Category Archives: 50 Essential Genealogy Websites

50+ (Mostly) Free Essential Resources for Genealogy Research

Last month, I share ten favorite types of genealogy resources. That started me thinking and I realized that I last shared a lengthy list of genealogy websites and resources way back in 2017.

It’s time to share an updated list of mostly free genealogy resources that all serious genealogists should have in their research toolboxes.

I’ve divided the list into twelve categories, with almost all being 100% free. Exceptions are mainly in Categories 1,2 & 3.

Here is the 2023 list. This year’s resources have been selected because, in general, most genealogists will find they need them at some point.

1. $$ Genealogy Software – It is essential that you own genealogy software, housed on your own computer, to keep control of your work. Share online trees wherever you want, but your software program should be the place where you enter and update data.

Most of these software programs have a limited version to try out for free:

Family Historian (PC)
Family Tree Maker (PC & Mac)
Heredis (PC & Mac)
Legacy Family Tree (PC)
MacFamilyTree (Mac)
Reunion (Mac)
RootsMagic (PC & Mac)

All are solid programs that have been around for a long time.
What’s important is that you use one!

2. Large Genealogy Databases

FREE – FamilySearch
$$ AmericanAncestors (main focus on New England, but expanding to other places)
Ancestry worldwide record database
ArkivDigital Swedish records
$$ FindMyPast – focus on UK records
MyHeritage – world record database
Roots Ireland
$$ ScotlandsPeople
$$ Your country of interest

Before leaving the subscription-based resources, it is important to know that it is okay to pick and choose the subscriptions that are most useful to you at the moment for your personal research.

Few of us have unlimited budgets. Personally, I allow subscriptions to lapse when I am not using them regularly and then renew when the need arises. That helps keep the genealogy budget under control!

3. Genealogy Education

Conference Keeper – calendar of most upcoming genealogy webinars. Most online webinars are free if viewed live.
YouTube – Thousands of free genealogy-related videos
$$ Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG)
$$ Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research (IGHR)
$$ Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP)
$$ Applied Genealogy Institute (AppGen)

4. Country/State or Province/County/Local Repositories

Some countries whose first language is not English have translation buttons on their website to convert to English.

U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)
Libraries and Archives Canada (and provincial archives)
Danish National Archives
Swedish National Archives
The National Archives – UK
National Archives of Slovakia
DAR Library – Not just for Revolutionary War ancestry, but focuses on U.S. history
Your Country of Interest
State/Provincial Archives – Search online for those of interest. Most have online collections and reference librarian help if you telephone or email.
University/College Libraries and Special Collections – Search online for your schools of interest.

5. Historical Newspapers Online

Chronicling America
Google News Archive Search
The Ancestor Hunt

6. Maps and Land Records

Understanding Metes and Bounds
$$ DeedMapper
Understanding the Public Land Survey System
Atlas of Historical County Boundaries
Bureau of Land Management Federal Land Records
New York Public Library Digital Collection of Maps & Atlases
Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps
University of Texas – Perry-Castaneda Library Map Collection
David Rumsey Map Collection

7. Books

FamilySearch Digital Library
Google Books
Internet Archive

8. Genealogy Website Links

Cyndi’s List

9. Reference Tools

Tombstone Birthday Calculator
One-Step Webpages by Stephen P. Morse
U.S. Dollar Value – Then and Now
BYU’s Script Tutorial
Irfanview – free web clipper used in the Family History Library

10. DNA Education

International Society of Genetic Genealogy Wiki
DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy by Robert Estes – Click the HELP tab for a list of topics

11. Help Forums

Genealogy on Facebook Groups by Katherine Willson – PDF of 16,000+ genealogically/historically/locality related groups
FamilySearch Community
Family History Library Online Genealogy Consultation

12. Empty Branches on the Family Tree Blog

Historical Newspapers Online – Worldwide newspapers available online. Scroll down past the Libraries and Archives list.
Digitized County Histories– Links to all 50 states and their counties
Maps and Land Records Online – Links to U.S. and worldwide
U.S. State Links – Links compiled for all 50 states. Click and view the drop down menu.

25 Essentials for Genealogy Research

It’s been years since I wrote about Essential Websites for Genealogists, so it is time for an update. However, instead of limiting my suggestions to websites, this list will be a bit more inclusive.

In order to keep the length of this post somewhat in hand, many items will be links to explore with little or no commentary.

All the Essentials in this list are free, aside from #1 and 25 (if you purchase). I have purposely omitted the big subscription websites.

My “rant” will be limited to the first item in this 2022 list:

1. Genealogy Software Program – I cringe when I still hear people bragging that their one and only family tree is found on a paid subscription site or on a one-universal-family tree site.

Sharing is wonderful – we never know where the next big clue will appear or when chinks in the brick wall will start falling out. However, it is imperative to keep control over your own research. They only way to do that, and not lose access to your work, is through the use of a genealogy software program housed on your own computer.

There are a number of programs available (In ABC order – Ancestral Quest, Family Historian, Family Tree Maker, Gramps, Heredis, Legacy Family Tree, Reunion for Mac and  RootsMagic are the most popular, but there are others, so check out GenSoftReviews.

However, CHOOSE ONE OF THEM! Okay, rant done. Now that you have a software program on your home computer, we can continue.

2. Web Clipping Tool – Many, but not all items found online can be downloaded and saved to your computer.  A web clipping tool is a genealogist’s best friend. Some browsers, like Chrome, have built-in free clipping tools. IrfanView is a free program and is the one used at the Family History Library. It’s easy to use and is a good choice for beginners to add to their genealogy toolbox arsenal. I use Snagit, which is getting expensive (over $60 now), because I can use the tools to manipulate and mark images.

3. Research Log – Keeping a research log, which is a list of all the sources viewed or research contacts made plus search results, is essential for two reasons. First, it documents records and repositories searched. Second, it documents people you’ve contacted, either by email or snail mail and allows you to follow up with those who haven’t replied.

The simplest research log is simply the use of paper and pencil. There are downloadable free forms that can be printed, designed especially for genealogists.  For those who want to decrease the paper pile on their desks, Excel is an obvious choice. Most genealogy software programs also have places for research notes.

4. Source Citation HelpsZotero, EasyBib and templates in stand-alone software to document where you find information.

Now, you have the basics to gather and record information about people in your family tree. What next? After recording basic information about yourself, immediate family, parents and grandparents, it’s time to look online.

Not everything is online, nor will it ever be! That is because of governmental laws to access, copyright issues and accessibility to records in private hands. However, there are MANY resources available.

5. FamilySearch Research Wiki

6. Digitized BooksInternet Archive, World Cat, Google Books, HathiTrust, FamilySearch Books and links to my U.S. County Histories project.

7. Maps, etc.David Rumsey Collection, Sanborn Maps, Atlas of Historic (U.S.) County Boundaries and Meyers Gazetteer (Germany). Many others online. Search your place of interest.

8. U.S. Library of Congress

9. NARA Access to Archival Databases (including SSDI)

10. CemeteriesFind A Grave, Nationwide Gravesite Locator, BillionGraves

11. DNA InfoISOGG Wiki, DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy, DNA Painter, Leeds’ Method

12. Church RecordsAmerican Baptist Historical Society – why the Baptist church is NOT helpful for genealogists, Archdiocese of Chicago, Illinois Catholic Cemeteries, Digital Quaker Collection, , Friends Historical Library, Quaker Information Center, The Archives of the Episcopal Church,  Congregational Library and Archives, Mennonite Church

13. U.S. Military ServiceNARA, DAR Library

14. Thousands of Categorized LinksCyndi’s List, Linkpendium

15. U.S. State Digital Collections – Search “state of interest” digital collections

16. Historic NewspapersChronicling America, The Ancestor Hunt

17. Photography History and Vintage PhotosDeadFred, Ancient Faces, Tin-Eye Reverse Image Search, Google Images, Photo Tree

18. Local Genealogy & Historical Societies – Search your places of interest. Many societies have some free online databases and resources

19. Immigration & Passenger ListsOlive Tree Genealogy, Ellis Island

20. International Resources – There are a number of foreign repositories that are accessible for free by everyone, but are PAID databases on the big genealogy sites. Check out Library and Archives Canada & the Provincial Archives where your ancestors lived. Others:  Danish National Archives, the National Archives of Norway and the Swedish National Archives, British National Archives, plus many others.

21. feedly – Add blog urls (up to 100 free, I believe) and follow your favorite genealogy bloggers. Feedly will note any new posts in your list so you don’t have to visit 100 sites to find 65 have new posts.

22. Genealogy on Facebook by Katherine Willson – PDF list of genealogy and history FB groups

23. Conference Keeper – Calendar of upcoming genealogy webinars and conferences. Many webinars are free to attend live. Fees required to register are noted.

24. Reference Library – Build a home library and expand as needed. Three excellent books to start are The Source, Evidence Explained and The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy.

25. EBay – There are books, photos and mementos waiting to be found that tie into our ancestors’ families.

There are many more other terrific free resources available online, but this list will certainly get you started.



50 Essential Websites for My Genealogy Research

Did I mention that I love lists? I think I did, just yesterday when I compiled my list of 50 essential books for my home genealogy library.

I decided that I haven’t had quite enough of lists so today I am sharing my 50 essential websites for MY OWN genealogy research. Some of these websites are universal, or nearly so, but others are lesser known. I hope that some of the other genealogy bloggers out there decide to share their own lists of the “50 Essentials” as I know there are many jewels out there that are WAY underused.

Obviously, some of the sites on my list are free, but others are fee-based. (I’ve added a dollar sign after the subscription sites.) My criteria for including them here is simply how useful they are to where I am researching. The websites are not in any particular order. A handful of sites are listed more than once because I use several of their databases often.

  1. FamilySearch
  2. Ancestry        $
  3. Provincial Archives of New Brunswick (Canada) – Daniel F. Johnson’s New Brunswick Newspaper Vital Statistics
  4. Provincial Archives of New Brunswick – Federated Database Search – You can search all databases at once, including digitized birth records, old military records, early land grants and much more.
  5. Illinois Regional Archives Depository System (IRAD)
  6. New England Historic Genealogical Society     $
  7. Missouri Digital Heritage – County History Project
  8. Missouri Digital Heritage – Death Certificates Online
  9. Oklahoma Historical Society – Genealogy Resources   There are many links here, from pioneer stories to historical newspapers not on Chronicling America and much more.
  10. Heritage Quest – free online access from home through my local public library. U.S. census collection with indexing by Ancestry. Check your local public library to see if it is offered.
  11. Bureau of Land Management, General Land Office Records – free to search, fee to order documents
  12. FamilySearch Wiki – Over 85,000 articles on where to find genealogical records, both on FamilySearch and elsewhere. This is a resource that is way underused!
  13. ArkivDigital     $ – Best quality and most complete online Swedish records out there. Almost 70,000,000 images!
  14. Danish National Archives – church registers, census records and more, digitized, and free online. Some collections, like census records, are indexed and searchable by person and place. For others, like parish records, you need to know which parish to search as they are not indexed. There is a link on the home page for info in English.
  15. US GenWeb Project
  16. Canada GenWeb Project
  17. Find-a-Grave
  18. Historical Atlases and Maps of U.S. and States
  19. Google News Archive Search – Look for historical newspapers here.
  20. Chronicling America
  21. New Brunswick Genealogy Records Online (Canada)
  22. Virginia Memory: Chancery Records Index – Digital images are being added to the county collection of court records online. Tremendous resource for Virginia ancestors.
  23. Politiets Registerblade – Copenhagen police census (not criminals – all the Copenhagen population) in the early 1900s. Searchable and great if you have family in the city at the turn of the 20th century.
  24. Connecticut State Library: History and Genealogy – Reference – includes some online databases
  25. The Carpathian Connection – Slovak immigrant history mainly in the Passaic-Clifton-Garfield area of New Jersey with a bit of Pennsylvania ties.
  26. DAR Library – Ancestor searches can be done free online (for all), along with a search of Bible records. Past issues of the DAR Magazine have also been digitized and are available free online to everyone.
  27. Linkpendium – over 10,000,000 genealogy links!
  28. Cyndi’s List – over 3,000,000 genealogy links!
  29. Family Search – Slovak church and census records. The church registers are the same collection found on partner site, Ancestry. Free to view on FamilySearch, but subscription required on Ancestry. They are digitized and baptisms are searchable. If you can find a baptismal record for someone in your family, you will then know the town where they lived and can look for them in the 1869 Hungarian census, which included today’s Slovakia.
  30. Find My Past    $ – British records, but FMP is also updating the PERSI collection it acquired.
  31. Fold3    $ – U.S. military records
  32. Google Books – Great for finding historical and reference books in digitized versions
  33. WorldCat – How to find the closest copy of that book I really need for my research
  34. FamilySearch Books – not as extensive as WorldCat, but it is a great option for locating hard copy and digital books
  35. MyHeritage Digital Book Collection – no subscription needed as access is free
  36. HathiTrust Digital Library – a third option for online books
  37. Library and Archives Canada – includes digitized, free images to many Canadian censuses
  38. One-Step Webpages by Stephen P. Morse
  39. U.S. State Digital Collections – This link goes to my blog. Scroll down for links to each state with digital collections online.
  40. Missouri Probate Records 1750-1998 – online on FamilySearch. I use this collection often for all of my husband’s Missouri connections.
  41. Indian-Pioneer Papers Collection at the University of Oklahoma Western History Collections
  42. United States Genealogy and Historical Society Directory – links to societies in every state
  43. David Rumsey Map Collection
  44. Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems    $
  45. Digital Public Library of America
  46. Internet Archive: Digital Library and Wayback Machine
  47. Historical Newspapers Online – Another link to a page on my blog (scroll down several categories) with a list of websites that have newspapers digitized and online. Some are free, some are subscription.
  48. Online Maine Death Records and Indexes  – links to both free and paid sites, but searching is free
  49. Index to the Probate Records of the County of Middlesex, Massachusetts – First Series from 1648-1871
  50. Facebook for Genealogy – Katherine R. Willson’s incredible list of genealogically affiliated groups on Facebook. It is updated regularly.

That’s it! My 50 essential websites for my own genealogical research. As I review my list, there actually aren’t all that many that require a subscription. I have no issue with paying for access, but if it is available for no cost somewhere, that’s obviously my first choice.

What are your most essential websites? Leave a comment, please. I love to discover new resources.