Genealogy is a growing passion for many Americans. As we are a society made up of a wide range of nationalities, ethnicities and backgrounds, it provides fertile ground for research and investigation. If you want to know where and who you are from, here are some of the best free genealogy websites to research your family tree.
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Some of the resources listed are completely free, some offer free access to some records and paid access to others. You can make your own mind up where you go from there. Not all in this list are genealogy sites, some include access to public records or historical newspapers to help in your investigation. Each should help build a picture of your family tree.
National Archives and Records Administration
The National Archives and Records Administration includes government records, veteran’s service records, general and federal records and a huge range of other official documents. It is one of the first places to look if you are researching individuals and already know a little about them.
If you don’t mind a little diversion, the website also features the latest releases of the JFK files which makes the trip worthwhile on their own!
Access Genealogy does exactly what the title suggests. It allows you to access genealogy records from around the country. It provides access to small town newspaper archives, military records, census data and other supporting data. One of this sites’ strengths is its coverage of Native American records. If you’re tracing your family tree back through Native American culture, this is the first place to visit.
The site is easy to navigate and includes a search function. That doesn’t cover all aspects of the data on the site though so don’t depend on it entirely.
PIBuzz Genealogy Links
PIBuzz Genealogy Links was suggested to me when I was canvassing for ideas for this piece. It is a Private Investigator’s database where PIs themselves look up details on people. The website is actually a huge list of resources that can help trace people both past and present and is an excellent website to bookmark for further research.
It isn’t often PIs let us into their secret world, but this website gives a valuable insight and a whole bunch of resources to use for our own benefit.
FamilySearch is a more down to earth genealogy website with lots of free resources. As well as databases and public records there is also a helpful community that uses the site that includes other enthusiasts as well as professional historians or genealogists. This is quite a sociable site and you are ‘encouraged’ throughout to share your findings and spread the word. You don’t have to if you don’t want to though.
You will need to create an account to access records but in return you get a new family tree builder and somewhere to store what you find.
Genealogy Today may not look as good as FamilySearch but the data it has access to is impressive. It makes search simple and contains huge amounts of information from cemetery records to railroad employees, steamship passenger lists to church records. This site is for the serious genealogist but is easily navigable by anyone with a desire to learn their family tree.
The resources are free but you can contribute time or energy to the website if you want to pay it back for the resources. A neat touch I think.
Family Tree Searcher
Family Tree Searcher is for those first steps in your research. It has been created by an amateur genealogist to make it as straightforward as possible to access records and find out about your ancestors. Fill in the form on the main page as much as possible and hit Start Searching. You will then gain access to a range of records pertaining to that person or persons who the system thinks are linked.
Family Tree Searcher is a gateway to other resources but a great place to start if you’re new to investigating family trees.
Reddit may be an unusual place to being research into your family tree but r/Genealogy may surprise you. This page is full of resources you can use to research your family tree. It has the added advantage of including some global resources too for when you reach the time when your family arrived in America.
While not a genealogy website per se, the page includes a ton of resources from across the world that could make your search easier. Well worth checking out I think.
Olive Tree Genealogy
Olive Tree Genealogy is not a good looking website but it is a great resource. It not only contains a lot of resource links and search options, it also contains a lot of information and advice. This is a good website to visit if you want to learn how to research a family tree as well as doing the researching.
There are lots of resource links within this site and once you get over the 90s design is a site well worth putting in your favorites list.
RootsWeb is owned by Ancestry.com and is a free community site that offers a lot of tools and resources. The website is undergoing something of a revamp right now and should be all the better for it. It has much the same intent as Olive Tree Genealogy, in teaching you how to research your family tree as well as providing the resources to do so.
There are hundreds of resource links within RootsWeb and while some of them are out of date, many are still valid and still provide access to records of all kinds.
USGenWeb is my final offering in the best free genealogy websites to research your family tree list. It is a website run entirely by volunteers to provide as much information as possible about people and places. The main page allows you to search by state but there is also a selection of other categories or search criteria if you prefer.
The site is one of the better looking ones here and you can find most of what you need from the menu on the main page.
Those are what I think are the best free genealogy websites to research your family tree. No single website will have access to everything but this collection should have a lot of what you’re looking for.
Got any other websites to add to the list? Tell us about them below if you do!