If you’re looking for a genealogy database online but don’t know where to start or which to use, then you’ve come to the right place.

Following our blog post, Genealogy in UK (where we give insight into the world of genealogy), we are going to provide you with an expansive list of genealogy search database sources.

In this post, we will be listing all the free and premium genealogy databases available online. With the benefits of each to help you decide where to look next.

What you’ll find in this post:

What types of genealogy databases are there?

There are many different types of information you can find to help you with your genealogy research. Let’s look at each.

 

DNA Genealogy Database

For the genetic genealogist there is a wide range of DNA databases which allow you to search for your ancestors based on DNA results. Some DNA databases allow you to input your own DNA results, and search for matches. Some DNA databases allow you to search for the family history health based on your own DNA results. This can be particularly effective for discovering hereditary health conditions for you and your family.

However, there may soon be restrictions to the access of genealogy DNA databases for privacy concerns, resulting from the Golden State Killer case, where police arrested a man decades later through researching genetic genealogy databases.

 

Census Records:

A census has been carried out in the UK every ten years since 1801, (with the exception of 1941). Its objective is to gather information on an individual level to find out about the population as a whole.

That’s why every household is included in a census, to have an accurate reflection on the population as a whole. Then after 100 years has passed the census records are released to the public, giving us insight into the everyday lifestyles of our ancestors.

A census has a wealth of information available for us. It collects data on the number of people in the population, occupancies, health, households, and so on.  This vital information helps the government form policies and figure out how to allocate public spending based on the needs of the country.

[A census] “Providing a snapshot of demographic and social life in the UK that helps inform government policy at a local and central level.” – UK Data Service

 

Civil Registration index of births, marriages and deaths UK: (otherwise known as General Register Office (GRO)

The recording of births, marriages and deaths in the UK was officially started by parliament in 1837 and is one of the most significant resources for genealogical research for births, marriages, divorces and deaths.

 

Church of England Records:

In 1538, a nationwide order was given by Henry VIII to record all baptisms, marriages and burials through the Church of England. If you’re looking for genealogical records prior to 1837 the Church of England records is the best place to start.

 

International Genealogical Index (IGI):

The IGI thanks to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), was a family history database of millions of deceased people from throughout the world. Going all the way back to the 1500s.

 

The National Archives:

The National Archives has one of the world’s largest collection of records. Here you will find millions of government, public and historic records, from Shakespeare’s will, to Tweets from Downing street. All collected by the UK central government departments and major courts of law.

Documents that are selected for preservation are sent to The National Archives after they are 30 years old and sometimes earlier. You’ll be able to access incredible and priceless records such as the Domesday Book, dating back to 1086.

Most of this data you can access online, but for some, you’ll need to visit the National Archives building in Kew.

 

The Times Digital Archive:

This is a database that holds information on famous, well-known ancestors that have made a name for themselves. You can search for these ancestors from between 1785- 1985.

 

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

This is a free website holds the databases of information dedicated to finding the details of the 1.7 million servicemen and women whose life was taken during WW1 and WW2. It also holds the database records of all the cemeteries and memorials at 23,000 locations, in over 150 countries.

 

Free genealogy database search sites

If you’re searching your genealogy on a budget, then there are plenty of sources out there to help for free.

Family Search

The website from the LDS church (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) has several databases all for free! These are also available in over 100 countries, making this one of the largest free genealogical search sites around.

Which genealogy database records can you access?

  • Census Records indexes 1841-1911 censuses of UK
  • International Genealogical Index (IGI)
  • Death records and birth records
  • English records
  • GRO indexes
  • Church of England records with Indexes of births and baptisms, 1538-1975; marriages, 1538-1973, deaths and burials 1538-1991 for all of England with images available for Cornwall, Kent, Norfolk, and some for Cheshire, Durham, Lancashire and Yorkshire
  • Maps for Parishes

Website pros:

  • Family Search has partnered with findmypast and MyHeritage, where they now have access to large amounts of their databases. This extra information comes at a cost unless you are members of the Mormon Church, which allows free subscriptions with any of these three companies.

Website Cons:

 

Cyndis List

Cyndis List is an online free tool that allows you to search for genealogy records from 221 different categories. Some categories to list include individual countries, occupations, newspapers, DNA, biographies and many, many more.

Which genealogy database records can you access?

  • Various English collections
  • Census records

Website Pros:

  • The website has been running for over 20 years and has built up a wealth of information and links that are super helpful
  • It’s a great website for beginners

Website cons:

  • The site looks a little dated compared to other websites
  • It doesn’t have much access to large databases, it mostly provides helpful links

 

GENUKI

Run by volunteers, GENUKI provides links to research websites for the UK and Ireland. It has partner sites including the UKBMD, the UKGDL, the UKMFH. All these sites are free to use arranged by country, county or town.

Which genealogy database records can you access?

  • UK Births, Marriages, Death and census records for the UK
  • Records from school lists, trade directories, electoral rolls, passenger lists, old photographs
  • the UK Military Family History provides links and information to families in the military.
  • Database of churches
  • Links to maps, gazetteers, etc.
  • Links to English cemeteries

Website Pros:

  • This is a great site to use to point you in the right directions.
  • You can find detailed information on towns and cities in the UK dating back centuries with scans of maps.
  • You’ll even find information on professions and trades.

Website cons:

  • The website looks very dated. But, hey can’t be choosey when the website is free!

 

FreeBDM

FreeBDM is a free online search tool providing internet access to over 42 million transcribed records for England and Wales from periods 1837- 1901.

Which genealogy database records can you access?

  • Civil Registration index of births, marriages and deaths for England and Wales
  • Provides links to online church records from parish registers and bishop’s transcripts

Website Pros:

  • Free online tool for accessing a huge range of UK birth, marriage and death records

Website cons:

  • Limited access to a range of databases

 

Free UK Genealogy

Free UK Genealogy uses volunteers to provide online access to family records from governmental sources, parish churches, and other trusted institutions. Part of the group is the FreeBMD, FreeCEN, FreeREG.

Which genealogy database records can you access?

  • Birth, Marriages and Death Records
  • Census Data (1841 to 1891)
  • Parish Registers, Baptisms, Marriages & Burials

Website Pros:

  • Allows you to search multiple databases from one website for free

Website cons:

  • Has no available extras, such as a family tree maker or DNA testing

 

Premium Genealogy Database search sites

 

Sometimes it is worth digging into your pockets and signing up to a genealogy search website at a cost. They hold far more information than you can get from the free services, plus you often get amazing extras to help you with your genealogy and ancestry-search.

The paid-for sites also usually have a friendlier interface for an easier search and more enjoyable experience. So if you’re dedicated to your genealogy search then it may be worth splashing the extra cash.

Ancestry.co.uk

Ancestry.co.uk has worldwide access to 20 billion records from 80 countries from around the world. It’s the worlds largest genealogy search site with a range of features to complete your genealogy research including DNA testing kit, a family tree builder and a free mobile app.

Which genealogy database records can you access?

  • UK census records from 1841-1911
  • General Register Office (GRO) indexes to births, marriages, and deaths after 1837.
  • Church records
  • Church of England records with images for UK counties
  • Electoral rolls
  • Probate Records
  • England & Wales Criminal Registers from 1791-1892 and British Chancery Records, 1386-1558.
  • Military Indexes and images to for the British Army WWI Service and pension records.
  • Tracing English immigrants and emigrants including passenger lists arriving at US and Canadian ports. Also a database for those returning or visiting the British Isles from 1878-1960.
  • Wills post 1858 with microfilm images of the wills.
  • Maps

Website Pros:

  • Voted best genealogy site to use by Top Ten Reviews
  • Has DNA testing available
  • Free mobile app
  • It’s easy to use and looks great for an enjoyable user experience

Website cons:

  • Expensive
  • Cant include second marriages on family tree builder

 

FindMyPast

Findmypast has over 2 billion records to help uncover your family history. It does come at a premium membership per month but is the only tool which adds thousands of new records added to the site every week.

Which genealogy database records can you access?

  • Church of England Transcripts of baptisms, marriages, and burials from 1538-2005, with images available for many counties in the UK.
  • Indexes to birth, marriage, and death certificates from England and Wales from 1837-1983.
  • 1841-1911 censuses
  • 1939 Register
  • GRO index
  • Church records
  • Electoral rolls
  • British Army Service Records from 1760-1915.
  • School records
  • Tracing English immigrants and emigrants including passenger lists leaving the British Isles (1890-1960)
  • Register of passport applications, 1851-1903
  • Large British newspaper collection
  • Burials databases for UK (National Burial Index)

 

Website Pros:

  • It has a family tree builder
  • Has thousands of new records added on a weekly basis

Website cons:

 

The Genealogist

Allows access to birth, marriage death, census and parish records. You also get access to a variety of other directories and lists to enable genealogy research.

Which genealogy database records can you access?

  • Church of England Transcripts of parish registers
  • Census records from 1841-1901
  • Indexes to birth, marriage, and death certificates
  • Wills with an index of images of the wills
  • Tithe Records
  • Non-Conformist records
  • Parish Records
  • Landowners
  • WW1 Casualty lists

 

Website Pros:

Website cons:

  • Limit of 250 individuals in tree
  • Comes at a cost

 

MyHeritage

My Heritage has a huge international records database, it has taken over the sites WorldVitalRecords and FamilyLink. Now known as one of the leading genealogy and ancestry search sites.

 

Which genealogy database records can you access?

  • Large collection of English records
  • Census records
  • Newspapers
  • Church records
  • Immigration records
  • Military records, (Draft, Enlistment & Service, Pension Records, Military Documents)
  • Books & Publications
  • Public Records
  • Schools & Universities
  • Directories, Guides & References
  • Histories, Memories & Biographies
  • Government, Land, Court & Wills
  • Maps

Website Pros:

  • Some free features including, connecting trees made by different users
  • Has a unique Health DNA testing kit, helping families be aware of hereditary conditions.
  • Create an online family tree

Website cons:

  • It is subscription-based so comes at a cost

 

How to get started on searching genealogy databases

Once you have chosen your researching site, whether that is free or at a subscription rate you may be thinking, ok what next?

So here’s what you’ll need to get started:

  1. A family tree builder
  2. A plan of which line to trace following a pedigree chart (See our last post on how to create this here)
  3. Some family details to get started (such as name, place etc)

 

Less is more

Begin searching online databases by typing in just a few details at a time. Limit your search to just a name, place and date. This will do 2 things:

  1. Bring through a wide range of results
  2. Not exclude people based on too many search terms

If you search with lots of information in one search, the search field will try to match all possible records which could end up excluding your ancestor if the information you have is different to the database records.

Once you begin with the smaller fields, you can add the extra details as you go along to whittle down the search results.

 

Be Realistic

If you’re searching for an ancestor with a common name you may need to do some extra digging from other sources to add to your search. This will help cancel out many of the search results.

If you’re searching for someone with a very unusual name, try searching for their relatives first and look through their details, you may find a record linking to them (such as marriage certificate or birth).

 

Why can’t I find my ancestors on online databases?

There could be many reasons why you have different information to a database.

  1. They may not actually have records on any online databases. This is when you may need to head to your local area and do some digging in libraries, societies and even your own families.
  2. The difference in spelling: e.g. You may be searching for Thomas Jones, but the original spelling of his name could be Tomos Jones (the Welsh spelling).
  3. Shortening of names: e.g. You may be searching for “George Andrew Lloyd, but the database records have George. A. Lloyd.
  4. Information you have been given may be wrong: E.g You could have been told by aunt sally that her brother was born in the same town as her, but in actual fact his birth is registered elsewhere.

Still struggling?

There is a range of things you can do to expand your searching and get the support you need.

  1. Join social media. Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest are amazing ways to connect with people searching their genealogy. Facebook has Facebook pages dedicated to genealogy research: the Genealogists.com and Genealogy! Just Ask!  You’ll get great tips, meet likeminded people and hopefully get one step closer to finding that missing ancestor.
  2. Sometimes you have to admit defeat on a person. If you’ve gone back far enough and are stuck on one ancestor it’s a good idea to have a break and move on. Some people just can’t be found.
  3. Search Historic newspapers. As we covered in the genealogical databases above, many search sites have thousands of pages of access to historical newspapers. If you know of their place of origin, you may find a gem of information hidden away in their local paper. You’ll be able to find stories, photos, obituaries, marriage and birth announcements.

 

Stick to reliable sources

Be careful about what information you are using in your search. Try to stick to official records and certificates as much as you can. Websites like Ancestry.com and MyHeritage have amazing features, where other users can input the details they have found, but often these sources of information may not have citations or links to official records.

If there is no source or citation, the best rule of thumb is to not include it as it could send you in the wrong trajectory. But, it may be useful information to use if you have exhausted all other sources.

 

Begin recording your genealogy

Researching genealogy databases is a mammoth task, and you really need to be organised and goal-orientated. Especially if you want your genealogy research to be passed on throughout the generations. Otherwise, all your efforts will be wasted right?

 

Tips on how to record your genealogy research

  1. Have a clear working space
  2. Keep things organised and neat
  3. Have a great way to store the information you find

When your children inherit your genealogical work they need to be able to first enjoy looking at it, and secondly feel inspired to continue your precious work.

There are multiple ways you can inspire that same motivation that you have.

  1. Present your findings in a beautiful way
  2. Record your life story using a range of media that represent you and your family well

 

In our last post Genealogy in the UK, we highlighted how the Reliving App is an easy way to record your family tree and life stories to inspire future generations.

The Reliving app helps you by:

  1. Giving you a beautiful platform to record your family tree
  2. It has extra features to help you record and track your genealogical research, (including an interview feature)
  3. It has a private and secure, unlimited database of storage for your files that you collect on your research journey
  4. Its features allow you to upload a wide range of images, videos and recordings to make an inspiring life story to be passed onto future generations and continue to be added to

Read the post to read about these features in more detail here.

Goodluck on searching the genealogy database! Follow us on Social media and share your genealogy journey with us, we would love to hear about it!