Even subscription-based genealogy websites make select databases accessible for free. Here’s how to find them:
Ancestry.com has more than 1,800 free databases, many created or indexed in partnership with other organizations. You’ll need to create a free guest account to access them. Then visit the Free Index Collections search page or search the card catalog for the keyword free (you can add words like Civil War or Ohio to focus your search).
Registering for a guest membership at Findmypast unlocks some 850 million free records, such as US censuses, US and Canadian public records and 10 million Irish Catholic parish records. Find links at the site’s Free Records landing page.
This site from Ancestry.com has more than 70 free databases of records, many of them military-focused, including War of 1812 Pension Files (incomplete) and Bounty-Land Warrant Applications Index. Look for the green “Free” icons by collection titles in the Fold3 content listing.
Free offerings here include the huge Compilation of Published Sources collection, the Social Security Death Index and BillionGraves burial index. This site doesn’t gather links to freebies in one spot; instead, find the aforementioned databases in the site’s new Collection Catalog. Or, run a SuperSearch and use the search filters on the left to drill down to results from the database you want.
Great news! You may be able to access institutional versions of these subscription sites for free at your local library or FamilySearch Center. Check the website or make a quick call and ask.