I’m happy to pay for something of value to me, and subscription genealogy sites are worth their weight in old records to a genealogist who can’t spend a lot of time or money renting and scrolling microfilm, or traveling to repositories around the country. Or one who wouldn’t be able to unearth family information without the benefit of a name search.
But I also need to watch my pennies just as much as the next person, so I really appreciate it when the genealogy information or tool I need is available for free. You might be surprised to find that Ancestry.com has some very useful free tools.
You’ll need free guest registration to access these free features. A guest registration doesn’t require entering a credit card number (and it’s different from a free trial, which does require payment information).
- You can create your family tree and upload records from your computer to your ancestors’ profiles. (Viewing those “shaky leaf” hints, though, is a subscriber benefit.)
- You can use the Family History Wiki, which has the text from two genealogy reference books that were published by Ancestry: The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy and Red Book: American State, County and Town Sources.
- You can search and post on the message boards, which exist for surnames, places and topics (such as Cemeteries, Spanish-American War, etc.).
- You can search and view transcribed information from select free indexes. Many indexes were created by the World Archives Project, Ancestry.com’s volunteer indexing program. Others might be provided in partnership with another organization, or are “web records” that link to a third-party website. You can view record images for free in a few databases, such as the 1880 and 1940 US censuses, but most of the time, a guest user who clicks to view a record image will get a prompt to subscribe. Click here to search Ancestry.com’s Free Index Collections.
- You can use Ancestry Library Edition at a library, if one near you offers it, to access most of the records on Ancestry.com. Notable exceptions include the Passenger and Immigration Lists Index (especially helpful for finding early immigrants; many genealogy libraries have older, printed versions of this index) and the Periodical Source Index (which indexes genealogical journals and magazines).
If you do have an Ancestry.com subscription, or you’re thinking about subscribing, our How to Maximize Ancestry.com week-long online workshop (July 24-31) will show you how to get the full value out of your investment. See a workshop program and sign up at Family Tree University.