Genealogy on a budget

If you’d like to get started on your family tree but cash is limited, this one’s for you.
Even if the costs of family research aren’t a problem for you, it’s still nice to save a little money when we can.

And remember that these ideas can be used in combination – subscribe for a month, take advantage of a free weekend, use the library facilities, google online records….  Challenge yourself to see how far you can go on a fixed budget.

Access genealogy websites without a subscription
These are places that might have subscriptions to one of the genealogy websites (most likely Ancestry or FindMyPast if you’re in the UK).  They will be free for you to use, although you may have to become a member (also free):

  • Your local library
  • The central library for your area/ city
  • The local archives/ county record office
  • Your nearest FamilyHistory Centre.

Look up records online for free

  • Familysearch All records are free but you have to have an account and be signed in.
  • Search the births and deaths indexes for free at the General Register Office website.
  • FreeBMD Search for births, marriages and deaths here.
  • Even if you’re not subscribed, these record sets at Ancestry and these at FindMyPast are freely available.
  • At certain times of the year (e.g. Bank Holidays, St Patrick’s Day) the main sites offer free access to their main collections. You can get an awful lot done in a long weekend if you set your mind to it. 😊

Special offers to subscription sites
Look at the Genealogy Discount site to see if there are any special offers currently available.

Or try googling the sites and adding ‘free trial’ or ‘month trial’.  They often have special offers at times of the year when they think people will have free time and minded to find out more about their families, e.g. Christmas.

Limit your subscriptions to when you know you’ll have more time
In my early years as a genealogist I limited my subscriptions to the winter months.  Other commitments meant I didn’t have much time throughout the rest of the year.  Per month, a monthly subscription is more expensive than an annual subscription, but if you subscribed for one month out of every three, it will save you money.  Remember to deactivate automatic renewal each time you subscribe.

Alternate subscriptions and reading
If you limit your subscriptions you can use the time between subscribed months to read around your family / your localities by visiting your local library, heritage centre or archives.  It’s all valuable research and will help you get a better understanding of your family.

You can also take advantage of ‘free weekends’ during your unsubscribed periods.

Even if you do keep a regular subscription, you can still save money
Keep an eye on public online trees.  Sometimes people share digital copies of BMD certificates or other records they have found on a different subscription site.  Sometimes you may even get photos of your ancestors.  If you’re sure this is the same family, that could be several documents you don’t have to pay for.

Try to find out if someone has transcribed the registers for your parish of interest
GENUKI is a good place to start.  Click on your county, then your parish.  If transcriptions are known to exist they will be listed.

Also try Googling ‘online parish clerks’ and adding your county of interest.  e.g. Cornwall online parish clerks has a page for each parish.  As an example, Altarnun parish page includes transcripts of census returns, registers, and even some apprenticehip indentures, wills, bastardy and resettlement hearings.  This is a volunteer service so what’s available will of course vary from place to place.

Occasionally you’ll come across a real nugget, like the Wharfegen & Craven Genealogical Study.  This is an ongoing project to construct the family lines and histories of individuals and families who have lived the Wharfedale and Craven areas of Yorkshire.  You only come across things like this by googling or recommendation, so see what you can find.

Don’t buy a civil BMD for every event
Refer back to my previous posts for ideas on how to find the same or similar information from alternative records:

These are some ideas to get you started.  I’m sure others will be able to add to this list, so please leave a comment if there’s a money-saving idea you’d like to share.

2 thoughts on “Genealogy on a budget

  1. Really comprehensive and useful for new genealogists. I was pleased to find my local library has an online magazine subscription, so I can access several family history magazines free at home. 🙂


    • That’s great Jules. Often I find there’s only one article that interests me, so paying for the subscription is a waste. Our libraries do so many excellent things, don’t they, if only they can avoid closure. All our small local libraries are now open short hours and staffed by volunteers, although the larger ones are still fully open.


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