How to Make a Family Tree for Free

Conduct Genealogy Frugally: Researching Your Family History without Going Broke

Researching your family history and filling in your family tree can be very expensive. We need so much information about each ancestor, and each fact is generally recorded on one record, i.e. birth date and birthplace, marriage date and place of marriage, death date and place of death, burial information, military information, census information. It just goes on and on. That is a lot of records for just one individual.

What makes it even worse is that there are so many ancestors. Each time you go up a generation, you have twice as many ancestors, and the number of records increases accordingly.

Ancestor Chart

This made-up ancestor chart shows how your ancestors double each generation.
This made-up ancestor chart shows how your ancestors double each generation. | Source

How Can You Conduct Genealogy Without Going Broke?

There are many ways you can research your family history without going broke. Many of these tips will help you save time and frustration, while they are saving money.

Look in Your House

Make sure you write down everything you know. You probably remember more than you think you know, and writing it down will help open the floodgate. You already have some records, such as your own birth certificate, your marriage certificate, your husband's military certificate, your son's birth announcement in the newspaper and your grandfather's obituary. I recommend photocopying them, or preferably scanning them, specifically for genealogy purposes. By taking the time to gather these records and properly documenting them, your genealogy will be off to a great start, with documentation and reliable sources.

Interview Everyone

Maybe not everyone, but if you ask your family members and their friends for information, you will be able to obtain the information faster. If you know an estimated time period and county a couple got married, for example, it will be much easier for you to locate the certificate, than if you estimate a twenty year period and a particular region of the country. If your search is too broad, you may wind up finding several people with the same name, and having to do additional research on each to find out which one is your relative.

These people may have certificates, photographs, newspaper clippings, and documents you can copy, and can give you big leads that will help you do your research. Be sure to ask for copies of these items. The more documentation you can get from relatives, the fewer records you have to find at a repository. As a bonus, you will learn rich family stories and get to know your family members.

Use Free Internet Resources

Genealogy is an addictive hobby, and many people have fed their addiction by volunteering to serve the genealogy community by indexing records and providing a great deal of information for free online. Simply search for names, locations, and topics that interest you on a search engine. You may be surprised at what you can find. Many of these sites have free forms you can use to organize your genealogy data. Here are some free sites that have helped me a great deal:

FamilySearch.org - online records. They also have free software you can use to keep track of all of your ancestors and relatives.

Cyndislist.com - huge list of genealogy resources

USGenWeb - lots of information presented by volunteers

Findagrave.com - burials. You can volunteer to add burial records, and ask volunteers to take photos of burial markers for you.

Read Some Basic Genealogy Books

It is very helpful to read some basic genealogy how-to books, so that you can learn about the best ways to conduct your family history research efficiently. Instead of stumbling around in the dark, you will be able to map out a precise path, and learn the shortcuts. Be sure to read recent books first, so you learn the latest developments, but also read the older books because they might have that tidbit of advice that you need to break through your brick wall.

Genealogy has changed a great deal over the years. No longer do you have to look through an index in a book, or figure out the soundex code, then find the microfilm, and crank through the pages to find your ancestor in the census. Sometimes it is as easy as typing your ancestor's name on the search form at Ancestry or Family Search and let the computer find it for you.

The library is a great place to get free information in your genealogy or family history research.
The library is a great place to get free information in your genealogy or family history research. | Source

Go to the Library

There are many repositories of genealogical information, such as public libraries, the state library, state, county, and city historical societies, and specific special interest groups. By talking to the librarians, you will learn some tips and tricks about the records that are available, and will be able to get the information faster and easier than tracking each piece of information down from the courthouse or health department.

Many libraries also have subscriptions to Ancestry, Heritage Quest, Genealogy Bank, and other subscription sites that you can use for free. Trying out the services there will help you determine what kind of information is available at each site and will let you know if it is worth getting your own subscription.

There are also Family History Centers in various areas that also house genealogy records, and can bring records to you from their main site in Salt Lake City.

Find a Cheaper Way

Just as you would comparison shop for your toothpaste, sometimes you can even comparison shop for the records. Sometimes the same record is housed in more than one place. For example a census record is at the library on microfilm, but it is also available on the computer through their subscription through Ancestry. It is also available from the comfort of your home from Familysearch.

Death records are available from the state vital records office, but they may also be housed at the county, and the state historical society. Sometimes they are also available online for free. Be sure to check your local library, Redbook, and other sources so you know your options.

Even the price of photocopying differs. At one time, I went to three different places that had three different prices for photocopies: free, ten cents, and twenty-five cents. Whenever possible, I tried to find the records where the the photocopying was free first, before moving on to the next place. In this way, I was able to get a great amount of information at a reasonable cost.

Even if the same record is not available elsewhere, like the social security card application, you may be able to find another source, or group of sources, for the information you need, like a birth certificate or census record. While it is nice to get as complete a picture as possible, you really don't need to get every available record for each individual on your tree. If you have the facts you need, you can simply do without the other records.

Instead of paying someone to do your research in another locale, you can often find a volunteer who will do basic searches for free. They simply ask you to pay it forward by helping someone else with their search.

There are lots of blogs that will keep you abreast of the latest happenings in the genealogy world, and provide tips on how to conduct your family history research. Instead of paying for a subscription to a genealogy magazine, you can look for the information on the internet for free. It is also likely to be more timely on the internet.

Don't spend your last dollar on family history research!  Follow the advice in this hub on how to conduct genealogy frugally.
Don't spend your last dollar on family history research! Follow the advice in this hub on how to conduct genealogy frugally. | Source

Conduct Genealogy Frugally

Here are some more tips for you.

  • You can keep your research focused only on your direct ancestors, for example, or just the immediate households of the direct ancestors. Getting information on collateral relatives may be necessary if you hit a brick wall, but you can save a great deal of money by keeping your search focused.
  • You can buy your genealogy supplies when they are on sale.
  • Space out your purchases. You don't have to order all the records you need all at once, to avoid having a large cash outlay all at once. Take your time and just get one or two. As a bonus, you will be able to make sure you have the right family, and know that the record has the information you need.
  • If you can find a cousin or someone else in your family that also has the genealogy bug, you may be share your research with each other to avoid duplication. You may also be able to split the cost of an expensive record that you both need, or take turns ordering records.
  • Keep abreast of the genealogy community. There are times when the big subscription sites open some of their records to the public for free. Ancestry, for example, has offered military records on Veterans Day, and other collections during other times of the year.


Genealogy can be an expensive hobby, but it really doesn't have to be. By applying the tips outlined in this hub, you can do your family history research without going broke.

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Comments: "How to Make a Family Tree for Free" 20 comments

Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 4 years ago from USA Author

Thank you WhydThatHappen and moonlake. I hope the information helps both of you in gathering more resources and records about your families more economically.


Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 4 years ago from USA Author

Thank you Trish_M for your comment, share and additional info. I didn't know about the petition, but I think it is a great one. We had an office here that provided noncertified certificates for 3 cents each - which was too low, but I managed to take advantage of it for my records. When they talked about increasing fees, I thought twenty five cents, maybe even up to $3. They increased it to $8, presumably to save people from identity theft, making it out of reach for most people, except people who would profit from the info. I hope you / they are successful in lowering the fees.


moonlake profile image

moonlake 4 years ago from America

Lots of good information. I like your picture of the money. There are so many free sites on the internet for genealogy. Including Indian sites for looking up anestry that may have been Indian. Voted up on your hub.


WhydThatHappen 4 years ago

I needed help with this, I'm trying to get in touch with my tribal ancestors. Will share


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 4 years ago from The English Midlands

Yes, family history can be a very expensive hobby ~ but, as you note, there are definitely ways to save money.

There is currently a petition , here in the UK, to try to allow birth, marriage and death info, for research purposes, to be available more cheaply.


Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 4 years ago from USA Author

Thanks Kelley and Audrey. I am glad you find this useful. Genealogy is a very addictive hobby and it can get quite pricy if you let it. There are so many ways to make it cheaper.


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 4 years ago from California

Such a useful article!!! Thank you so much!


kelleyward 4 years ago

Thanks for the tips Millionaire Tips, We are doing this right now in our family so I'm bookmarking this one! Voted up and shared! Kelley


Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 4 years ago from USA Author

Thank you rusticliving and Alecia. The Mormon church does provide great LDS libraries that give you great access to genealogical records.


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

I'd love to do my genealogy one day when I have enough time but I am glad you pointed out these economic ways to get the ball rolling. Thanks for these helpful tips!


Rusticliving profile image

Rusticliving 4 years ago from California

Fabulous information. When I lived on Kauai, I worked twice a week at the geneology center at the Mormon church. This center was opened to the public and you could come in and research till your hearts desire! I am not familiar with where every center is in the mainland, but I'm sure if inquired at one of the churchs in your area, they would be able to direct you! One of my responsibilities was to help newcomers get started, so we would have a few supplies to help them out. It's a great place to start your geneology. I love the fact that you mentioned to start "with your family and friends." Also, ask lots and lots of questions. have your Aunt Nellie talk about Uncle Fred and what he did as a boy, etc. the wealth of information is in the memory of our living! Voted up and all the way across!..oh yes.. AND shared! :)


Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 4 years ago from USA Author

Yes alocsin, genealogy can be expensive. Each record has its costs. Sometimes it is simply the cost of printing it out, other times there are photocopying costs at the library, or cost of a subscription. Then there are the costs of obtaining a record from a repository which can vary from a couple of dollars to more than $100 depending on the records.


alocsin profile image

alocsin 4 years ago from Orange County, CA

I guess I never thought family research was expensive, other than for the occasional purchase of software. These are excellent tips just the same that should encourage others to do it, since they won't have to spend a lot of money. Voting this Up and Useful.


Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 4 years ago from USA Author

That's great dahoglund. I'm sure it is a real treasure. I hadn't thought of it as a potential for stories, but that is certainly a useful purpose!


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

My sister put together a book on our family history.I have used some of the information for inspiration to write stories.


Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 4 years ago from USA Author

Thanks for visiting, voting, and commenting susanm23b. You can never really be done with genealogy. I agree, interviewing the older relatives is very important. Can you interview their friends or their children to get the information you are seeking?


susanm23b 4 years ago

You have some really great suggestions on genealogical study. I have done SOME with this for my family and it can be very expensive--still so much more to do. As you pointed out, the further back you go, the more people there are :)

I really wish I had done the interviews. Unfortunately, my older relatives are gone now. This can be such a great resource for those who can take advantage of it.

Voted up!


Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 4 years ago from USA Author

Thank you billybuc. I wish you much success in your search. I am sure you will find many fascinating things about your family, and it may even change the way you think about yourself.

Thank you Sinea. You're right, interviewing family (and friends of family) is a great resource, and you will find out information that is not available anywhere on paper.


Sinea Pies profile image

Sinea Pies 4 years ago from Northeastern United States

Interviewing family is a great resource. Advice: do not delay. Our senior citizens have had amazing experiences for us to learn from and write down but they won't be here forever.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

I am in the process of beginning this labor of love; your tips are all useful and helpful. Thanks a ton and good hub!

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