How to start a family tree for free

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16 December 2020
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Family history is a fantastic hobby that doesn't have to cost a lot. Read on to discover the ways you can begin your trace your family tree for free.

Many people want to trace their family tree for free and this can be a really good idea, particularly when you’re just starting out. Luckily there are some excellent websites and online resources there to help you.

How do I start a family tree for free?

First, however, ask around among your family members to see whether they are able to help you. They may have useful papers, for instance. The sorts of items you are looking for, to give you clues to build your family tree are:

• birth, marriage and death certificates

• baptism certificates

• wedding orders of service

• memorial orders of service

• newspaper clippings

• address books

Your next step is to go online.

How do I make a family tree online?

Using the clues you have about your family, you can begin to grow your family tree online and search for further clues. There are many websites that offer free online tree building tools.

The sites below won’t cost you a penny. Some have records for you to search for clues, some have an online tree building tool, and some have useful information, guides and web links.

Free online family history websites

The sites below won’t cost you a penny. Some have records for you to search for clues, some have an online tree building tool, and some have useful information, guides and web links.

FreeBMD 

FreeBMD offers a searchable index to birth, marriage and death records for England and Wales. You’ll need the reference number from here to order your ancestors’ BMD certificates via the General Register Office. FreeBMD is an ongoing volunteer project, part of FreeUKGen initiative, so keep checking back if you can’t find your ancestors listed.

FreeCen

Sister site to FreeBMD aimed at making 19th-century census records free online. FreeCen is part of the FreeUKGen project, along with FreeReg (concentrating on
parish registers).

FamilySearch 

FamilySearch is the world’s largest, free, genealogy site with billions of searchable historical records and research guidance via its Research Wiki, online courses and more. Provided by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as the Mormon church).

UKBMD

Full of useful information, UKBMD offers a great base for exploring the records for England and Wales. In particular the UKBMD webite includes links to a collection of OPC websites run by volunteers who collect genealogical information about a specific parish and answer email enquiries for free.

Counties are covered by individual sites, which can contain a vast amount of parish information. [Note: some of these links will take you to paid-for sites, but we've included UKBMD in our list as there is so much good material there which is free too].

Genuki 

The UK and Ireland Genealogical Information Service Genuki is a virtual reference library of genealogical data, with links to all the county record offices in the UK, family history societies and much more.

CyndisList 

Use CyndisList to explore the directory of global web links. This remarkable site, a labour of love by American Cyndi Howells, is an enormous, constantly updated, categorised index of more than 325,300 genealogical links worldwide – explore the topics, countries, records & more.

QUICK LINK: Which is the best family history software?