The best free websites for finding UK ancestors


01 June 2019
Trace your UK ancestors with this quick and easy guide to the best free UK ancestry sites.

Family history is an exciting hobby, but one which can be expensive if you don’t know the lie of land in terms of where to look for key resources. You’ll find some of the most useful free resources online, and discover how they can help with your UK family history research. 

Finding UK ancestors on FamilySearch

If you are starting out with your research for the first time, then FamilySearch is a site that you should bookmark from the outset, for this site is packed with parish records, censuses, and many other crucial resources.

Created by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormon Church) to help its members fulfil a religious requirement to research their ancestry, the site is open to everyone to access, and hosts a range of digitised records and indexes from across the world.

In addition there is a free wiki site with lots of useful background information, free tutorial resources, a family tree hosting program, digitised ebooks, and just so much more. While most of its materials can be viewed at home, some can only be accessed at a local family history centre run by the church, but a visit there will also provide you with free access to subscription sites such as Findmypast and Ancestry.

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UK ancestors on FreeBMD

Possibly the most important genealogical crowdsourcing endeavour in British history, the FreeBMD project was one of the first to ask volunteers to help make accessible the very indexes needed to order up civil birth, marriage and death certificates in England and Wales. With its sister projects FreeCEN, which aims to transcribe British censuses from 1841-1891, and FreeREG, for parish register transcriptions, it has also been one of the most meticulous projects in terms of the high standards set for the volunteer transcribing community.

FreeBMD not only provides fully searchable index transcriptions, it also allows you to see the original images from the register indexes. For those tracing English and Welsh ancestors, this is perhaps the most important free-to-access website for family tree research.

Genuki: UK genealogy website

The UK and Ireland Genealogy gateway site GENUKI provides a vast portal into a variety of resources for those researching British kin. Essentially a giant online encyclopaedia, it allows you to burrow down by both geographic location and subject to access a variety of sources. Some of these are transcribed and hosted on the site itself, while others are provided in the form of links that can be clicked on, leading to various dedicated pages on other sites.

Established as a charitable trust, the site’s strength comes from the dedicated efforts of its many volunteers, each of whom has a detailed knowledge of the areas of the site for which they act as administrators. In addition to the main GENUKI site, a parallel calendar project called GENEVA (Genealogical Events and Activities) identifies forthcoming talks, fairs and conferences that may be of interest.

National Archives of Ireland: Genealogy

The National Archives of Ireland provides a range of free resources for Ireland through its dedicated records platform. By far the most useful are the 1901 and 1911 Censuses for the whole island of Ireland, as well as the census fragments that have survived from 1821 to 1851.

In addition there are census extracts from 1841 and 1851 used to support old age pension applications after 1908, soldiers’ wills from 1914 to 1918, tithe applotment books from 1823 to 1937, and wills calendars summarising grants of probate and admons from 1858 to 1922.

Don’t forget to check out the archive’s main website for useful information guides and an online catalogue for further holdings in Dublin.

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