The best free family history records for the coronavirus outbreak

By Rosemary Collins, 3 April 2020 - 1:17pm

Take your family history research further as family history websites open up millions of records and articles during the coronavirus outbreak

Black and white photo of girl reading free family history records
Nine-year-old Sally Cole reads a book at Harrow Branch Library, Middlesex, January 1962 (Credit: Fred Morley/ Fox Photos/ Getty Images)


As the coronavirus crisis continues, most of us are largely confined to our homes and looking for fun and productive ways to keep busy. 

Luckily for family historians, many big and small records websites are helping us out by opening up records that would normally be paywalled.

Whether you're researching your family tree or just looking to learn more about how our ancestors lived, don't miss our list of the best records, courses and other resources available online for free.


Ancestry libraries coronavirus
Check your local library for free access to Ancestry's online library edition

Ancestry Library edition
Many local libraries are now offering free home access to Ancestry's library edition via their websites. Google '(Your local library service) Ancestry libraries' to find out if it applies to you.

TheGenealogist is offering a free First Steps package, with three months of access to records including the General Register Office birth, marriage and death certificates from 1837 to 2005 and the 1891, 1901 and 1911 England and Wales censuses.

British History Online
British History Online has made all its records free to access, including the Calendar of Close Rolls (1244 to 1509) and the Calendar of State Papers Domestic (1547 to 1704).

Isle of Man newspapers
All Isle of Man digital newspaper collections are now free online

Manx National Heritage
Manx National Heritage, the National Heritage Agency for the Isle of Man, has announced free access to its digital newspaper collection. You can explore the Isle of Man's history from 1792 to 1960 in the most complete Isle of Man archive available.

MyHeritage In Color
To help family historians entertain themselves during the coronavirus outbreak, MyHeritage is offering free unlimited access to its photo colourisation tool, MyHeritage In Color, until 23 April. Colourise as many black and white photographs as you like to discover what your ancestors originally looked like.

MyHeritage is also running a competition - share your newly colourised photographs on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter with #ColorBeatsCoronavirusBlues, tagging @MyHeritage, and eack week, the best entry will win a free MyHeritage Complete subscription.

Find out how to use MyHeritage In Color with our guide.

Society for One-Place Studies
The Society for One-Place Studies - described as 'where family history and local history unite' - are offering the latest issue of their quarterly journal, Destinations, free of charge. Have a read and discover how you can research the places where your ancestors lived!


American Ancestors
American Ancestors, the website of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, have made their digital collections free to access. Discover your New England ancestors in city directories, family history books, local history books and more.


Ontario History Journal
If your ancestors emigrated to Ontario, Canada, don't miss this opportunity to discover more about the province's history with free back issues of the Ontario History Journal. The 2005 to 2018 issues are available under open access through digital scholarly publisher Érudit.


London Topographical Society
All the London Topographical Society's newsletters are now available to read for free. The archive dates back to 1975 and is packed with fascinating information about the history of London's buildings.

Fast x Slow Fashion
Following the closure of their museums, Leeds Museums and Galleries have put their exhibition Fast x Slow Fashion online. Explore the history of clothes shopping in Leeds, from 1720 to today's 'fast fashion', with a dazzling collection of photographs, illustrations and information.






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