online offers a fully searchable catalogue of local and family history books and periodicals. While the site does not require users to register or pay a membership fee, you must have a library card with a participating library in order to access the database. Many libraries offer free access to HeritageQuest Online from in-house computers, and, in most cases, you will also be able to gain remote access from home by entering your library card number on the site.
Find A Grave
Gravestone inscriptions can be an invaluable resource for the family historian, and Find A Grave has many of them available online. Users are able to search by name, location or cemetery to find the gravestones of ancestors, which can provide information on birth and death dates that you may have not been able to find by searching vital records. Many old grave markers also included the names of spouses or children.
Google Books and Google News
Google's ever-expanding database of old books and periodicals includes newspapers, city directories and local histories from all over the world. By using these resources to search for your ancestors' names, you may learn that your great-grandfather was a town selectman or find an ad for his business in an old newspaper. You can also find obituaries and marriage and birth announcements that often list the names of other immediate family members, which can help fill in the gaps in your research.