You know the old saying, “You get what you pay for”, which usually refers to the quality of inexpensive deals. Well, when it comes to searching the Internet for free genealogy information, this just doesn’t apply.
That’s not to say that pay-sites are a waste of money. You can often find what you want a lot quicker at these websites. But if you are willing to put in the time, you can find a LOT on free genealogy sites and databases. Going the free route is particularly appealing to those new to genealogy.
Here are a few of the more helpful free genealogy sites for your browsing pleasure. These are usually pretty large and general. You’ll find that as you learn more about your family, more specific sites may be more helpful (French-Canadian genealogy, or Scandinavian genealogy for example).
RootsWeb’s WorldConnect Project – A huge database of user-submitted family trees (using GEDCOM files). The search capabilities are pretty detailed, so you can really do a narrow search for the exact person you are looking for. Currently, there are more than 450 million individuals recorded in this database.
Family Search – Genealogical data collected by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS Church). Don’t let the church affiliation fool you. There are vital records for millions of people in their databases and not just Mormons. Read more about the LDS Church’s genealogy connection.
Ellis Island Passenger Records – Unless you have Native American heritage, you’re going to come across a point in your search when your ancestors immigrated. If you live in the United States, that means your relatives likely came via Ellis Island. You can search passenger lists and see ship manifests.
Cyndi’s List – Not a database like the previously mentioned sites, but probably the largest collection of genealogy-related links there is. You will be able to find the most specific or obscure website you could possibly need. A great resource.
GenForum – Sometimes your next best lead will come from a complete stranger who happens to have the information you need. The GenForum message boards cover a huge number of surnames, and people post their needs in hopes that someone else can help. Excellent for genealogy networking.
GenCircles – Another collection of user-submitted family trees. They have ‘smartmatching’ which can help you find connection between people in your tree and others in their database.
Internment.net – A collection of thousands of cemetery transcriptions, mainly for the US but there are records for Canada, Australia, UK and more. You can learn a lot from gravestone inscriptions. You can sign up for their RSS feed, to see when new cemetery records are added.
1901 Census of England and Wales Online – You can search through the records from the 1901 UK census, containing more than 32 million people. Searching is free, and you can see the transcribed record for free. But there is a small fee if you want to see or download the scanning document image.
SSDI Interactive Search – The Social Security Death Index (SSDI) is an American database of more than 77 million people, with birth and death dates. Places of residence are often included as well, since the database exists as part of the Social Security benefits system. You can use this database to also find a person’s SS number, which can make future vital records searches easier. You can access the database through various sites, and this link is through the popular Rootsweb site.
GeneaNet – Originally a French ancestry site, GeneaNet is now the home of many worldwide databases and indexes. You can search more than 85 million names. You may need to register to access some searches, but it’s free to do so.
There are by no means all the good free websites available. But there is more information in these sites to keep you busy for a long while.