How to research your genealogy for free

How to research your genealogy for free

The expanding number of genealogy programs on the market makes it easy to research your ancestry. Whether you are merely interested in your history or you want to make a hobby of it, the following five genealogy software programs are the best free options on the market. 

It is important to note, however, that free genealogy software has many limitations compared to the best genealogy sites and best family tree software. For example, you may be limited to how much you can see of your family tree. While these options will not work for more extensive research, they can be a great place to start when uncovering your genealogy. 

MyHeritage Family Tree Builder

This software has excellent viewing capabilities. Instead of just viewing one generation below and above, you can see three generations. A helpful navigation panel displays the list format. The program automatically eliminates or merges duplicates, which is very useful. MyHeritage Family Tree Builder produces reports in PDF or HTML, which can be printed and shared. It supports same-sex marriages, as you do not need to specify gender in the program.


How to research your ancestry for free

(Image credit: ShutterStock)

Gramps has more features than many other free genealogy search options available. You can search and filter entries in a variety of different ways including by name, relationship, family, location and much more.

The location feature is particularly useful. You can type in an address or the name of a place, and you can even take into account dates and events in relation to the place. For example, you can search for someone in Virginia before the Civil War, in the area that is now West Virginia.

The date feature is also quite good. You can use different types of calendars or even  estimate  the date. You can attach links and other media to entries, helping to clarify information or to provide fun facts. Gramps supports the charting of adoptions and same-sex marriages, as well as the development of comprehensive reports that you can print on large sheets.

Legacy Family Tree Genealogy Standard

Through the free version, you can view family, index or pedigree formats. The navigation to and from other generations is simple, requiring only a click on the designated person. You can attach events, photos and links to entries. The reporting mechanism is one of the best. You can group people and families into a  Focus Group  for easy export, and select many report types, including narrative style and charts. Legacy Standard supports adoption.

(Image credit: is a web-based program rather than a downloadable software program. You can create your family tree for free, but it costs money to access most of the existing online records. However, you can start a free 14-day trial. This program s popularity stems from its extensive records, some of which are private. You can see people who are part of private family trees but not details, unless you receive access. has all the basic features you ll find in other programs, and it's one of the most popular online genealogy options on the market.

RootsMagic Essentials

This program can import data from other genealogy programs and GEDCOM files. Its copy-and-paste function is useful, as is its ability to produce comprehensive reports. Furthermore, the program s display is more visually appealing than that of other programs. However, RootsMagic Essentials does not support same-sex marriages   one parent has to be the mother and the other the father.

Other Options

Paid programs offer more features, such as more ways to create charts to display your family tree and more ways to denote complex relationships, such as a mother who married several times. Some programs, such as Legacy Family Tree, can even pull information directly from a number of popular online genealogy programs, such as and FamilySearch. These programs make the family tree process much simpler for those who are serious about discovering their ancestry and charting their ancestors.

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