Calvary Cemetery. Photo by Lou Szucs.
Calvary Cemetery. Photo by Lou Szucs.

Money a little tight?  Are you looking for a free way to get a relative hooked on family history? (Aren’t we all?)

Creating trees on Ancestry is always free — you just need to register. Check out these free data collections to help fill in some branches:

  1. 1940 US Census: Find one ancestor in here and you can get your tree started in no time.
  2. 1880 US Census: Find your ancestors in here and you may have a Civil War connection.
  3. Web: Obituary Daily Times Index, 1995-Current: We scan the web so you don’t have to. The Obituary Daily Times Index has over 15 million records for you to view.
  4. US Naturalization Record Indexes, 1791-1992 (Indexed in World Archives Project): The World Archives Project contributors index millions of records and the indexes are free.
  5. 1881 England Census: Have English ancestors? Look for them in the 1881 England Census
  6. England & Wales, FreeBMD Birth Index, 1837-1915: Find English and Welsh birth in this index courtesy of the FreeBMD contributors.
  7. JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry (JOWBR): Jewish ancestry? Check for burials in JOWBR.
  8. Message Boards and RootsWeb: Lots of helpful advice, family trees, data, and other information in these two locations.
  9. Find A Grave: Millions of grave markers have been photographed and memorialized. It pays to check this site often.
  10. War of 1812 Pension Files: Supported by donations, the 1812 pension files on Fold3 are free. More than 1.4 million images are already online.

So go take a look or send someone who thinks they might be interested to one of these data collections. It could be the start of a lifelong family history journey!

Anne Gillespie Mitchell

Anne Gillespie Mitchell is a Senior Product Manager at She is an active blogger on and writes the Ancestry Anne column. She has been chasing her ancestors through Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina for many years. Anne holds a certificate from Boston University's Online Genealogical Research Program. You can also find her on Twitter, Facebook and Finding Forgotten Stories.