The best free genealogy websites
These free genealogy websites will help you start your family history research without costing a penny
The growth of the Internet has made it easier to research your family history than ever before, with thousands of genealogy websites to help you search the records and connect with fellow family historians. While it can be useful to join a family history website, you can still start your family tree without spending a penny, thanks to the thousands of records available on free genealogy websites.
The best free UK genealogy websites
FamilySearch is the world's largest free genealogy website with a global index of millions of births, marriages and deaths, plus millions of UK parish records and indexes to workhouse records, land tax assessments, school records, court books, manorial records and more. It also has a vast collection of international records including Caribbean records.
2. Free UK Genealogy
Free UK Genealogy, a non-profit organisation founded in 1998, are the leading free genealogy website for UK family history. Their free websites are FreeBMD (covering civil birth, marriage and death records); FreeREG (parish registers) and FreeCEN (census records). Each site offers millions of searchable record transcriptions, indexed by volunteers and completely free.
3. National Library of Wales
The leading free genealogy website for Welsh ancestry features 15 million articles from old newspapers printed in English and Welsh between 1804 and 1919, pre-1858 wills, gaol files for the Court of Great Sessions, tithe maps and applications for marriage licences.
4. Online Parish Clerks
Online Parish Clerks (OPC) are volunteer groups that create free genealogy websites with searchable transcriptions of records from their local parish. The link above takes you to a list of OPCs in England from the UKBMD website.
5. Find a Will
You can search lists of post-1858 wills for England and Wales on the government's free Find a Will genealogy website, with copies of the wills available for £1.50 each. The free search reveals details of the value of the estate, the date of death, address and who the executors were. Note that there have been problems with the website's search function since it was upgraded, however.
6. The National Archives
You can currently download a selection of The National Archives' online records for free, including Women’s Royal Naval Service officers’ First World War appointment registers, Coastguard records and Ministry of Health files about workhouse inmates and staff in series MH 12. The Discovery catalogue is also free to search and covers archives held in hundreds of records offices is great for discovering names attached to deeds, insurance records, bastardy orders and more.
7. National Library of Scotland
The leading free genealogy website for Scottish ancestry includes British military lists, old maps, searchable Scottish historical trade directories and genealogies of ancient Scottish families.
8. National Archives of Ireland
The leading free genealogy website for Irish ancestry holds the surviving Irish census records, Irish wills, First World War soldiers’ wills and the tithe applotment books of 1823–1837.
9. Public Record Office of Northern Ireland
The leading free genealogy website for Northern Irish family history holds Valuation Revision Books, street directories, freeholders’ records, war memorials, names on the Ulster Covenant and photographs.
10. Commonwealth War Graves Commission
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission database locates graves and memorials dedicated to service personnel and civilians who died in the First and Second World Wars.
11. The Gazette
The official journal of record has been scanned from 1665 to the present day, containing published lists of bankrupts, military personnel mentioned in despatches and probate notices.
GENUKI may not offer large datasets, like most of the other websites included here, but it is still an invaluable free resource for anyone researching UK or Irish genealogy. Maintained by an army of volunteers, it is packed with information on what records are available and where to find them.
13. Connected Histories
Hunt for ancestors who were clergy, Londoners, transported convicts, witnesses at the Old Bailey and learn more about where they lived with the Victoria County History, Survey of London and Charles Booth Archive also on this website.
14. The Digital Panopticon
This free genealogy website lets you search millions of records across a number of datasets covering London convicts in Britain and Australia from 1780 to 1925.
Discover the final resting place of your ancestors with this free site offering images and transcriptions of millions of cemeteries from around the world, photographed and transcribed by volunteers.
16. Find a Grave
Another site offering a vast free database of burials from across the globe.
Unlike BillionGraves and Find a Grave, this website is a strange combination of headstones transcribed by volunteers and cemetery records provided by local authorities and private organisations. Although the site doesn't include any images, it does have information not available elsewhere online.
18. Parliamentary Archives
The Parliamentary Archives has a few online resources, but the most useful record for anyone researching their English ancestors is the Protestation Returns. In 1642 the House of Commons required every adult male to swear allegiance to the Protestant religion. Although only about a third of records survive, these are the nearest to a census that we have for this period.
19. British History Online
Although the BHO website runs a subscription model for its premium content, there’s still plenty of useful material freely available here. From detailed county histories to the more obscure London hearth tax records for those who have managed to reach back to the 17th century.
20. The Internet Archive
This giant library of a website is such a mish-mash of material that it often gets overlooked by family historians. It has some obviously genealogical material, such as old published parish records, but it also has unusual material from archives around the globe, such as The Gazettes of India. It helps if you know what you are looking for but you can also try random searches on topics or areas. To see a sample of the kind of genealogical material available, have a look at texts uploaded by the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center.
21. General Register Office
The go-to place for ordering birth, marriage and death certificates for England and Wales, the site also has two very useful free indexes for births and deaths that include details not available on other indexes such as mother’s maiden name and age at death going back to 1837. You will need to select 'Order certificates online' and then register with the site or log in to find the indexes.
More like this
Although ScotlandsPeople is not strictly a free website, the information you can get from a free search is very good even without paying for the record image. So, if you are researching Scottish ancestors on a budget, don't rule it out.
As well as its useful gazetter of Scottish places, this website has an impressive collection of tax records that can help your 18th-century Scottish research, an array of maps and surveys, and Medical Officer of Health records for 1891.
24. Scottish Indexes
Although you have to pay to see the original records, the indexes here are free to search and contain fascinating detail. Record sets include mental-health institutions, criminal and court records, paternity and poor-relief records, and registers of property ownership.
25. Wellcome Collection
The website of this medical museum and library in Central London has plenty to offer family historians, although it is not the easiest website to navigate. As well as reports from local Medical Officers of Health that can give you a picture of the health of your forebear's area, a number of mental-health institutions have had their records digitised and made available here including Crichton Royal Hospital in Dumfries, Gartnavel Royal Hospital in Glasgow, The Retreat in York and Ticehurst House Hospital in East Sussex.