How to find more free information on the Web
Free Websites that provide guidance and reference information
Websites that include research data...records, maps, and resources.
Libraries, Archives, Historical Societies, government entities and others are putting data on line,including digital archives with images of the data and searchable databases that will locate information. Sometimes the indexes are free, but you must pay for a copy of the information.
- The #1 site: Family
Search This is the free site maintained by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and offering a wealth of information, It is too much to describe here... see my separate page Guide to Using the Family Search Library and FamilySearch.org This site is all free.
- A few examples of National libraries and archives that offer genealogical data online
- Library of Congress (U.S.)
- NARA (U.S. National Archives) -- contains a small amount of research data, but invaluable for identifying and understanding federal level records.
- Genealogy articles from Prologue are available online at this site.
- A few examples of state level library and archives sites that offer genealogical data online --- visit the websites of state level library, archives, historical and genealogical societies for the state you you are researching you are researching to learn what they offer.
- Archives of Michigan, Seeking Michigan
- Wisconsin Historical Society, Genealogy
- A few examples of local libraries that offer genealogical data online
-- visit the websites of libraries in and proximate to the area you are researching to learn what they offer.
- Ann Arbor (Michigan) District Library
- Birmingham (Alabama) Public Library
- A few examples of University libraries that offer genealogical data online. -- visit the websites of libraries in and proximate to the area you are researching to learn what they offer.
(Look for their digital collections)
- A few examples of Governmental units that provide free data on the web
Libraries, Archives and Societies also provide access to subscription databases. Usually you have to be a member of the library or in a state that provides statewide access to a database. In Michigan, that is Michigan Electroic Library (MEL). Some subscription databases (e.g. AncestryLibraryEdition) require that you be in the library to use them, but many allow remote access.
Projects that depend on the volunteer efforts of individuals.
- Location Sites -- Each jurisdiction (state, country) has a host; content is provided by volunteers. Quantity and quality varies greatly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but the information is always free.
All these sites are set up for browsing and include a search box that will allow you to search the site for content. you will browse these sites by going first to the state or province, then the county. You can also search them, but the searches will not always find everything.
These sites are a shining example of one of the biggest problems of many free websites: they depend on volunteers, who work in their spare time and often move on to other interests. Many have not been updated for years, some have more bad links than good links, They are worth checking, but over time they are becoming less and less useful.These sites include:
- Rootsweb.com, the grand-daddy of the free Genealogy sites. A number of Genweb pages are hosted on rootsweb, but there is more there too. Rootsweb is owned and supported by Ancestry.com, but all content on Rootsweb is free.
- An example of a very successful cooperative effort is FindAGrave
Individually maintained sites are often not kept up or not comprehensive -- after all, only one person is doing all the work. But some are just amazing.
Examples of some excellent individually maintained sites.
Books online -- in general, those published prior to 1923 are in the public domain, so most full view books will meet that criteria. There are a few exceptions. If a book you want to use was published before 1923, see if it is available on one of these large collections of digitized books. There is a lot of cross duplication, but each has unique content.
- Google Books --use the advanced search.
- note that if you download a .pdf from this site, it is not searchable
- Internet Archive -- texts
- Hathi Trust
- Heritage Quest Online Search Books -- this is a digitized version of the UMI Genealogy & Local History microfiche collection. (use from your local public library subscription) (Guide to using Heritage Quest)
- FamilySearch Books - Advanced Search
- Genealogy.com's GenForums
- Ancestry.com/Rootsweb's Message Boards. (this link takes you to the Rootsweb interface, but both sites link to the same database)
Free websites for finding information on the web :
- Google Search Engine: see also my page : Finding Ancestors With Google.
- Sites that provide preset forms for more sophisticated searching
- Joe Beine's several sites that will help you locate information on the web; these include links to pay and subscription sites, but the latter are clearly marked.
- VitalRec.com -- information on how to get vital records
- Cyndi's List
- Linkpendium -- a favorite
And finally... to help you find free websites that are useful to the genealogist, but not from the genealogy sites we are so familiar with, I recommend purchase of this .pdf book; it really is worth the $20: Online State Resources for Genealogy version 3. (reviews)
Back to Bobbie's Genealogy Classroom
This page last updated
October 8, 2014