How to Make a Family Tree for Free

Many genealogy sites charge for access to their indexes and images, but it is possible to make a family tree for free. You might not be able to access all the sources that mention your relatives, but you should be able to find plenty of information without paying.

Start Your Family Tree

You can start your family tree for free by gathering information from your relatives and any old photos, documents, or other items that have been passed down through your family.

Free Family History Sites

Free genealogy sites provide access to transcripts (and some images) of old records.

FreeUKGenealogy provides transcriptions of some UK censuses, civil registrations (births, marriages, and deaths), and parish registers.

FamilySearch has a larger collection, including censuses, parish records, and many other documents from around the world.


Using Genealogy Sites for Free

Some genealogy sites charge for access to their collections. You can search these websites and build a family tree on them for free, but you won’t be able to see the full results or look at pictures of the original documents without paying.

However, there are some ways to use genealogy sites for free:

  • Free Trials: Ancestry, FindMyPastAffiliate, Genes ReunitedAffiliate, MyHeritage, and The Genealogist – UK census, BMDs and more onlineAffiliate all offer 14 day free trials to new users. If you plan which records you want to see and use your trial when you have plenty of free time, you can get a lot of research done during this fortnight. You will need to give payment details when you sign up and a paid subscription will start automatically at the end of the two weeks unless you cancel it.
  • Free Weekends: Genealogy websites sometimes offer free access to their records over a bank holiday weekend or around events such as Remembrance Day. If you’re signed up for email newsletters or follow these sites on social media then you should hear about any free access events. The sites can be slower than usual over free weekends because there are so many users, but you can still get a lot done.
  • Free Collections: Some collections on paid genealogy sites are free to use. Free records on Ancestry include indexes of the civil registrations of Births, Marriages, and Deaths for England and Wales. Free records on FindMyPastAffiliate include transcriptions of the 1881 census and all Irish censuses.


Archives and Libraries

Archives and libraries usually provide free access to their collections, but there may be costs for some of their services, such as ordering copies of documents.

  • Online catalogues provide some information about the documents held by an archive, which may include names and relationships between people in your family tree.
  • Digital images are sometimes available free online, though this may be in a low-resolution or watermarked form. Some documents can be downloaded free, but there will be charges for others.
  • Many original documents, microfilm or microfiche copies, digitised images, books, and other resources can be used for free at archives and libraries. However, you may need to account for your travel costs or other expenses such as copying fees.
  • Genealogy websites such as Ancestry and FindMyPast can be used free at most archives and libraries. You will be able to access the same material as subscribers, without paying. However, there could be charges if you want to print anything.

The Genealogist - UK census, BMDs and more online


Other Free Family History Resources

Other types of family history resources are sometimes available free, but they tend to be more specialised. Local or family history societies sometimes provide transcripts or other free resources on their websites. Searching online could also reveal books, articles, local history websites or blogs where people are sharing their own family tree research. You might not be able to research your entire family tree with these free resources, but they could provide some interesting details.