Free Genealogy – How to Find Free Genealogy Records

Elevenses with Lisa Episode 21 Video and Show Notes

Live show air date: August 20, 2020
Join me for Elevenses with Lisa, the online video series where we take a break, visit and learn about genealogy and family history. 

How to Find Free Genealogy Resources

In the genealogy community it’s often said, “Only a fraction of genealogical records are online.” That’s true indeed, but it’s not a reason not to start your search online. A more helpful and accurate piece of advice would be “while not everything is online, all search for genealogical information starts online.”

The reason for this is simple. Online research before you go will reveal:

  • If the materials are available at a more convenient location
  • If the materials are available somewhere online for free
  • The call number, location, and other specific information you need to quickly access the materials once you arrive.
  • Details about gaining access to the facility and materials.

The last bullet point above will help you avoid the disappointment of discovering an unforeseen closure, or that the specific records you need are actually help at a satellite location.

New genealogical information and records are uploaded daily to the internet. Some of this information is available for free. In this article and episode we will cover strategic ways to locate and access free genealogy online.

The Amount of Data Continues to Increase – Read more about the growth of online information here.

The Path of Least Resistance to Free Genealogy

Most genealogists want to obtain records at the lowest available cost with the least amount of travel. Therefore, always starting your search online just makes good sense.

Here’s our path of least resistance:

  1. Free and Online: FamilySearch, Google, WorldCat
  2. Online and Subscription: Ancestry, MyHeritage, Findmypast, niche sites
  3. Free and Locally Offline: Libraries, Archives, Universities
  4. Offline and Distant: Examples include the National Archives, Allen County Library, Family History Library, NEHGS
The path to free genealogy

www.GenealogyGems.com

Free Genealogy Records Online

FamilySearch

FamilySearch is a free genealogy website.

The FamilySearch Catalog: New digitized images are added daily from microfilms & digital camera operators. These include books, maps, compiled family histories, and more. The catalog also includes materials that are not online but are available at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City or through Inter-library loan.

 The FamilySearch Wiki is a free online genealogical guide comprised of more than 93,000 articles. It covers 244 countries, territories, and islands. It includes links to genealogy databases and online resources as well as how-to information.

Use the FamilySearch Wiki Watchlist to follow pages of research interest. Here’s how to watch Wiki pages for new and free genealogy content:

  1. Log in with your free FamilySearch account
  2. navigate to the desired page
  3. click the Watchlist link in the upper right corner of the page.
Click the Watchlist button to follow the page

Look for the Watchlist link, and the blue buttons that lead to free online genealogy records for that location.

Google.com

Google is still your best bet for finding sources both online and offline.

You can dramatically improve your search results by incorporating search operators into your search. Watch episode 13 of Elevenses with Lisa to learn about how to use search operators when googling for genealogy.  

Get all of the Elevenses with Lisa episodes here.

how to get better google search results

Learn how to google for free genealogy in episode 13.

Find More Free Genealogy with these Google Search Strategies

The most comprehensive and best-selling book on the topic of using Google for genealogy: 
The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, by Lisa Louise Cooke. 

Google Alerts Finds Free Genealogy for You

Set up free Google Alerts to be on the lookout for new and updated search results. You’ll receive them by email, and you can control the frequency.

Google Alerts for genealogy and family history

Google Alerts do the work of searching for free genealogy for you.

How to Create a Google Alert:

  1. Highlight and copy (Control C on Windows or Command C on Mac) the search query that you typed into the Google search box
  2. Go to www.google.com/alerts
  3. Sign into your free Google account
  4. Paste (Control V or Command V) your search query into the Search Query box on the Google Alerts page
  5. Select the Result Type you desire (ex. Everything, News, etc.)
  6. Select how often you wish to receive alerts
  7. Select How Many results you want to receive (I recommend Only the Best Results)
  8. Enter / Select the email address you want your alerts to be sent to
  9. Click the Create Alert button

Partnerships Make Free Genealogy Available

Many of the genealogy giants enter partnerships with each other in order to facilitate digitization and indexing of genealogical records. This means that the same materials may be found in different locations on the web, and sometimes for free.

WorldCat.org

17,900 subscribing member libraries in 123 countries collectively maintain WorldCat’s database which is the world’s largest bibliographic database.

Use WorldCat to check that you are indeed accessing the resource from the most convenient repository and if it’s available for free. Here’s how:

  1. Run your search
  2. Click an item
  3. Under Find a Copy in the Library enter your zip code
  4. The library closest to you will be listed at the top

Once you get your search results, look to the left in the Formats box. There you can quickly narrow down to only items that are online by clicking boxes like Downloadable Article. Some of these may require a log in on the website you are referred to.

How to Find Free Records at Genealogy Websites

Ancestry.com

If you don’t have a paid subscription to Ancestry.com you can still take advantage of their many free collections available here: https://tinyurl.com/LisaAncestry.

MyHeritage.com

To find free records at MyHeritage.com, go to https://tinyurl.com/LisaMyHeritage. In the footer menu of the website, click on Historical Records. Then fill in your search criteria.  Scroll down the search results and look for the green free tags.

Findmypast.com

To find free records at Findmypast which specialized in British genealogy but also includes records from around the world, go to https://tinyurl.com/FMPLisa.

(Some links in our articles are affiliate links. We will be compensated at no additional cost to use when you use them. This makes it possible for us to bring this free show to you. Thank you!)

Google Site Search Can Help Locate Free Genealogy

A site search works like many search operators as previously discussed in Elevenses with Lisa episode 13 (watch and read here.) It provides Google with specific instructions about the type of search you want to conduct with your search terms and keywords.

Google Site Search for free genealogy

This Site search tip comes from Lisa Louise Cooke’s book The Genealogists’s Google Toolbox.

Site search runs your query only on the specified website. This is extremely helpful and efficient if:

  • you have a particular website in mind that you want to search,
  • you aren’t having success using the search field provided by the website,
  • the website you want to search doesn’t have a search field.

Here’s an example of a Site search:

Free Pennsylvania site:ancestry.com

Try running the search above for yourself. You’ll find results that include many free genealogy records pertaining to Pennsylvania. Substitute the words to meet your search needs.

Construct a Site search for Free Genealogy by first typing in the words and phrases you wish to search for. Include the word free. Leave the appropriate spacing between them and follow the last item with a space. Then type site: and add the website home page address (URL). You can copy the URL and simply paste it in place. There is no space between the colon and the URL. And note that www is not required.

Searching for Offline Local Sources with Free Genealogy Information

To find what’s local and free:

  • Search WorldCat.org (be sure to use the Zip Code filtering to find the genealogy materials at the location closest to you.)
  • Use Google to search.
  • Find your local Family History Center here. These centers have unique free resources as well as free access to some subscription genealogy websites.

When you find a library, archive or other repository, visit their website and look for:

  • Databases they offer
  • Their online catalog to plan your research
  • Other associated libraries
  • Details on planning a visit

Get Free Genealogy Help on Facebook

Search for Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness (RAOGK) on Facebook. 

RAOGK on Facebook

Get free genealogy records help on Facebook.

Learn More with these Resources

Free Tools at MyHeritage for a Limited Time

Now through Sept. 10, 2020 you can get free access to Myheritage Photo Enhancer and MyHeritage In Color here

Click to use MyHeritage for free for a imited time.

 

Resources for this Episode

 

 

 

Enjoy Free and Unlimited Access to MyHeritage In Color™

We got some happy news during this time of self-quarantine. MyHeritage is granting free access to  MyHeritage In Color™ through April 23, 2020. 

Colorizing Old Family Photos

I shared this new service with you recently here on the Genealogy Gems blog, along with an example of the lovely work it did with one of my own old family photos.

myheritage photo colorization

Eddie Larson and his wife colorized.

Read the post to learn more about using the service: MyHeritage Launches Colorized Photos!

Details on the Free Access

Here are the details on the free access and some exciting prize drawings from my friend Daniel Horowitz, Genealogy Expert at MyHeritage:

I’m happy to share that we’re giving everyone FREE and unlimited access to MyHeritage In Color™ from March 23 to April 23, so that people everywhere can join in the fun of colorizing their black and white photos.

Ordinarily only 10 photos can be colorized by users who do not have a Complete plan, but now, you can colorize as many photos as you’d like for free.

Colorizing photos is the perfect activity for anyone who is isolated at home. We invite everyone to pull out their family photo albums, colorize their photos, and start reminiscing.

Enter the Drawing

Over the coming month, anyone who shares their colorized photos on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram with the hashtag #ColorBeatsCoronavirusBlues and tags @MyHeritage will enter a weekly draw. Each week we’ll select one lucky winner who will receive a free MyHeritage Complete subscription!

New Free Genealogy Records and Images at FamilySearch

When new genealogy records come online, they can be in different forms. Sometimes they are indexed records and sometime they are browse-only digital images.

Either way, new genealogy content online is always welcome. And this week this new content is free thanks to FamilySearch.

Family Search new records

Don’t let the fact that some of these genealogy records are currently browse-only images. in our article Browse Only Databases at FamilySearch are Easy to Use, we’ll help you navigate these types of records.  It’s not difficult to do, and the rewards can be big. 

Browse_Only_Database_at FamilySearch

Example of accessing browse-only digital images at FamilySearch

If you haven’t used FamilySearch before, all it requires is that you sign up for a free account which you can do here at their website

Here’s the latest press release from FamilySearch detailing the newest content. 

SALT LAKE CITY, UT—FamilySearch.org added over 13 million new, free, unindexed digital images of historical Italian records this week from Avellino, Belluno, Caserta, Matera, Verona, and Vicenza, Italy. Other indexed records include areas from Brazil, Germany, Peru, South Africa and the United States, including Alabama and Kansas.

Click here to search over 8 billion free names and record images catalogued on FamilySearch.

(Find and share this announcement online from the FamilySearch Newsroom.)

Brazil            

Brazil, Pernambuco, Civil Registration, 1804-2016               
Indexed records: 162,706   
Added indexed records to an existing collection

Brazil, São Paulo, Civil Registration, 1925-1995                   
Indexed Records: 199     
Added indexed records to an existing collection

Germany     

Germany, Baden, Archdiocese of Freiburg im Breisgau, Catholic Church Records, 1678-1930 
Indexed records: 1,045,113
Added indexed records to an existing collection

Germany, Bavaria, Diocese of Augsburg, Catholic Church Records, 1615-1939
Indexed Records: 383,480 
Added indexed records to an existing collection

Italy 

new records Italian genealogy records

Italy, Avellino, Civil Registration (State Archive), 1809-1947
Digital Images: 3,099,458       
Added images to an existing collection

Italy, Belluno, Civil Registration (State Archive), 1806-1815
Digital Images:  43,298 New browsable image collection.

Italy, Caserta, Civil Registration (State Archive), 1809-1866
Digital Images:  4,543,698       
Added images to an existing collection

Italy, Matera, Civil Registration (State Archive), 1809-1925
Digital Images: 1,323,614       
New browsable image collection.

Italy, Verona, Civil Registration (State Archive), 1630-1942 
Digital Images: 2,796,910       
New browsable image collection.

Italy, Vicenza, Bassano del Grappa, Civil Registration (State Archive), 1871-1942 
Digital Images: 1,637,660   
Added images to an existing collection

Peru

Peru, Lima, Civil Registration, 1874-1996 
Digital Images: 175,257  
Added images to an existing collection

The records newly added to this collection have not yet been digitized. Click the clink at the bottom of the search page to browse. 

Click to browse genealogy records from Peru

Click to browse genealogy records from Peru

 

Here’s an example of what these Civil Registration record from Peru look like:

Example of Civil Registration records from Peru

Example of Civil Registration records from Peru

South Africa

South Africa, Natal, Passenger Lists, 1860-1911     
Indexed Records: 154,091  
Added indexed records to an existing collection

United States                                  

Alabama, Jefferson County Circuit Court Papers, 1870-1916
Indexed Records: 30,070
Added indexed records to an existing collection

Kansas, Grant County, Census Records, 1895-1982
Indexed Records: 87,928 0 
New indexed records collection

Example of a Kansas Grant Co Census Record at FamilySearch

An example of a record from the Kansas Grant County Census Record Collection

United States Census, 1880  
Digital Images: 13 
Added images to an existing collection

United States, Cemetery Abstracts    
Indexed Records: 179,757
Added indexed records to an existing collection

Share Your Findings

Did you find a genealogy gems in one of these new records at FamilySearch? Please leave a comment below. 

 

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