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50 Free Genealogy Databases (on Subscription Websites)
3/3/2016
Just like the grocery store tempts you with those yummy free tastes, genealogy websites offer tantalizing freebies to whet your research appetite. Try these 50 delicious databases for free!
Have you ever gone to the grocery store on a Saturday just to enjoy the free samples? They’re actually one of the most lucrative marketing strategies around. Shoppers love free food and discovering new goodies. The companies providing the treats love the attention (and extra sales).
 
Subscription genealogy websites—where annual costs of membership can add up—offer similar freebies to nonsubscribing visitors. Anyone can browse the virtual aisles of these sites and snack on “free sample” databases. Some databases include indexed images, and some indexes link to images (sometimes free, sometimes fee-based) at other websites.
 
We’ve scoured the web and contacted website insiders to find paid sites’ free databases that are most useful for Family Tree Magazine readers. Some of the databases have a narrow focus—such as a single city—while others contain millions of records. Several are free to search on multiple sites. But searching a bunch of databases simultaneously from a major genealogy website makes for a one-stop shopping experience with powerful, flexible search interfaces. And you probably wouldn’t have stumbled across those records on another site, anyway (just like you wouldn’t have tried that exotic organic yogurt unless someone handed it to you in a Dixie cup).
 
In making our selections, we prioritized collections that connect you to digital record images, but several handy index-only collections are included as well. In most cases, you’ll need to register or log in with a free account on the subscription website in order to access the databases (and especially any associated images). Happy snacking—but be warned, these free samples may leave you hungry for full access to these websites.
 

Find Your Freebies

Target your online searches to specific databases—like the fabulous 50 freebies mentioned here—by pulling up a search box for just that database. For just about any database mentioned here, enter its title and the name of the genealogy website in your web browser (such as 1880 US census ancestry). A link to that database should appear among top results. Or start with the site’s home page and follow these steps:
  • AmericanAncestors: Roll over Browse and select Databases. Either page ahead to select the collection you want from the alphabetized list or enter a title keyword to filter by database name.
  • Ancestry.com: Roll over Search and select Card Catalog. Enter the name of the database in the Title field or a couple of keywords in the Keywords fields (the Keywords field requires less precision).
  • Findmypast.com: Click Search, then you can either select a records category and drill down to the right database, or select A-Z of Record Sets, then filter, search and/or scroll until you find the database you want.
  • Fold3: Click Browse Military Records. Select the war of interest, then choose the database title under Publications (you’ll clearly see the ones marked “Free”).
  • MyHeritage: Go to the SuperSearch page. Use the category filters on the right to drill down to the database you want.
  • WorldVitalRecords: Click View All Collections, then either filter by location or scroll down to browse all collections.

Pantry staples: US genealogy records

1880 US Census 
Available on Ancestry.com
The 1880 US census was the first to include individuals’ relationships to the head of household. The census forms also provide each person’s name, sex, race, marital status, birthplace, parents’ birthplace, occupation and more. Search results link to record images.
 
1940 US Census
Available on Ancestry.com, Archives.com, Findmypast, MyHeritage
The most recent extant US census is also searchable for free. You can search more than 134 million records by name, as well as location, birth year, family member, keyword, relation to head of household, marital status, street, occupation, gender and more. Results link to record images.
 
US Naturalization Records
Available on WorldVitalRecords
This database is essentially an index to several groups of National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) naturalization records from Maryland, southern California, eastern New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Louisiana. Matches provide the person’s name, birth country, NARA publication number and title, as well as the type of document (declaration of intent or petition for naturalization). This information links to record images on Fold3, where you’ll need a subscription to view them.
 
US Social Security Death Index (SSDI)
Available on AmericanAncestors, Ancestry.com, Archives.com, Findmypast, MyHeritage, WorldVitalRecords
If your ancestor had a Social Security number and passed away more than three years ago, he or she may be included in this index (most entries are for deaths after 1962). Indexed entries may include the person’s name, birth date, death date, last residence, Social Security number and when/where it was issued. As you can see, most genealogy websites have free SSDI indexes, but some may be updated more frequently than others, even with older data.
 

Local flavors: Regional, state and city resources

AK: Fairbanks, Alaska Cemetery Records
Available on Ancestry.com
Search this index to cemetery records by name, birth date, death date and keyword. The database contains 5,600 names of people who were buried during the 20th century at Fairbanks’ Clay Street and Birch Hill cemeteries.
 
CA: California Birth Index, 1905-1995
Available on Ancestry.com
Covering more than 24.5 million births in California, this database lets you search the index by name, birth date, birthplace and mother’s maiden name.
 
CA: California Mortuary and Cemetery Records, 1801-1932
Available on Ancestry.com
Search results link to digital images of index cards with vital records information. The collection covers nearly 50,000 records from books covering northern California, as well as San Francisco, El Dorado and Tehama County cemeteries. Content varies by card, but typically includes the deceased’s name, birthplace, age, birth date, death date, location of death and location of burial.
 
LA: Louisiana Freed Slave Records, 1719-1820
Available on Ancestry.com
Search more than 4,000 records of slaves from Louisiana who were legally emancipated. Information was extracted from various sources and archives. Search results may include the document date, slave’s name, slaveholder’s name, who freed the slave, reasons for manumission, if payment was made to free the slave and more. Sometimes family relationships of freed slaves are included.
 
MA: The Boston Jewish Advocate Wedding Announcements, 1905-2007
Available on Ancestry.com
A search of this index turns up summaries of wedding notices, and may include the bride and groom’s names, parents’ names and residence, as well as the date the notice was published. To view the original announcement, locate a copy of the appropriate newspaper at a library, archive or website.
 
MA: Gloucester, MA: Burials in Gloucester Cemeteries
Available on AmericanAncestors.org
This database gives you access to more than 2,200 cemetery records from 1720 to 2003 from nine Gloucester, Mass., cemeteries. Search results provide a transcript of the record, including the person’s name, cemetery location and age at time of death.
 
MA: Massachusetts Society of the Cincinnati
Available on AmericanAncestors
This database isn’t about the city in Ohio. Rather, membership in the Society of the Cincinnati was open to officers of the Continental Army, Navy and Marines, as well as officers of the French Army and Navy who fought with the American Army during the Revolutionary War. Massachusetts officers eligible to join the society are included in this database. Where available, under Original Text in search results, click the Show/Hide Text link to see the record transcript, which includes a biographical sketch of the society member.
 
New England: New England Ancestors Magazine
Available on AmericanAncestors
This magazine was published by the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) from 2000 to 2009. Ancestors may be mentioned in case studies, research how-to articles, announcements of genealogies in progress, DNA studies and descriptions of items from NEHGS’ manuscript collection. On the search form, use the Keywords field if you’re looking for a particular article title. Use the fields for first and last name to see if your ancestors were mentioned in any magazine issues. Search results show images of magazine pages.
 
NV: Nevada Marriages, 1860-1987 
Available on Ancestry.com
Most records in this index come from county courthouse records and four Episcopal churches. If your ancestor’s county is included (not all are), you can use the information—bride and groom names, marriage date, marriage location and source of the indexed information—to locate or request an original copy of the source listed.
 
NY: New York Marble Cemetery Records, NYC, 1830-1937
Available on Ancestry.com
According to Ancestry.com, New York Marble Cemetery is “the oldest extant nonsectarian cemetery in New York City” and has never had headstones. Indexed entries of the 2,090 burials provide the person’s name, birth year, burial date and vault number.
 
NY: New York Wills, 1626-1828
Available on AmericanAncestors
More than 24,000 names recorded in wills in New York between 1626 and 1836 are searchable here. Search results include images of original book pages. Listings typically include the deceased person’s name, his wife and/or heir’s name, and the names of children and the executor or witnesses to the will. Some listings also may mention property holdings or other information.
 
PA: Pennsylvania Archives
Available on Fold3
Search a variety of documents compiled in series of volumes published in the 1800s. The volumes include colonial records, military rolls, tax lists, church records, land boundary disputes and more. The collection contains nearly 118,000 records.
 
PA: Philadelphia Bank Immigrant Passage Records, 1890-1949
Available on Ancestry.com
This database provided in partnership with JewishGen has approximately 139,000 records of immigrants who received assistance paying for their passage to America. If you find your ancestor in this index, you can request a copy of the record from the Philadelphia Jewish Archives Center or view the record on microfilm from the Family History Library (FHL).
 
RI: Rhode Island Roots
Available on AmericanAncestors
Each issue of this newsletter-turned-quarterly journal from the Rhode Island Genealogical Society contains at least one compiled genealogy, as well as transcriptions of original sources and indices to various genealogical records. Search by name to find specific ancestors or surnames, or use the Keywords field to search article titles. Results show newsletter/journal pages.
SC: South Carolina Estate Inventories and Bills of Sale, 1732-1872
Available on Fold3
If you have ancestors (free or enslaved) from Charleston, this database of more than 34,000 records could be worth a search. It contains images of estate inventories used for probate and tax purposes, as well as bills of sales and other related court records. Those searching for enslaved ancestors should also search by slaveholder’s name, as the slave’s name may not have been indexed yet.
 
TX: Houston Chronicle Obituaries, 1901-1905
Available on Ancestry.com
This index contains the name of the deceased, death date, age at death, obituary date and section and page of the obituary. To see the actual obituary, use the index information to locate a copy of the newspaper in print or on microfilm.
 
UT: Utah Cemetery Inventory
Available on Ancestry.com
Search more than 350,000 burial records of Utah residents, including early Mormon pioneers.
 
WA: Washington, Marriage Records, 1865-2004
Available on Ancestry.com
Some search results in this database of more than 4.3 million marriage records contain associated record images.
 
Tasty Rations: Military Records American Battle Monuments Commission
Available on Fold3
More than 242,000 records cover individuals with ties to 24 overseas military cemeteries and 25 other memorials. Results take you to individual memorial pages.
 
Bounty-Land Warrants Applications Index
Available on Fold3
Indexed are hundreds of thousands of bounty-land warrant applications for soldiers who served in the War of 1812, Indian Wars and the Mexican War. You may find information about the soldier’s rank, military unit, year(s) of service, state, warrant number and whether the application was approved.
 
Index of Revolutionary War Pensioners
Available on AmericanAncestors
This index includes approximately 80,000 pension and bounty-land warrant application files for soldiers and sailors of the Revolutionary War. Most records date from 1800 to 1900. The database is provided on AmericanAncestors in collaboration with Fold3. Search results provide a Fold3 ID number, pension number, names of individuals included on the record and state. To access the full digitized application file, subscribe to Fold3 and use the Revolutionary War Pensions database.
 
Korean War Casualties
Available on Fold3
These records include more than 27,727 Army personnel who died and more than 82,000 Army personnel who were injured during the Korean War. Records include prisoners of war and soldiers missing in action. Records include the soldier’s name, service grade and branch, place and date of casualty, type of casualty, year of birth, state and county of residence, unit number, race and more.
 
Medal of Honor Recipients, 1863-2013
Available on Fold3
If your ancestor received this prestigious award, he may be in this database of more than 3,400 individuals. You may find the recipient’s name, rank, organization and perhaps, personal data.
 
Navy and Marine Corp Officers, 1775-1900
Available on Fold3
Records here include the officer’s name, service dates, rank and death date. The 25,000-plus records were compiled by the Navy Department and published in 1901. Results include record images.
 
Revolutionary War Pension Records
Available on WorldVitalRecords
Search pension and bounty-land warrant application files for men who fought in the Revolutionary War. The 11.7-­million name database covers files from 1800 to 1900. Search results provide a basic transcription; viewing record images requires a subscription to Fold3.com. There’s also an option to browse the record index/transcriptions.
 
Service Records of Confederate Soldiers
Available on WorldVitalRecords
Search this index for information on ancestors who served in the Confederate army during the Civil War. Records here cover individuals from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. Viewing record images requires a Fold3 subscription.
 
War of 1812 Pension Files
Available on Fold3
Nearly 2 million records include full pension application files for soldiers and sailors, widows and children. Applications may include key genealogical data such as the serviceman’s rank, residence, age or date of birth, and time of service. A widow’s application may include her residence, maiden name, date and place of marriage, names of children and circumstances of her husband’s death.
 
World War II Army Enlistment Records
Available on Fold3
Another hefty database on Fold3.com, this collection contains more than 8.8 million records of men and women who enlisted in the Army during World War II, including records from the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps. The information may contain the enlistee’s residence, education, enlistment date and location, military specialty and even his or her height and weight.
 

Ethnic fare: Immigration and international records

1851 Scotland Census Extract
Available on MyHeritage
Search more than 224,000 records by name, birth date and place, residence and keywords. Results provide a record transcription with the person’s name, age, birth and death information, names of individuals who lived in the household, marital status and source information. Similar free indexes exist for Scotland’s 1841 and 1861 censuses.
 
1930 Mexico National Census
Available on Ancestry.com
Search more than 12.8 million records to find a person’s name, age, head of household, birthplace, marital status, religion, occupation, address and more. View record images (in Spanish) from your search results for free. Note that records for the Distrito Federal (Mexico City) aren’t included.

American Colonization Society
Available on Fold3
This Washington, D.C.-based society was established in 1817 for free people of color living in the United States. The society sent free African-Americans to Africa, often to Liberia. This database has more than 347,000 records from the society, including letters, news clippings and annual reports. Search results link to record images.
 
Amistad Federal Court Records
Available on Fold3
This is an index to court proceedings related to the schooner Amistad, which the US government seized in 1839. The ship had been illegally transporting kidnapped Africans to sell as slaves, but the Africans revolted, won control of the ship and were ultimately freed. Search results link to record images.
 
Australia Convict Index, 1788-1868
Available on Fold3
More than 160,000 people were forcibly transported to Australia from the British Isles and colonies after being convicted of crimes. This index of nearly 50,000 names was compiled from several sources. It includes the convict’s name, age or birth year, birthplace or place of trial, occupation, marital status, ship and arrival year.
 
Brandenburg, Prussia Emigration Records
Available on Ancestry.com
This index to more than 61,000 names is a great collection to search if your ancestors emigrated from Germany to the United States in the 1800s and early 1900s. Search results show the emigrant’s name, age, estimated birth year, place of origin, destination and year of emigration. It also includes the person’s “standing” (such as occupation or relationships). Your search results may help you locate original records on microfilm.
 
Canadian Headstones
Available on MyHeritage
Search this database of more than 951,000 records by name, birth year, death year and place, and keywords. Results show a headstone photo, burial information, birth and death dates, and a link to view the full record on the free Canadian­Headstones.com site.
 
Dachau Entry Registers
Available on Fold3
Search this collection for more than 150,000 prisoners held at Nazi concentration camps in Dachau and Flossenburg, as well as records in Mauthausen Death Books. Records may include prisoner names, serial numbers and other details.
 
England & Wales Free BMD Indexes 
Available on Ancestry.com
Here you’ll find three free, separate indexes to English and Welsh civil registration records for births, marriages and deaths. All cover records from 1837 to 1915.
 
Irish Immigrant Advertisements in Boston, 1831-1920
Available on AmericanAncestors
Approximately 45,000 advertisements were published in the Boston Pilot newspaper beginning in 1831 by friends or family in search of “missing friends.” Records are searchable by first or last name and last known residence. They may also include name, place of origin, ship and immigration route and may mention family relationships or “missing person’s” circumstances. Search for dates after the immigrant’s arrival in the United States in the Years search field. Results link to record images.
 
JewishGen Online World Burial Registry
Available on Ancestry.com
More than a million records in this database contain information on burial records and specific cemeteries. The free data is provided courtesy of a partnership with the JewishGen website.
 
Lithuania, Birth Records from Various Towns, 1822-1940
Available on Ancestry.com
This index to about 20,000 birth records from 20 Lithuanian towns contains the child’s name, parents’ names (including mother’s maiden name), date of birth, Hebrew date of birth, place of birth, place registered and comments. Original records are on microfilm at the FHL.
 
Netherlands Burial Records
Available on MyHeritage
Covering more than 1.6 million photographed and indexed gravestones from the Netherlands, your search results here provide the deceased’s birth, death and burial information, along with a link to the full record on the Graftombe.nl website.
 
Online Familieberichten (Dutch Death Notices)
Available on MyHeritage
Search more than 1 million death announcements from national newspapers, prayer cards and funeral cards. Search results provide a transcription with the person’s name, birth date, death date and location and age at time of death. Results also provide a link to the full information (which may include burial and spouse information) available on the free Online Familieberichten website. When image scans of records are available, you can request volunteers who run the Online Familieberichten website to email you a scan (which is also free).
 
Piotrków Trybunalski, Poland Births, 1808-1875
Available on MyHeritage
Access more than 27,000 Jewish birth records from Piotrków Trybunalski, Poland. According to MyHeritage, alternate names for this location are Petrokov, Petrikau and Piotrkow. Search results provide a transcription of the record, including the person’s name, gender, birth year and parents’ names. MyHeritage also has similar databases (though with fewer individuals included) for marriages from 1808 to 1870 and deaths from 1808 to 1888.
 
Poland, Jewish Records Indexing–Poland Birth Records, 1550-1993
Available on Ancestry.com
Find birth information such as year of birth registration, town, parents’ names and more in this index to more than 600,000 birth records on microfilm at the FHL. Use the microfilm number in your search results to request the film from the FHL.
 
Scotland, Selected Births & Baptisms, 1640-1860
Available on MyHeritage
The information in this index includes more than 19,000 records, which come largely from parish registers in the 17th through 19th centuries. Search by the ancestor’s name, birth/baptism year and place, father’s name, mother’s name and keywords. Similar databases exist for Scotland marriages and banns (c. 1650-c.1855) and deaths and burials.
 
Slave Registers of Former British Colonial Dependencies, 1813-1834
Available on Ancestry.com
After Britain outlawed the transport of African slaves to its colonies in 1807, many of the colonies began to register the “lawfully enslaved” (who arrived before the trade became illegal). This database holds information on nearly 3 million slaves in Britain’s Caribbean, Central American, African and other colonies. You may learn the slave’s given name, age, gender and nationality, as well as the slaveholder’s name and place of residence. Results link to record images.
 
 
Tip: Many subscription sites offer free access to additional databases during holiday weekends or special anniversaries of historic events. Sign up for email notifications or follow the sites you want to search on social media to learn when special offers of free access are available.
 

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From the March/April 2016 Family Tree Magazine 
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