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10 No-Fee Resources for Climbing Your Family Tree Online

by Nancy Hendrickson

As the Webmaster of, I'm often asked if it's possible to find family tree data that doesn't come with a price tag. My answer is yes! My favorite no-fee sites are:

1.   This popular site now has over 1 BILLION names in its online database. Search by surname (last name), spouse's name, parents' name or place. Includes no-fee access to the 1880 United States census, 1881 British Isles and Canada censuses, as well as the Social Security Death Index.

2. Perhaps the best place for beginning American research. With a Website for every single county in the United States, this site provides no-charge access to items like county histories, biographies, court records, census transcripts, and historic photos. Each county site is managed by a volunteer, so the amount of information varies dependent on the volunteer's efforts.

3. Want to find your immigrant ancestor? Head to this Website. No charge access to database containing 25 million ships' passenger records covering entry through the Port of New York and Ellis Island from 1892-1924. This site was first launched on April 17, 2001, and has received over 6 billion hits.

4.  Search more than 385 million names in researcher-donated files. Download ancestor and descendant results, view individual records and sources, and contact people who are researching the same surname. Although Rootsweb is now owned by Ancestry, this database has no-fee access.

5. More than 2 million links to genealogy resources. Includes links to both surname Websites, and regional resources by state. Includes links to mailing lists, clubs, message boards, personal surname pages, and cemeteries.

6.  This fascinating site is loaded with genealogy records, including military rosters, regional resources, links to biographies and surname registries, and obituaries. In addition, you can request a no-charge lookup from the many volunteers associated with this site; the volunteers will look up your surnames in both genealogy CDs and genealogy books.

7. Search and view millions of names that have been uploaded by other family tree researchers—all without a charge. New policies have instituted a small fee for use of the "smart matching" technology, but all searches and viewing of data remain without a cost.

8. No cost search of close to 4 million names in more than 8,000 cemeteries world-wide. If you are hitting a brick wall in your research, be sure to search for the surname on this site as you may find a burial notice in a state or area that you have not yet researched. Special collections include some National Cemeteries and flooded cemeteries.

9.  Sometimes the quickest way to climb your family tree is to connect with other people who are researching the same names. This Website has more than 83,000 genealogy queries posted; these are posts by people who are searching for a specific surname. It's possible you'll find an Internet cousin or two on this site. Sharing research is an excellent technique for getting faster results.

10.  One of the oldest genealogy sites on the Internet, and filled with no-fee searchable databases. This site is huge (more than 1,7000 pages and almost 1,500 databases!) so take some time going through the site so you don't miss out on any family information. Includes ships passenger lists, church records, military records, city directories, and links to Native American genealogy sites.

Nancy Hendrickson is the Webmaster of http://www.genealogy  and and the author of Finding Your Roots Online. Learn more about climbing your family tree with her dozens of no-charge articles and monthly newsletter.


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