Is Ancestry.com Free?

by Marc McDermott on

When beginning research on our own family, it is often scary to see the price tag on most of the largely used subscription-based websites. Before putting out the hundreds of dollars, it is important to know your options! Most people tend to dive right into subscriptions through Ancestry before they know of different routes they can take.

How can I access Ancestry for free?

Local Family History Centers (FHCs) are the most common way to access Ancestry for free. You can access a list of global FHCs by visiting this webpage https://www.familysearch.org/fhcenters/locations/.

The Family History Library (FHL) in downtown Salt Lake City provides free access to Ancesty.com’s databases without a paid subscription. This Family History Library is run by Familysearch.org, a non-profit organization founded by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (commonly referred to as the LDS church). Despite having no ownership in Ancestry, both organizations, based in Utah, have collaborated for many years. One of the top collaborations they do with LDS church members is, they offer them a free Ancestry account. The account is for life (or until Ancestry cancels the agreement – which has happened in the past) and offers users free access to Ancestry’s worldwide collection.

You don’t have to be LDS to access Ancestry for free. Ancestry Library Edition can be found in hundreds of libraries across the US (and the world). Ancestry Library Edition is available to K-12 programs and special organizations that support family history research. This edition of Ancestry includes over 30,000 record collections with over 11 billion total records! A few of the largest partners that utilize Ancestry’s library edition are the Mid-Continent Public Library and the University of Indianapolis. Check your local library to see if they offer Ancestry’s library edition. Also, do keep a lookout for Ancestry events that local community centers may host.

How to use ancestry for free without a membership?

Ancestry also provides free collections without requiring you to become a member. Most people fail to realize that Ancestry offers access to some of their collections. These collections are updated continuously and can be found by clicking here.

These collections will generally offer you a free index rather than visibly displaying the pages. However, there are collections there that also offer free access to more than just their index. When you navigate to the link above, you will see a green box next to the name of the collections. If you see “Free” in the green boxes, you will be able to read the pages as they are, and if you see “Free index” in the green boxes, you will only be able to see the indexes and not the pages themselves.

The most popular records in this free database are Census records. You can find census records from Denmark. Slave census records from the 1850s and 1860s along with the Federal 1940 United States Census.

Some collections are offered for free during certain holidays. On Memorial Day, there may be free access to the Fold3 database (owned by Ancestry). In February, Black Heritage month, you will generally find free collections to other slave schedules, Freedman Bank records (which are now always free), and many more to help those with enslaved and other African American genealogies.

Is there a free version of Ancestry.com?

There are no other free versions of Ancestry available outside of the publicly available Ancestry Library edition. However, there are free trials that can be utilized for new subscribers.

What does it cost for Ancestry.com?

Ancestry offers the following subscription options:

  • $24.99/month for US records or $16.50/month for a six-month membership.
  • $39.99/month for the World Explorer (All records) or $24.83/month for a six-month membership.
  • $49.99/month for All Access (World Explorer plus Newspapers.com and Fold3.com) or $33.16/month with six-month membership.

The monthly membership includes records to US-based collections. The World Explorer includes international collections that you would not be able to access with the monthly US membership. The highest membership option, All Access, includes Newspaper.com and Fold3.com within their subscription as well. Since Ancestry owns both companies, they have put forth this subscription option as a bundle which, separately, would cost much more!

Is there a free trial?

Ancestry offers a two-week free trial for all of its membership options. Be sure to cancel your account before the trial period is over; otherwise, you will be charged the full amount of the subscription you selected. You won’t be able to access international records unless you specifically subscribe to the All-Access membership.

Is the Ancestry free trial worth it?

The two-week free trials are great options for those who want to dip their toes in. When it comes to non-European descended folks, genealogy is likely much more difficult. Because of this fact, a free trial option would be great to determine whether or not they have the collections needed to help you build your tree.

Why is Ancestry so expensive?

As both a leading genealogical provider and one of the largest companies involved in subscription-based databases, Ancestry can ask quite a bit from their customers. Furthermore, they offer the world’s largest collection of digitized records, but they also hold the largest private database of DNA users.

If you are an Ancestry user, you will recognize that sometimes the website acts up and is often “overtaxed.” Another reason this company is charging too much for their memberships is likely to keep it running efficiently. Running one of the top leading digitized record companies (which operates in almost every country) is no small task, and as such, they have IT personnel online constantly maintaining servers and improving user features to make the site more consumer-friendly.

Ancestry is essentially a tech giant. It’s based in silicon slopes (Lehi, Utah), and there is money involved, of course! Giant equity companies have taken turns buying the majority of the company over the last decade and a half. Tech-based companies are not cheap!

Final thoughts

You would be better off just paying a monthly fee if you are a researcher who goes through phases or, as I like to call them, seasonal genealogists. We all do genealogy differently; as long as we are mindful of our facts and documenting our ancestor’s sources correctly, that is all that matters. There are subscription options for every one of us, whether it is just a free trial or a full-blown All-Access membership. Even if you frequent the local library for their Ancestry Library Edition, you are still very much one of us!

Still not sure? Why not try a 14-day free trial? Also check out my complete guide to the best free genealogy websites.

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