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50 Free Genealogy Records On Subscription Websites

By Dana McCullough Premium

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How to Find Free Records at Each Site
Free US Genealogy Records
Free State Genealogy Records
Free Military Records
Free Immigration and International Records
Other Free Features on Subscription Sites
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Annual costs of membership to Ancestry, MyHeritage and other genealogy websites can add up. But by looking in the right place, you can sneak up on several free collections for non-subscribing visitors. Some include indexed images, and others have indexes that link to images (sometimes free, sometimes fee-based) at other websites.

We’ve gone undercover and scoured the web to find the paid sites’ most useful free collections. Some have a narrow focus—such as a single city—while others contain millions of records. Several are free to search on multiple sites.

In making our selections, we prioritized collections that connect you to digital record images or record transcriptions, 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 to access the databases (and especially any associated images).

How to Find Free Records at Each Site

AmericanAncestors

Select Only Free Databases underneath the search bar. This will return just results that you can view without a subscription.

Ancestry

The search form at the top of the page allows you to search all free collections at once.

FindMyPast

View a summary of free collections here.

Fold3

Select the military conflict you’re studying (from Browse Military Records on the main menu). You’ll see a list of databases in the Publications column; free collections have a green “Free” tag.

MyHeritage

Free record collections are marked with a green “Free” tag.

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Magnifying glass and text, "Free US Genealogy Records."

Free US Genealogy Records

1880 US Census

Ancestry | FindMyPast

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’ birthplaces, occupation and more. Search results link to record images.

1940 US Census

Ancestry | FindMyPast

The most recent extant US census is also searchable for free. Search more than 134 million records by name, as well as location, birth year, family member, keyword, relation to head of household, marital status, occupation and more. Results link to record images.

U.S., Naturalization Records, 1840–1957

Ancestry

This collection links you to images of naturalization records, mostly Declarations of Intention and Petitions for Naturalization from Alaska, Arizona, California, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia.

US Social Security Death Index (SSDI)

AmericanAncestors | FindMyPast | GenealogyBank | MyHeritage

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.

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Free State Genealogy Records

Alaska

Ancestry: Fairbanks, Alaska Cemetery Records

Search this index to cemetery records by name, birth date, death date and keyword. The database contains 5,600 names of people buried during the 20th century at Fairbanks’ Clay Street and Birch Hill Cemeteries.

California

Ancestry: California Mortuary and Cemetery Records, 1801–1932

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.

Louisiana

Ancestry: Louisiana Freed Slave Records, 1719–1820

Search more than 4,000 records of slaves from Louisiana who were legally emancipated. 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.

Massachusetts

AmericanAncestors: Massachusetts Vital Records, 1620–1850

Search results link to record images from many Massachusetts towns and cities. Search options allow you to select a Record Type to search (e.g., birth, death or deed record).

AmericanAncestors: Gloucester, MA: Burials in Gloucester Cemeteries

Access more than 2,200 records from 1720 to 2003 from Gloucester, Mass., cemeteries. Search results provide a transcript of the record, including at least the person’s name and cemetery location.

AmericanAncestors: Massachusetts Society of the Cincinnati

This database isn’t about the city in Ohio. Rather, membership in the Society of the Cincinnati was open to military officers of the Revolutionary War. Massachusetts officers eligible to join the society are included in this collection.

Nevada

Ancestry: Nevada Marriages, 1860–1987

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.

New York

AmericanAncestors: New York Wills, 1626–1836

Search more than 24,000 names in New York wills. 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 of (or witnesses to) the will.

Ohio and Florida

Ancestry: Ohio and Florida, City Directories, 1902–1960

This unlikely combination includes city directories from both the Buckeye (Lorain County) and Sunshine (Jacksonville and St. Augustine) States. Inside each, you’ll find names, addresses and occupations.

Pennsylvania

Fold3: Pennsylvania Archives

Search nearly 118,000 records from a variety of documents published in the 1800s. The volumes include colonial records, military rolls, tax lists, church records, land boundary disputes and more.

Ancestry: Philadelphia Bank Immigrant Passage Records, 1890–1949

This collection, provided in partnership with JewishGen, has more than 125,000 records of immigrants who received assistance paying for their passage to America.

Rhode Island

AmericanAncestors: Rhode Island Roots

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 indexes to various genealogical records. Search by name to find specific ancestors or surnames, or use the Keywords field to search article titles.

Texas

Ancestry: Houston Chronicle Obituaries, 1901–1905

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.

Utah

Ancestry: Utah Cemetery Inventory, 1847–2000

Search more than 350,000 burial records of Utah residents, including early Mormon pioneers.

Virginia

Ancestry: Virginia, Extracted Vital Records, 1660–1923

Taken from four publications, this index of vital records information is free—but you’ll need an Ancestry.com subscription to view record images.

Washington

Ancestry: Washington, Marriage Records, 1854–2013

This database has grown to more than 13 million marriage records with record images.

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Magnifying glass and text, "Free Military Records."

Free Military Records

General

Fold3: American Battle Monuments Commission

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. You can also search the original American Battle Monuments Commission database.

Fold3: Medal of Honor Recipients, 1863–2013

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.

Fold3: Navy and Marine Corp Officers, 1775–1900

Records here include the officer’s name, service dates, rank and death date. The records were compiled by the Navy Department and published in 1901. Results include record images.

Revolutionary War

AmericanAncestors: Index of Revolutionary War Pensioners, 1800–1900

Provided in collaboration with Fold3, this index includes approximately 80,000 pension and bounty-land warrant application files for soldiers and sailors of the Revolutionary War. Search results provide a Fold3 ID number, pension number, names of individuals, and state.

MyHeritage: Revolutionary War Pension Records

Search pension and bounty-land warrant application files for men who fought in the Revolutionary War. The database covers 81,000-plus records from 1800 to 1900. Search results provide a basic transcription.

Civil War

MyHeritage: Service Records of Confederate Soldiers

Search this index for information on 1.6 million ancestors who served in the Confederate army during the Civil War.

War of 1812

Fold3: Bounty-Land Warrant Applications Index

This index includes more than 360,000 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 application approval status.

Fold3: War of 1812 Pension Files

The more than 1.2 million records here include full pension application files for soldiers and sailors, widows and children. Among these records, you can find the serviceman’s rank, residence, age or date of birth, and time of service. And 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 I

Ancestry: World War I Naval Deaths, 1917–1919

True, the United States Navy didn’t participate in many battles during the Great War. But this collection is a valuable resource for those researching the 7,200 sailors who died during the conflict.

World War II

Ancestry: WWI Draft Registrations, 1917–1918

Search 1.2 million draft registration cards. Coverage is complete for registrants from Alaska, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Mississippi and Nevada, and has “good representation” from 19 other states.

Korean War

Fold3: Korean War Casualties

These records now include 27,000 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.

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Magnifying glass and text, "Free Immigration and International Records."

Free Immigration and International Records

Worldwide

Ancestry: JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry

More than a million records in this collection contain information on burial records and specific cemeteries. The free data is provided courtesy of a partnership with JewishGen.

Africa

Fold3: American Colonization Society

This society was established in 1817 for free people of color living in the United States, and it sent free African Americans to Africa, often to Liberia. This database has more than 347,000 records from the society.

Ancestry: Slave Registers of Former British Colonial Dependencies, 1813–1834

After Britain outlawed the transport of African slaves to its colonies in 1807, many colonies began to register the “lawfully enslaved” (i.e., those who arrived before the trade became illegal). This collection holds information on nearly 3 million slaves. You may learn the slave’s given name, age, gender and nationality, as well as the slaveholder’s name and place of residence.

Australia

Ancestry: Australia Convict Index, 1788–1868

More than 160,000 people were forcibly transported to Australia from the British Isles and colonies after being convicted of crimes. This index includes the convict’s name, age or birth year, birthplace or place of trial, occupation, marital status, ship and arrival year.

Canada

MyHeritage: Canadian Headstones

Results from this collection of more than 951,000 records include headstone photos, burial information and birth and death dates.

England and Wales

Ancestry: England & Wales Civil Registration Indexes
Collection One | Collection Two | Collection Three

Here you’ll find three free, separate indexes to English and Welsh civil registration records for births, marriages and deaths, covering records from 1837 to 1915.

Germany

MyHeritage: Auschwitz Death Certificates, 1941–1943

This databases indexes more than 65,000 death certificates from July 29, 1941, to December 31, 1943. Search results provide the person’s birth and death dates and locations, and their last residence.

Ancestry: Baden, Germany Emigration Index, 1866–1911

Search this index of 28,000 people who left Baden between 1886 and 1911. Results include the emigrant’s name, residence or place of birth, and year of departure.

Ancestry: Brandenburg, Prussia Emigration Records

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.

Fold3: Dachau Entry Registers

Search this collection to find more than 150,000 prisoners of 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.

Ireland

AmericanAncestors: Boston Pilot: Irish Immigrant Advertisements

The Boston Pilot newspaper published more than 45,000 advertisements, placed by friends or family in search of “missing friends.” They may include name, place of origin, ship and immigration route, family relationships or “missing person’s” circumstances.

Lithuania

Ancestry: Lithuania, Birth Records Index from Various Towns, 1837–1940

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.

Mexico

Ancestry: 1930 Mexico National Census

Search the 12.8 million names to find a person’s age, 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.

The Netherlands

MyHeritage: Netherlands Burial Records

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.

MyHeritage: Online Familieberichten (Dutch Death Notices)

These 1.1 million death announcements from national newspapers, prayer cards and funeral cards include the deceased’s name, birth date, death date and location, and age at time of death. You’ll also find links to the free full information (which may include burial and spouse data) on Online Familieberichten.

Poland

MyHeritage: Piotrków Trybunalski, Poland Births, 1808–1875

Access more than 27,000 Jewish birth records from this city in Poland. (According to MyHeritage, alternate names for this location are Petrokov, Petrikau and Piotrkow.) Search results include the person’s name, gender, birth year and parents’ names.

Ancestry: Poland, Jewish Records Indexing—Poland Birth Records, 1550–1993

Find birth information such as year of birth registration, town, parents’ names and more in this index to birth records on microfilm at the Family History Library.

Scotland

MyHeritage: 1851 Scotland Census Extract

The record transcriptions here include 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.

MyHeritage: Scotland, Selected Births & Baptisms, 1640–1860

The information in this index includes more than 19,000 records, which come largely from parish registers in the 17th through 19th centuries.

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Other Free Features on Subscription Sites

In addition to free indexes and records, subscription sites may offer complimentary family history tools, though subscriptions may be required to get the most out of them:

Access to online catalogs

Through AmericanAncestors, you can access the New England Historic Genealogical Society’s online catalog of its library collections. At Ancestry.com, you can search a catalog of NARA collections that are now available on that site.

Online education

Learn from online how-to articles and resources. Archives.com’s Expert Series, though no longer adding new content, has dozens of how-to articles. Ancestry.com’s Learning Center offers free tips and advice. You’ll find free Research Guides on topics such as major US immigration ports, German civil registrations, Ancestry.com search strategies and more.

Genealogy books

The site has two more key resources on its wiki: The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy (3rd edition), edited by Loretto Dennis Szucs and Sandra Hargraves Luebking, and Red Book: American State, County and Town Sources (3rd edition), edited by Alice Eichholz. FamilySearch has its own digital library, which you can find here.

Teasers to related records

As you search free indexes at Ancestry.com, MyHeritage and other websites, additional databases with related content will be suggested along with your results (often on the right side of the web page). Subscriptions are required to fully access these.

Family tree-building tools

Build your family tree for free online at Ancestry.com, Findmypast or MyHeritage. The latter also offers a free downloadable version of its Family Tree Builder software. Use it to keep your master family tree on your own computer and sync it regularly to your online tree.

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Versions of this article appeared in the March/April 2016 and 2020 issues of Family Tree Magazine.

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