Findmypast is best known as the British Isles record giant, with millions of exclusive records from The National Archives (UK) and The British Library, as well as an extensive collection of parish and church records from across England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. What a lot of folks don’t realize is that Findmypast has a free records portal, too. Here you can search over 830 million of their key collections (including 10 million Irish church records) without a paying subscription.
Most of the giant genealogy websites, including Findmypast, allow users to create free guest logins and at least search their record collections for free. But viewing the actual record transcriptions and images you’ll find in search results generally requires the proper subscription. Findmypast’s free portal gives full access to the following to those who create their free registrations:
World Records Search
Delving deeply into most of the records on Findmypast requires a subscription. Fortunately, searching for those records is completely free. You can search a wide range of collections from all over the world, spanning many different areas: birth, marriage and death, work and education and wills and probate records, just to name a few. Even if you don’t want to purchase a subscription to access these records in their entirety, just performing an initial search to see what is out there can help springboard your research.
You can glean remarkable details about your ancestors and the world in which they lived from historical newspapers. Findmypast boasts an impressive newspaper archive of more than 1 million pages, which you can search and explore completely free of charge. This valuable resource allows you to search an expansive collection of British and Irish newspapers and zero in on specific years, places and article types. You can also search for specific names and keywords.
U.S. Census Population Schedules, 1790-1940
You can search what’s arguably the most key resource for tracing U.S. ancestors: the federal census. Taken every ten years since 1790, census returns show varying amounts of detail on nearly every household across the country. The population schedules are the meatiest and most frequently-consulted part of the U.S. census records. It’s worth noting that not all census records are free to view; however, you are free to search any name by first name, last name, census year, year of birth and year of death.
1881 Census for England, Wales & Scotland
If you have ancestors that hail from England, Wales & Scotland that may have been counted in the 1881 Census, this collection is an excellent resource for tracking them down. You can search by name if you know the name of an ancestor or sort by location if you wish to explore a specific region.
Once you find your ancestor, clicking on the name will reveal some standard census information, such as name, sex, marital status, occupation and birth place. If you scroll down further, you will see an interactive map of the local area, which you can explore to get a better feel for where your ancestor lived.
British Military Records
If you are trying to track down an ancestors who served in the British military, Findmypast allows users to access many military records for free. These records may reveal crucial information like your ancestor’s rank, when they served and any honors or medals they received. You can also view Royal Navy lists for 1827 to 1945. An example of such a list can be found below.
Public Vital Records for the United States and Canada
In both these North American countries, many historical records of vital events (births, marriages and deaths) exist. They can be essential to helping link together spouses and generations of parents and children. However, vital records in these countries aren’t centralized into one enormous national collection. Instead, you have to try to find collections for your ancestor’s state (or even locale) and time period. Some don’t exist and some aren’t online, but Findmypast has pulled together several notable vital records databases you can search for free, such as Texas divorce records, New Jersey death records and birth records for British Columbia.
Irish Catholic Parish Records
An estimated 40 million Americans have Irish heritage. If you’re one of them, you’ll be glad to know that you can search 10 million Catholic parish records from the National Library of Ireland here for free. The collection covers an estimated 98% of Ireland’s historical Catholic population—more than 1000 parishes—and includes birth, marriage, burial and confirmation records.
You know that your ancestors endured a trying journey before they settled where they did; perhaps you are just not sure what their journey to their new home looked like. That’s where Findmypast’s free travel records can help. These records can help you uncover not only where your ancestors left and where they arrived but also who may have accompanied them. For example, an immigrant list like the one below shows the names of several people who arrived in Philadelphia from Germany, Switzerland, Holland and France from 1727 to 1776.
BONUS: Build Your Family Tree
Beyond searching record collections for free, users can also build, modify and grow their family tree with your guest registration. While you will need a subscription to take advantage of the family tree hints tool, you can rest easy knowing that your family tree is stored safely in one place that you can access whenever you want. You can start building your tree here in North America, then connect back to Ireland or wherever your roots may take you.