7 ways to research your ancestry for free!

Man with empty pockets

1. Free trials

There’s almost always a 14-day free trial available for Ancestry.co.uk. Just make sure you have a nice clear fortnight available when you can make the most of every free day, and read my article Top 10 hacks for using Ancestry.co.uk like a Pro.

2. FamilySearch.org

This is a free website hosted by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Search through the ‘Records’ section rather than the ‘Genealogies’, which are submitted by the general public and are unchecked.

3. Pick up the phone

Seriously, older relatives can be a mine of useful information about your family. Give them a call and find out what they know. Or set up an interview – see How to Interview Your Relatives Parts I, II and III.

4. Your Local Archives

Most useful if your family has stayed in the same place for a few generations. You should be able to find electoral registers, maps, newspapers and parish records as well as lots of other books and directories, which might be helpful.

5. The National Archives, Kew

Contrary to popular belief, the National Archives don’t hold many documents about ordinary individuals, such as birth, marriage and death certificates. They do have free access to the census records, though, as well as information on people who served in the armed forces, and some criminals. It’s definitely worth looking at their website before you go, to see what they have available to view on-line and on-site: National Archives

6. Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Another free website which records a little information about those who died during the World Wars. Access it here: CWGC

7. Google

A bit hit-and-miss of course, but it’s always worth entering a few combinations of names to see who else is researching your family line. I usually enter marriage names, for example: ‘John Smith married Elsie Jones’ to see what comes up. Sometimes you get lucky and hit the jackpot!

There you go – 7 ways to dig for genealogical treasure when you’re a bit skint! I hope this helps. If you can think of any other freebie methods, please drop them in the comments.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • cathie allen

    done all the above no nearer to finding answers 🙁

    • You’ve hit a real brickwall then Cathie? Sorry to hear that. Have you read my more advanced blog posts called Brickwalls, Dead Ends and Haystacks? Perhaps there’s somsething in one of those that will help?

  • cathie allen

    im trying to find stephen pilcher petley s father ,his mother was mary petley and he was baptised on 3rd sept st marys eastry kent ,it says he was base born ,as an adult he went by the name stephen pilcher (married,census s and all his descendants are pilcher)
    i ve been told to look up bastardy bonds but i cant afford to just buy the book or what ever it is ,not knowing whether he ll be even in it ,what am i best doing ,as i can go no further back on the pilcher side till i know who his father was ,theres no mention of him on bapt cert ? thanks