- My first "go to" research site, with a plethora of free images and indexes available from around the world. Membership is required to view some images, but it is free. And the databases are constantly growing, so keep checking back if you don't find what you are looking for the first time.
- While Ancestry is technically a subscription site, there are some collections that are free to view and download scanned images from. Ancestry also allows free access to certain collections from time to time, so it is worthwhile to signup for a free account and their newsletter. However, you can access Ancestry.com for free at a genealogy library or Family History Library.
- Find A Grave
- Excellent resource for tombstone photos!
- RootsWeb is actually a subdomain of ancestry.com that provides a wide range of free tools and resources. What I've found most helpful (since they pulled down the SSDI search, sigh...) is the family trees in the RootsWeb WorldConnect Project. But use WorldConnect only for leads. Well sourced family trees will provide you with enough information to find the sources yourself. I don't mean to ramble, but seriously, don't just start importing every gedcom you find your ancestor's name on into your personal tree. It's a rookie mistake. I know. I did it, too.
- WorldGenWeb Project
- If you are tracing ancestors outside the US, WorldGenWeb is worth a shot. I, personally, have never used it because I haven't reached an "immigrant" yet on any of my lines. This project needs more volunteers (I know, all of the free projects do!).
- Internet Archive
- An ever-growing library of public domain books, census records, military records and much more. Searching within a title or skipping to a specific page is still rather difficult in the online view, but if it was provided by Google Books, look for it there for a better in-book searching experience. You can also download the .pdf versions, which may be easier to search for specific names or to jump to page numbers.
- Google Books
- If Google has scanned it, and it is in the public domain, Google Books has it available to search and read online.
- Gale NewsVault
- Again, if your local library is subscribed, you can access this one from home through your library's website. In fact, Gale NewsVault is just one of many educational databases provided by Cengage Learning. They are definitely worth checking out if you have access.
- One of the first free sites I found when I started researching years ago. While not all of the states or counties are active (everything is contributed by volunteers), the ones that are can provide valuable leads.
- HeritageQuest Online
- If your library has access to it, and you have a library card, you can access HeritageQuest Online through your library's website from home. HeritageQuest features searchable databases for many US Census images, historical and genealogical books, PERSI which gives you all of the information required to order a copy of specific periodicals, Freedman's Bank, Revolutionary War, and US Serial Set.
- The Portal to Texas History
- If Texas was home to any of your ancestors, The Portal to Texas History provides free online access to books, newspapers, maps and photos that have been contributed by a variety of history museums and archive holders. I use this one a LOT.
- Contains a variety of volunteer submitted transcriptions, including vital records, cemeteries, newspaper articles and much more.