There are many ways to find your ancestors free. Whether you are just starting out or a seasoned researcher, you'll find there are many places to look and hunt for those elusive family members.
If you are just beginning your genealogy research, there are a lot of ways to get started for free. You can find free online printable forms to start organizing your tree. You should then start talking to relatives. Ask parents, grandparents, cousins, and anyone else about your family history. Your own relatives are some of the best sources for genealogical work, and talking to relatives is free! Take good notes, and write all dates down. You may also encounter a relative who may have already done a lot of your research for you.
Another way that you can get started for free is by taking a genealogy class. You'll find these classes at libraries, historical societies, and genealogy groups. Some colleges and universities will also offer adult extension classes on genealogy for free. If you learn how to do effective research, and you'll save time, money, and a lot of frustration.
Sources of Free Research Offline
You need not spend money on expensive subscriptions when there are sources available for no cost. You just need to know where to go.
Libraries and Archives
Almost every local library has a genealogy section of books, periodicals, and reference materials. Many also subscribe to online subscription services which patrons may use for free. You can also ask for help from the librarian and request information through the interlibrary loan service. Best of all, libraries are free.
Family History Centers
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS), also known as the Mormon Church, has extensive genealogical holdings through its Family History Library in Salt Lake City. Many local LDS churches have smaller genealogical libraries as well, called Family History Centers (FHC). You do not have to be a member of the LDS church to research in an FHC, nor does it cost any money to research there. The FHC have a variety of books and microfilms that you can use. You can find a listing of FHC at the Family Search website.
Genealogists rely a great deal on official government documents to trace their family tree. In the United States, the county courthouse is the usual repository for many important documents, including:
- Marriage licenses
- Death certificates
- Wills and probate
- Land records
- Naturalization documents
- Divorce records
- Birth certificates
County courthouses are open to the public, and researching there is free.
Find Your Ancestors Free at Cemeteries
The final resting place of our ancestors is also a major source for genealogical information. In a cemetery, you can find important dates of birth and death. You may also find relationship information on tombstones, as well as the maiden name of a woman. By looking at who is buried in the same plot, you may find new clues as to other family members. Browsing through a cemetery costs nothing and can be a wonderful experience.
Free Sources Online
The Internet abounds with genealogy sites. While some do charge a subscription, others are free. Here is but a sampling of more general interest genealogy sites that are free:
- USGenWeb, a volunteer website, has individual sites for every county and state in the United States.
- RootsWeb has searchable family trees and databases.
- National Archives and Records Administration, the national record keeper, has searchable databases on military records and immigration records and browseable lists of Native American history.
- Genealogy forums, such as GenForum, are a place where posters can ask for help and seek information.
- Cyndi's List is a website index of genealogy sites on the web. Each listing states if the site charges a fee. There are hundreds of thousands of sites on Cyndi's List, categorized alphabetically, by topic and by geographical location.
You can find your ancestors free both online and offline. Keep looking and use a little creativity, and you will be able to trace your family tree.