As the world turns its attention to London for this summer’s Olympic Games, you might find yourself fantasizing about exploring the United Kingdom—or at least your roots in England, Scotland or Wales. Luckily, genealogists don’t have to pony up for a plane ticket or even scroll through microfilm to find ancestor answers: You can take advantage of the many free and fee-based websites offering UK records. Start with our picks for the best new and expanded British record collections. (A “$” indicates a paid-access website.)
Ancestry.com has transcriptions linked to digital images of all the decennial census records of England and Wales from 1841 to 1911. (The company recently finished indexing the 1911 census.) You’ll also find transcriptions (but no record images) of all the Scottish censuses from 1841 to 1901.
Click UK and Ireland under Browse by Location to access indexes to all English and Welsh censuses from 1841 to 1911. The 1841 to 1871 indexes are supplied by and link to images on findmypast; to view them, you’ll need to pay for that service. You have to look at the images to see other household members. This summer, FamilySearch.org added indexes to Scottish censuses from 1841 to 1891. The index entries don’t link to record images or provide information on other household members.
Access transcriptions of English and Welsh censuses from 1841 to 1911, linked to record images. Previously, findmypast.co.uk had released transcriptions of the Scottish census for 1841 to 1881; this year, the site added 1891 and 1901.
The Genealogist recently added the 1911 census of England and Wales, completing its collection of English and Welsh census records back to 1841, all with transcriptions linked to record images. The 1911 census shows how long a couple was married, and The Genealogist conveniently links that information to marriage records.
A subscription gives you access to all 1841 to 1901 English and Welsh census records with indexes linked to images.
Ancestry.com’s civil registration indexes for England and Wales cover births and marriages from 1916 to 2005 and deaths from 1916 to 2006. You can also search (for free) the FreeBMD indexes of births from 1864 to 1958 and marriages and deaths from 1837 to 1915.
Volunteers have transcribed more than 217 million index entries for births, marriages and deaths so you can search them for free here. Coverage is mostly complete from 1837 through the 1950s.
The Genealogist’s civil registration indexes cover 1900 to 2005 births, 1837 to 2005 marriages and 1984 to 2005 deaths. The indexes cover the mother’s maiden name so you can identify a person’s potential parents and siblings. You also can browse images of the original index pages back to 1837.
Access indexes of births, marriages and deaths from 1855 to 2009. You also can view records of births from 1855 to 1911, marriages 1855 to 1936, and deaths 1855 to 1961.
Ancestry.com now has more than 50 million British parish records and recently added London and Surrey marriage records from 1597 to 1921.
Find more than 100 million English and Welsh parish registers—mostly birth, christening and marriage records, plus some death and burial records. The records span 1538 to 2010 and cover several counties, including a large collection for Cheshire. Scottish records, including some new records not previously published online, now total 9.4 million births and baptisms from 1564 to 1950 and 2 million marriages from 1561 to 1910.
Findmypast.co.uk has more than 46 million UK parish records. Additions this year include 1.3 million parish records from Westminster, London, from 1538 to 1945, and 3.5 million records from Plymouth and Devon from 1538 to 1911. Add to that all Welsh parish records dating back to 1538 and extending forward to 1911 for baptisms, 1926 for marriages and 2007 for burials.
The Genealogist has parish records from 43 counties across England, Scotland and Wales, including almost 3 million names added this year.
ScotlandsPeople has indexed Church of Scotland records of birth, christening, marriage, death and burial from 1538 to 1854, plus some Catholic records.
You can search more than 5 million pages from 200-plus newspapers published in the United Kingdom and Ireland in the 18th and 19th centuries. Up to 40 million newspaper pages from the British Library will be added over the next 10 years. Fees start at about $11 to view 100 pages. Just by registering you get three free page views.
This collection consists of thousands of pages of scarce British and Irish newspapers and other publications, most of which were printed between 1710 and 1870. Most papers require a payment to view, typically about $5.
The National Probate Calendar recently expanded to cover 1858 to 1966. It indexes most English and Welsh wills and probate records from that period.
The 1462-to-1911 Probate and Wills Records Collection covers several counties, with 113,000 wills and probate records from Cheshire added in April.
Search and view more than 190,000 wills and administrations proved in Wales prior to 1858. If you have Welsh ancestry, this is a tremendous resource—and it’s free.