If you are doing genealogy on a shoestring budget, you probably know how frustrating it can be to try to locate free genealogical information on the internet. Websites that offer to perform free searches almost all seem to lead to Ancestry.com, and the search for free, official data may seem hopeless.
But don't give up! I have made it a point of only listing as free, sites and resources here on this page that are truly free. Most do also offer value-added services for a fee, but they are websites where you can definitely find significant genealogical data for free. There are some resources and services recommended on this page that cost money, but they are confined to their own special section below. If you have other truly free, useful sites you want to see added to the list, then contact me.
This section consists of selected free information sites, most of which I personally have been able to use without difficulty, despite the fact that I generally use an unusual, unsupported browser. The only sites listed which are exceptions to this are some of newer sites which require Flash, but which are included below because they are major sources of free genealogy information. I have tried to indicate below which sites require Flash.
If you fail to find your ancestors in the major free databases I list below, you may also want to check out Jerry Reed's blog about free genealogy tips and little known databases at http://freegensites.blogspot.com. If you wish to see a more comprehensive, definitive list of genealogy databases, which includes both free and subscription databases, check out Cyndi's List.
Naturalization records and passenger lists can be some of the most difficult documents to locate for ancestors. But, depending on the type of record and time frame, they can also provide you with incredibly helpful information about place of birth and about relatives you may have been hunting for or may not have known about. If you have difficulty locating these records for an ancestor, be sure to ask for help on an online mailing list or genealogy forum devoted either to your ancestor's country of origin, or to where they took up residence and were probably naturalized.
In addition to the free sites listed below, you also may want to check out the various free passenger lists and naturalization records available at FamilySearch. Their collection list continues to grow, and currently includes records for various areas of the United States as well as departure lists from Europe and other international migration and naturalization records.
Be forewarned that if you choose to narrow their collection list by type of record (e.g., Immigration and Naturalization, or Census), you may miss some collections of interest, as their menu filters are not perfect, so we recommend that you use their search box, or skim or have your browser search their entire collection list, to make sure you have not missed anything. If you do not know how to find keywords on a page using your browser's find function, then read our explanation about how to find a specific keyword or phrase on a page.
This is a major collection of international passenger list transcriptions. Be sure to click on the "Search Tips" link to learn how their search engine's options can improve your searching.
Castle Garden Immigrant ships between 1820-1892 (transcription not yet complete)
Ellis Island 1892-1924
U.S. NARA/AAD Passenger List Transcriptions(1800's) You can search these NARA/AAD databases together, or click on a specific one to search it alone. Each individual has their own record, but you must perform a separate search of what they call the "Manifest Header File", in order to find out the date of the voyage and name of the ship. You can do that by using the "manifest ID" number that you will find on the person's voyage transcription.
Many websites have free census records online for various countries around the world. Some of these are government sites, and some are commercial sites. We have listed just a few of these below to get you started. The number of censuses getting put online at various sites is growing, so there is not likely to be any one complete list of what censuses are available online for free in every country. If you do not see what you are looking for below, check the most up to date menus at FamilySearch for free censuses, or the listing of both free and paid censuses at http://www.cyndislist.com/census-worldwide/census-records-online/.
Censuses for the United Kingdom and Wales for 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901, 1911.
Census for Ireland 1911
Census for Canada for 1851, 1871, 1881, 1891, 1916, and for Lower Canada for 1825, 1831 and 1842. May include images, some of these databases are only transcripts of the records. Note that some of these census databases were previously available through the SearchLabs, Pilot and Beta sites, but have been merged into the main familysearch site. You can access them all through the following link.
AutomatedGenealogy has indexed the Censuses of Canada for 1901, 1906, 1911.
The Canadian government has Canadian Census Records for 1851 thru 1911 (search by geographic location, these are not indexed by surname)
We are only listing below sites with free US Federal Censuses. Many census records also exist for individual states in addition to the Federal Censuses. To find out about those which are available for free, the best place to visit is FamilySearch.org's page listing Census Records for the United States. Genealogy societies for individual cities, counties and states also sometimes have free census records. So, another option is to use a search engine to find the website of the State or County of interest and explore their databases and collections lists.
Federal Census for the United States for 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930. May include images, some of these databases are only transcripts of the records. Note that some of these census databases were previously available through the SearchLabs, Pilot and fsbeta sites, but have been merged into the main familysearch site. You can access them all through the following link.
Census for the United States for 1930 - name, location and estimated year born for complete households is free (payment required for more complete information)
Census for the United States for 1940 - the 1940 census has been fully indexed for name searches at Ancestry.com. And if you prefer other search engines, all states can also be searched by name at FamilySearch, and most or all at MyHeritage.com, as follows:
NAME SEARCH AT ANCESTRY: All States and Territories searchable by name as of 3 Aug 2012.
NAME SEARCH AT MY HERITAGE: Most or all States and Territories completely searchable by name (requires Flash)
NAME SEARCH AT ARCHIVES.COM, FINDMYPAST.COM, and FAMILY SEARCH for all states and most or all territories. At FamilySearch, you may need to tick "Exact match" and include state of residence to narrow your results to a particular state.
If you have difficulty finding someone when searching for them by name and you know where they lived in 1940, you can browse by Enumeration District at the official government site (see below) or elsewhere if you want. For help determining the appropriate enumeration district, use the ED Finder at stevemorse.org. You can use the following links to browse the free images. The Official Census Archives site, Ancestry.com, MyHeritage and FamilySearch have all images available for browsing.
OFFICIAL ARCHIVES: Browse census images for all areas - people have had better luck downloading entire Enumeration Districts than trying to get individual pages to display at the site itself
FAMILY SEARCH: Browse images for all states and territories
MY HERITAGE: Images for all states and territories available:
ARCHIVES.COM: Use the Archives.com search engine to locate records in the same states as have name searches at FamilySearch (see above list):
FINDMYPAST: Use the FindMyPast search engine to locate records in the same states as have name searches at FamilySearch (see above list):
http://www.findmypast.com/search (Registration required to view images)
Censuses for Norway for 1865, 1875, 1900 and 1910 (1875 is not complete)
Census for Norway for 1875 is also at FamilySearch
FamilySearch is a basic free resource that has at least 75 census collections, including Argentina, Canada, Central America, England, Germany, Ghana, Mexico, Norway, Scotland, the United States, and Wales. Some are Colonial Census records but most are from about 1841-1945. For a complete list of all censuses available at FamilySearch, go to https://www.familysearch.org/search/collection/list. We have provided a link to their full collection list, because their filtered list of census records sometimes leave collections off of the menus that result from using the filters to look at just one record type. If you use their search box instead of their filters, you can be sure you can obtain complete lists of the census collections of interest.
Again, note that Family Search probably has census records for more countries than we have listed above, and also has census collections for individual states and provinces in various countries. The list is long and continues to grow, so do check out the current records available by clicking on the region of interest on the map, and then selecting a database, or by using the search box or filters on their All Collections Page.
If you are looking for the old Pilot and Beta.familysearch.org sites, they have been rolled over into the main FamilySearch site. However, there now is a new test search available, which may yield more tailored results, you can try it out at the second link below. (If you wish to learn more about the old and new FamilySearch sites, we have more details about that in the Old Search section of our page about Old and New Links for Family Search Birth Collections.)
The United States Official Center for Disease Control has a page about where to order birth certificates from government offices
This next site is a very good resource to help find free state and local government vital records websites in the United States - All States (most have just indices, some have copies of actual records online). After selecting a state, be sure to scroll down below the search box (which costs) to the information about State and County government websites.
The following page is a guide to truly free online resources for birth and baptismal indexes and records in the United States (most have just transcriptions or indices, some have copies of actual records online).
When possible, we have provided you with more than one free resource for each of the collections listed below. Each has it's own version of the collection, and has it's own unique way of searching, so try the different ones out to see which you like best.
Also, since identity theft based on fraudulent use of the SSDI has become an issue, each site carrying death indexes has taken different action in response to the situation. If you need a social security number or index listing that does not appear at one of the sites, be sure to try the other sites, as the amount of information available on each of them does vary.
Social Security Death Index (SSDI)
http://www.genealogybank.com/gbnk/ssdi/ (registration NOT needed for free ssdi results)
California Death Record Indices - 1905 to 1929 are free (registration required)
California Death Index - 1905 to 1939. Browse images of the California Death index. It will take some patience, pages should be in alphabetical order but are not completely in order. Entries on each index page are alphabetical, however.
California Death Index - 1940 to 1997. Text search of the California Death Index for 1940-1997.
Joe Beine's Death Indexes site lists online death indexes and databases for each state and is a fantastic resource which includes obituary and cemetery databases as well. Many of the databases are free, and are clearly marked as such.
FamilySearch has free Death Indexes for many States including Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, and Wisconsin
Recent Obituaries (Selected Newspapers, archived older obituaries do cost)
This next site is a great resource which gives links for each U.S. State and Canadian Province, to obituary and obituary transcription sites, and obituary resources, for both historical and recent obituaries
Province of Manitoba | Database Searches
British Columbia Vital Records Archives (index is online; if the first link does not work for you, try the second one)
If you are looking for information about Canadian births or baptisms, you may want to visit our more extensive page devoted to listing online free Canadian birth and baptismal transcription and record sites:
Transcription of BMD Indexes for UK and Wales - work in progress (click on "Search FreeBMD", beware of the search boxes across top of the page, which are an advertizement)
Legal Noticies including Name Change and Probate notices in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales
The following was formerly at http://ifhf.brsgenealogy.com:
If the above sites do not meet your needs, the following page is a much longer list of truly free online resources for birth and baptismal indexes, transcriptions and records around the world (most have just transcriptions or indices, some have copies of actual records online).
All of the burial registry websites listed below are ongoing projects, with new data continually being added to them by volunteer contributors or coordinators. They are especially useful resources for finding the dates of death for people whose dates of death are hard to find because they passed away when or where there were or are no free public records available.
International Grave Records and Memorials
International Cemetary Records and Tombstone Inscriptions
International Jewish Cemetary Project
Cemetery Scribes (formerly Genpals) Jewish Cemetary Project (primarily United Kingdom but includes a few international)
Some Historical Jewish Gravesites in Poland (including surrounding countries)
Canadian Gravemarker Gallery
City directories can be a great aid to finding out when your ancestors moved, or to help you find them in census records by telling you what street to search. I have listed just a few excellent free online city directory sites below to get you started. For more extensive lists of online city directories, including both free and paid resources, see both CyndisList and Miriam Robbins Midkiff's new, growing Online Historical Directories resource guide.
Selected Historical City Directories (primarily U.S.)
Various San Francisco Bay Area City Directories - put "directory" in site search box for full list
British Columbia City Directories 1860-1901
The University of Leicester has put selected directories for 1750 to 1919 from England and Wales online. You must page through the directory images, there is no automated search for specific names.
Internet Archive has many historical city directory images online. The collection is primarily U.S. directories but it is worth checking to see if directories from other countries are available yet. To search Internet Archive's directories, you will need to download each entire directory, the contents of individual directories are not digitally indexed. Perform a search for "city directory" plus the name of the city or state of interest, or browse the entire list of "Americana" city directories by clicking here.
If you find yourself needing to go to a library in person to look for your ancestors in historical city directories because the directories you most need are not yet online, consider making a contribution to the genealogical community by scanning or photographing one or more directories, and submitting them to either or both the Internet Archive and DonsList.net (formerly known as EveNDon.com).
Land records are another great resource for identifying and tracking down family members. In some cases, these records include dates of birth, marriage or death, names of children and spouses, and occasionally actual death certificates for free. We do not yet have a list of websites that provide free land and property records, so this section at the moment consists of hints for finding these records.
When property is purchased or transferred from one party to another, the documents associated with this transaction become part of the public record. In the United States, these records are held by County government offices. Some counties charge for online access to these records, but many provide the information and copies of the documents for free. In many cases, government sites which charge for viewing the actual documents will still provide you with enough information in their free search results to help you along in your research.
The best way we know of to find these records is to go to the county government website where you know or believe a particular ancestor owned property. You can find these websites by putting the name of the county (in quotes) where the property was or is, along with the name of the state, into a web search engine (such as Yahoo, Google, Bing, AOL) . Then examine the hits for ones that say they are official government sites. Their addresses may end with "gov" or with the country code, possibly preceded by the state's two character postal abbreviation codes. For example, many county government websites in Florida end with ".fl.us". But not all use this convention, some official government sites use ".org" or ".com" at the end of their web addresses.
If you use a web search engine to help you find land records at government sites, do not use the word "free" in your search, as many pay sites will appear in your search results which have "free trials" and other "free" offers. You are less likely to immediately find the official free government record sites this way because most do not have the word "free" appearing on their pages. However, you can use the word "free" if you want to look at websites which might have lists of free government property record webpages.
Once you find the county's official website, it may require surfing around, exploring the website to find the appropriate search page, if they have an online search. Some counties keep these records at the County Clerk or County Recorder's office, and if they are online, the search might be found by looking at the pages for those offices.
You may want to speed up your search by adding the word "search" to the list of words you give the web search engine. But this will also give you pages that do not contain property transfer records, such as Vital Records pages as well as Assessor's Office pages. And some pages will not have online searches, but simply be telling you how to ask them search the records for you for a fee.
You could try adding the word "online" to your search, but the online search pages you want to find may not have the word "online" on their pages. Search engines look for the keywords you tell them you want to find, and do not generally evaluate whether the pages contain information belonging to categories (such as "online search") unless those words also appear on the page itself.
If you get frustrated, you can come back to this page in a few months, when we will hopefully be able to provide you with an easier way to find these sites. Or, you can ask for immediate help at a free online genealogy forum or mailing list.
This section contains just a few of many websites that can help you in your quest to find someone. For[ a longer discussion about searching the internet for specific people, along with more website urls, see the person search section of our finding aids page.
Canada and the United States
JewishGen is an amazing resource for Jewish genealogical research.
JewishGen Home PageIf you want to see what Hebrew, Yiddish or other foreign names were equivalent to each other, an excellent comparative name data base is provided by the Belarus Special Interest group at the Belarus Given Names Data Base.
JewishGen UK Database
If you want to find out about the shtetl, town or village your ancestors came from, perform a search at the Shtetl Seeker and Gazetteer.
The following is the official Holocaust memorial website with a huge searchable database. If you are a Holocaust survivor, have relatives, ancestors or friends who perished in the Holocaust, or know anyone who does, please do take a few moments to record and preserve the memories of those who were killed by submitting their names and stories, and encourage others to do the same, to keep these loved ones from being forgotten.
If you have ancestors who perished or fled from various pogroms or the Holocaust, much Jewish history and memorial information is also available in the Yizkor Book Translations
Jewish Genealogical Publication which includes some interesting history as well as hints and recommended resources for Jewish genealogical research
Nu? What's New? Vol. 6 No. 21
If you have ancestors who came from or went to Israel, the Israel Genealogy Society is an amazing resource for specifically Israeli genealogical information. They have many databases of their own, as well as links to burial society websites, many of which have computerized their interments. Many databases are in Hebrew, so be prepared to visit with or have a translation engine handy.
Also check out our page of Genealogical Research Tips.
If you can take the time to physically go to a local public library, LDS Family History Center, or genealogical society library, in addition to gaining access to many local records that may not be available online, you can get free access to online resources that otherwise would require a subscription to access them, such as http://www.FindMyPast.co.uk and http://Ancestry.com.
However, if you are not able to go to a local public library or LDS Family History Center, you still can do an amazing amount of genealogical research for free from your own home. Many libraries provide home access to genealogical databases online. Some are publicly accessible, while others are only available to cardholders. So, in addition to utilizing the various free online resources such as those mentioned in the above sections, check out the databases available at your local public library's website. And, if they do not seem to have one, then call and ask their reference librarian about online resources available to you as a local resident.
Some libraries may limit the time you can spend using their computers in person. So, you might consider searching the paid sites from home in advance, to save yourself library time trying to find the right search parameters that will yield the results you want to view. The paid sites will generally let you use their search engines from home without a subscription, not requiring payment unless you click on the links for viewing more details.
Many people wonder if there is a way to access http://Ancestry.com from home completely for free through their public libraries. From everything I have read and heard, I believe that the only free access to http://Ancestry.com from public libraries is in person. However, I recall reading that those people who participate in certain transcription projects and meet certain quotas, are given full access from home to specific databases.
I will post more information here when I have researched the question more thoroughly, but I believe these would be projects thru either the LDS or through http://Ancestry.com itself, rather than through public libraries. In the meantime, here are pages about Ancestry's World Archives Project (Windows required for participation) and on Indexing Projects at Family Search (Mac and Windows).
If you live in the United States, most states have libraries with online access to databases available to cardholders in at least some of their cities. Google for PERSI, Proquest, Newsbank, Gale, or Heritage Quest in your state or province, or call the reference desk at your local public library, to see which libraries can give you access to these great databases. Many libraries have cooperative agreements with other libraries in the same state, so if your local library does not have these resources, you still may be able to gain access from home to the online databases of other libraries in your state. Do contact whatever ones have databases of interest to you if the databases are not available from your nearest library.
Proquest has newspaper databases, including one with the full text of the New York Times going back to 1851, and this includes search engine access to birth, marriage, and death announcements. Historical archives of the Historical San Francisco Chronicle and of the Los Angeles Times are also available from some libraries through Proquest. Proquest also has a separate database containing articles from over 300 other publications, some going back to the 1980's, which may also include some relevant articles.
Heritage Quest has a fairly complete collection of census records for the United States through 1920, and part of the 1930 census as well as access to a number of other genealogical resources, including PERSI and Freedman's Bank.
Two websites have lists of public libraries in the United States which carry Heritage Quest for their home access patrons. One list of those carrying Heritage Quest as of 2006 can be found online at the Afrigeneas forum. A few additional libraries are mentioned in replies to the forum thread, but the somewhat comprehensive alphabetical list is at:
The other place you can find lists of libraries carrying Heritage Quest for their patrons is Dick Eastman's genealogy encyclopedia site. Note that any information you may find to the effect that Heritage Quest has no indexes for 1880 and earlier censuses is false. There is indexing at Heritage Quest, but 1880 is the only year which indexes all household members. Other years just index heads of household and people who are not family members, such as lodgers and boarders.
As time goes on, more and more people are "privatizing" their family trees (i.e., removing private information such as birth information about the living) and putting them up on the web to share with other researchers. Yahoo, Google, and other search engines may find family members and ancestors for you. Just put in the name and country where the the person died or was born. You may need to use the "Advanced Search" feature to filter out unwanted results. Or you may want to try the free people finding tool called YouFocus, which is at SF Genealogy:
However, I prefer going to genealogy sites to do my searching. Check out the various free family history and family tree resources at http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com, at http://wc.rootsweb.ancestry.com, and especially the JewishGen Family Tree Database at http://www.jewishgen.org/gedcom/ and the JewishGen Family Finder at http://www.jewishgen.org/jgff/.
The JewishGen gedcom pages may take a long time to load, so be prepared to do something else while you are waiting for them to come up. I can attest to the fact that you will find connections there which will not turn up anywhere else on the web, since it is a private data base which is used by people around the world who are tracing their Jewish ancestry, and a place where people feel more secure.
Ancestry.com's databases are available by subscription, or on a pay-per-image-view basis. If you sign up (at no charge) for their email special offers, initial membership is occasionally on sale at fantastic discounts. Many of their databases are also occasionally available for free if you register at Ancestry.Com Some public libraries also have subscriptions to Ancestry.com, but you must use the terminals at the library to get full access to all of their databases for free.
FindMyPast.com is another subscription only database site that is preferred by many people whose research is focused on ancestors in the United Kingdom. Their range of databases is more limited but of very high quality. While Ancestry.com also now carries it, FindMyPast was the very first site to carry the complete 1911 Census for Britain and Wales, which is also available through their sister site, 1911census.co.uk. The pay-per-view packages offered by FindMyPast appeal to those of us who cannot afford full subscription packages, or who only need to do a small amount of research in UK records. They also occasionally offer discounts to new subscribers.
DNA testing is revolutionizing geneological research, even though it is a rather expensive addition to the genealogist's toolbox. Whether you have hit a "brick wall", or just need confirmation that someone else truly is a cousin, DNA testing is the best way to get unequivocal evidence, and there are a number of companies to choose from.
http://dna.ancestry.com offers male and female line DNA testing, as well as autosomal DNA testing.r However, there have been numerous reports that their Autosomal Testing is not worth the money as it is unreliable, and does not provide adequate information to evaluate matches properly. Their male and female line testing is fine, but be wary of their Autosomal DNA test. For more details about this reliability issue, see the Ancestry.com entries at the following DNA blog written by CeCe Moore.
The good news is that DNA testing at https://www.familytreedna.com has a much bigger database and well-established reputation for genealogical DNA testing. A description of the various tests available at familytreedna.com is here. If you can join a surname or regional project, all testing is offered at discount. See the Cohen Project and Polish Project special offers as examples. You can browse the list of other surname and regional projects at Family Tree DNA here. They do not seem to have a page with a full list of their projects, probably because there are so many of them, currently about 5,360. Instead, you can either browse the project lists, or enter your surname into the search box, and their site will suggest appropriate projects for you to consider joining.
Another DNA company with an excellent reputation is 23andMe. Many people like their testing because they previously were able to offer health evaluations. However, new orders do not include health evaluations due to rulings by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), and if you want the ability to phone someone to ask a question, there is no telephone support at 23andMe.
For more detailed, down to earth information explaining the kinds of DNA testing available, and examples of the results from male and female DNA tests, see the introduction, recommended reading, and discussion on our DNA results page.
You don't really need any special software to view or make family trees, unless you want to create or view family trees on your computer without having to go on the Internet to view or modify them.
I prefer entering data offline, but there are many free and paid sites which enable you to use an ordinary browser to construct your own family tree. Two good examples are https://www.myfamily.com/, and http://tribalpages.com, which allow you to build your family tree online for free, although they do charge for enhanced features.
If you choose to build your family tree online, make sure the website will allow you to download free backup copies of your tree (called Gedcoms), so that you will have a personal copy in case something untowards happens to the website or your ability to access it.
And read the terms of service carefully. Some companies will let you build or start building your tree online, and either demand payment after a while, or not give you full ownership rights of your tree. Consider their enticing offers carefully, and read what people are saying about their sites in forums and on mailing lists before giving them your data. We believe people should not have to pay for building their family trees online, and want you as a reader to be happy with the family tree choices you make.
If you are considering building or placing your family tree online at http://ancestry.com, you should understand that there are different terms of service, privacy and ownership rights at each of the family tree sites using the Ancestry computers. There are the Rootsweb Worldconnect project, Ancestry World Tree, One World Tree, and Ancestry Member Tree sites. It is very easy to get these confused with each other, so in making your decision, be very careful that you are clear which of these you are choosing.
Also remember that if you want to create your own family tree offline, both free and paid software is available.
Some people consider FamilyTreeMaker to be the best family tree program for Windows computers. There now is a 14 day free version available, meant to convert old FamilyTreeMaker files to their new format. The link to and explanation for use of the Family Tree Maker 2005 Starter Edition is on the page about Opening old and unsupported files in Family Tree Maker 2008-2012. You also can download the exe file and install with this link.
If you want to have more than a 14 day trial, then you may prefer to purchase their current version, which has a 30 day money back guarantee if you purchase the product, or you may wish to try a different, totally free, software package.
And there are, indeed, many free alternatives available for Windows, Mac, and Linux users. Many people use Legacy, which has a free basic version for Windows (or Mac and Linux systems which have Windows emulation), available at http://legacyfamilytree.com/DownloadLegacy.asp
Excellent free family tree software is also available from the LDS family history site https://www.familysearch.org. It is called "PAF", for Personal Ancestral File, and is available in Chinese, English, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish and Svenska (Swedish). The download page is at https://familysearch.org/products.
The most reasonably priced family tree software for the MacIntosh seems to be IFamily. It is discussed at http://www.macgenealogy.org/ and there seems to be a free trial version available. About.com also has a page reviewing family tree software for MacIntosh computers, and including links for free trial versions of other Mac family tree programs, at http://genealogy.about.com/od/software_mac/Genealogy_Software_Macintosh.htm.
Gramps, short for "Genealogical Research and Analysis Management Programming System" is free family tree making software which is available for Windows, Linux, and Mac OSX. Some people find Gramps to be more intuitive than FamilyTreeMaker. However, support for Gramps is via a mailing list so if you want software with live support available, you may be happier with one of the paid software packages.
However, I personally found GRAMPS to be far from simple or intuitive. If you are running Linux, you may also want to check out the free family tree programs reviewed on the following page:
If you want to keep a backup copy of your family tree, whether you build the tree on your local computer or on a website, you will need to export the date to what is called a Gedcom file. If you are building your family tree on your own computer, you could just make a standard backup copy of the directory your family tree is in. However, the advantage of exporting your tree to create a Gedcom is that Gedcoms use a basic, standardized format that can be read by most family tree programs, and uploaded to the web at family tree sites.
However, although there are international standards for how gedcoms are written, most family tree software and family tree sites add optional data types to the gedcoms they create, which are not necessarily going to be rcognized by other family tree programs and other websites. Furthermore, sometimes the data or structure of the file can become corrupted, and when you go to upload the gedcom to a different site or family tree program, you will get an error message because there are problems with your gedcom file.
But there is another free great piece of software that can help resolve these problems. If you plan on sharing your gedcom files with others, or uploading them to a family tree site, VGed is an updated, improved version of the original Gedcom Parser by Tim Forsythe. It is only available for Windows computers, but is a wonderful tool that will check your gedcom file for syntax errors. If you are concerned about whether the integrity of your file has been compromised, whether it may use an incompatible format or have become corrupted, this is the tool for you. It was formerly at Rumblefische.com and ancestorsnow.com, and you now can get installation instructions and download the latest version for free at:
If you are technically inclined and feel comfortable using the command line (i.e., using a terminal), then Lifelines genealogy package is another free tool to consider installing. Unlike Forsythe's Gedcom Validator, Lifelines is available for all three platforms: Windows, Mac and Linux. However, those wanting something simple to use, may need to ask for help or post feature requests on the Lifelines mailing list.
Lifelines can be a very valuable tool for everyone, whether or not you want to use it to create family trees, because you can use it to just see if your gedcom has validation errors. All you have to do is ask it to import the gedcom, and if there are any invalid lines or entries, it will create a list of the errors.
Then, if you feel comfortable enough working with command line software, and are willing to learn a little bit about gedcoms, Lifelines is much, much faster than the more popular family tree programs. And, there are many free utilities for creating, and editing family tree reports. You can start from scratch or import gedcoms from other packages. I like it because of the speed, and because it is the only Linux tool I could find that will check my gedcoms for errors, and can also easily generate reports alerting me about questionable dates and lineages. The "verify.ll" report creates a list of any such questionable entries, and is a quick, easy way to find out, for example, if children or marriages are out of order in your database, or marriage or birth dates are inconsistent with each other.
LifeLines Home Page
Lifelines comes with lots of documentation and user manuals. On my Linux system, they are located along with the report utilities, in /usr/share/lifelines/. The ll-userguide is installed in a few formats, including pdf and html, and will teach you how to use it and work with the gedcom format, if you do not already know how. But you may also want to check out the following webpages.
LifeLines Users Guide - despite what the users guide says, there are lots of associated program scripts that will create custom reports, you do not have to write your own
But, if you like colored buttons to push on, you may like like having to type answers to the questions it asks (like "y" for "yes" or "n" for "no", "c" to "browse to children"), but I still strongly recommend using it to at least check your gedcoms for errors, if you are unable to use Tim Forsythe's utility and you are going to export a gedcom to import to another family tree program or to upload to the web or share it with other researchers.
This page is http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~thecohens/resources.html
Page Revised February 8, 2016 09:08 AM MST
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