Free Genealogy Databases Versus Subscription Databases

There is no denying that some pay-subscription genealogy databases are truly helpful in your family history research. The most popular pay genealogy databases are, and World Vital Records.

But what about the budget-conscious genealogists? Is there any way you can find some of the same information online for free? Yes! Many times the “pay” sites get their data from the same databases that are available via the free databases. Why pay for data that you can find for free?

Here are some of the databases which you can find on pay sites, that are also searchable online for free.

US WWII enlistments information is found on the pay sites and World Vital Records. These are records of United States soldiers enlisted during World War II. If you’re researching family members who were in the US Armed Services during this time period you will want this information.

You can find the same information for free at Access to Archival Databases (

The US Social Security Death Index (SSDI) is available through’s subscription site, but is also available for free at RootsWeb, which is a subsidiary of ( and you can also find that information at This information is a record of all United States citizens with social security numbers who have died. If the person you are searching for did not have a US social security number then you’ll have to use other databases than these.

Most Americans have ancestors that immigrated into the USA through the famous Ellis Island in New York. Passenger lists from 1892 – 1924 are available through the pay websites, and World Vital Records.

The same information is also available for free at Here you can find passenger lists of the ships which came through Ellis Island as well as the shipss registry information from 1892 – 1924.

Many Irish-Americans immigrated during the famous Irish Famine during 1846-1851. You can find information about their immigration into the US from Ireland online. This data can be paid for through and World Vital Records, but is also available for free at Access to Archival Databases (

Many Americans migrated to California during the famous gold rush of 1849. Their families remained in California for generations. While researching these people you might want to know if they lived and remained (and died) in California. You can find information about people who died in California during the years 1940-1997. The California Death Index from 1940-1997 can be found on, or for free at RootsWeb (

Canadian census information from 1901, 1906, and 1911 is available on or for free at Automated Genealogy. Here you can search the records of the Canadian census from these dates close to the turn of the century. If you are researching families or individuals who may have lived in Canada this is helpful site.

Before you decide to subscribe to any of the pay sites for genealogy research, consider whether or not the same information may be available online for free. In the end, the free sites may be the best solution for the budget-strapped researcher!

On the other hand, as you research on the free sites, you may begin to realize that the value the pay subscription sites provide is summarized in this concept: ease-of-use. is a great site with dozens of databases available for members to search through. This means you don’t have to go from one site to another and learn how to navigate each new site. The learning curve is greatly reduced by doing all your research from one site.

If you are budget-strapped, you can still find the information you are looking for without breaking your budget on subscription genealogy sites. Just keep in mind that you will end up having to do more work and put in more effort to find what you’re looking for. Good luck!