Before the internet, genealogy was an incredibly labor-intensive practice that required hours of scouring public records, sifting through family heirlooms, and meticulously plotting family trees by hand.
But, in the digital age, all that has changed. Websites have popped up that allow you to not only easily research public records from the comfort of your own home, but also to compare notes and crowdsource information with other amateur genealogists around the globe.
And, with the recent public availability--and relative affordability--of DNA kits, tracing our ancestors has never been simpler or, indeed, more accurate. In fact, over 12 million people across the world have had their DNA tested to date, and the market is predicted to rise exponentially in the coming years.
Still, subscriptions to genealogy services, paid access to databases, and DNA testing can all add up financially. That’s why we’ve put together this handy guide for saving money on genealogy services and even getting some freebies along the way.
Here’s what you’ll get in this guide:
Some of our best tips for building your family tree on a budget.
Dozens of ways to save on genealogy services, including some free ones!
A list of websites with even more ideas to make your genealogy practice budget-friendly.
Let’s get started!
While there are plenty of low-cost ways to trace your genealogy, there are also a few free ways to point out first.
Even if your immediate family doesn’t have information on your family history, check with cousin Jim and or your great, great aunt twice removed. If you can figure out who you’re related to, you might even try to seek out and connect with distant family members on social media like Facebook to glean more information.
Genealogy websites and software make it incredibly easy to research and find information about your ancestors, however they often come with a hefty price tag. You can find some of the same records for free online. Check out this article for ideas!
Many databases have a fee to subscribe which your library may have covered for its users. For example, the New York Public Library gives you access to these resources at some of their locations. And, libraries often have collections of old local newspapers, census data, military records, birth certificates and more that you can access for free. Head to your local library to see what they have to offer.
Some of the information you get on genealogy websites can be found for free online, particularly if they’re public government records. Check out archives.gov to get access to tons of free records that can help you in your search.
There are a few websites out there where you can volunteer to help digitize useful information that might help you and other amateur genealogists find their ancestors. For instance, BillionGraves is a site where you can photograph and index tombstones at your local cemetery to help make that information accessible online. With any luck, that good karma might just come back to you in the form of key information for your own family tree.
Ancestry.com is probably the best-known genealogy website out there. Ancestry allows you to tap into databases including census records, birth and death certificates, newspapers, and more to build your family tree.
Plus, with millions of other users, you can check your family history against other user’s work, get hints for promising records, and find out if you have any famous ancestors.
Get a free 14-day trial, plus save up to $70 when you order a six-month membership instead of a monthly membership.
You can also check for Ancestry.com deals here.
Legacy Family Tree offers a software download with a number of different versions depending on your needs as well as e-books and regular training and webinars to help you perfect your genealogy practice.
The Standard Edition of this software is available for free. While there are many free webinars available, you can also sign up for their webinar membership to get access to all of the videos they post.
You can save $81 annually by purchasing a year-long membership to their webinars as opposed to a monthly membership. Plus, webinar members get 5% off on all purchases in the LFT store.
Roots Magic offers a range of different products, mainly software to help you create your chart, write your personal history, organize your family reunions, and map your family’s journey. They also offer free webinars and connect with other genealogists on their user forums.
You can grab free trial downloads of their software here.
Ancestry.com members can get their e-book and their software download or CD for as much as 50% off.
From Mackiev, the Family Tree Maker software program has tons of features including FamilySync which allows you to sync your tree to Ancestry.com, photo editing, mapping tools, and much more.
If you work on multiple different computers, for just $20 you can get additional licensing for two extra computers. For experienced users, they’re currently looking for beta testers to try out the program for free. Click here to apply.
Find My Past offers exclusive access to British and Irish records for people whose ancestors emigrated and landed in Australia or the Americas culled from expert genealogists, the largest database of British and Irish newspaper records, and their British and Irish Roots Collection.
You can get access to these records for free with their 14-day trial. If you choose to sign up, you’ll save up to $60 over a year if you choose the annual membership versus the pay as you go monthly subscription. You can also look for Find My Past promo codes here.
The Fold3 database is a branch of Ancestry.com that gives you exclusive access to military records in order to help flesh out your family tree. You can pay for a membership to Fold3 alone, or get the All-Access membership from Ancestry to tap into these records.
Offers a free 7-day trial. Also has a free membership option or a paid version.
Veterans Advantage. Members can save 50% on the annual membership.
Ancestry.com. Subscribers can get 50% off the annual membership cost.
Check for Fold3 coupon codes here.
With Genealogy Bank, you’ll get access to over 7,500 newspaper records dating back to 1690, over 250 million obituaries, US military records, and over two billion genealogy records.
Offers a 30-day trial for $9.95 compared with the normal $19.95 monthly price tag. Choose the annual membership to save a massive $169.45. If you click around on the membership page, you may also receive a pop-up offer for 20% off of your membership order.
MyHeritage offers an unlimited family tree, 8.9 billion genealogical records, priority customer support, and matches with both other family trees and with historical records. MyHeritage boasts over 95 million users who you can connect and share tips with.
You can create a profile with limited access for free. They have a free 14-day trial, plus 30% off the complete plan when you do the free trial. Download their Family Tree Builder software for free.
Roots Finder lets you build a family tree for free while receiving record hints from a number of different databases and search tips from Ancestry and MyHeritage.
You can easily copy these records into your tree with a browser extension and you’re also able to import your tree and other information from FamilySearch. Plus, you can share your findings on social media and create video directly within the program to share with your loved ones.
The website’s basic features are free under the Free Forever plan, plus during their Beta testing from now until August 2018 you can get their DNA tools free as well. Get a free 30-day trial automatically when you sign up for their paid subscription.
DNA kits have risen in popularity in recent years and with good reason. Getting your DNA results can tell you where exactly your ancestors came from, what their migration path was like, what health concerns you may be predisposed to, and much more.
And, for the genealogist, getting your DNA tested is a great complement to your family tree that can help you break through roadblocks and even connect with other DNA relatives who have also gotten tested. Here are some of these kits and advice for how to save money on them:
MyHeritage DNA offers a cheek-swab DNA testing kit that will give your results online in four weeks, one of the fastest turnarounds out there.
They offer encryption to keep your data safe, genetic comparisons with 42 distinct ethnicities (the largest offered by any DNA testing service), and access to 8.9 billion records with the MyHeritage program.
At $75, which is $24 below the standard retail price, this is one of the least expensive testing kits on the market.
23andMe offers Ancestry and Health DNA testing kits that can tell you just about everything about where your ancestors are from, what health issues you’re genetically predisposed to, and even weird facts like whether you have a preference for sweet or salty flavors.
All you do is send in your saliva, wait six to eight weeks, and get your results!
Educators and students can get access to free online materials that can help you understand and educate others about genetics. If you opt to get their Health and Ancestry kits together, you’ll save 10% on each additional kit you purchase, plus save $25 more than if you bought the two kits separately. Subscribe to their email list to get free shipping.
ID.me. If you’re an educator, a student, a first responder, or a current or former member of the military, you can get free shipping and 10% off each additional Health and Ancestry Service Kit with your ID.me account. All ID.me members can get 20% off each additional kit when you purchase a DNA kit.
Check for 23andMe discount codes here.
23andMe is sold at the following retailers all of which have ways that you can save money on their products.
Best Buy. Join the My Best Buy Rewards program to get up to 1.25 points towards future purchases for every $1 you spend and free shipping offers, or get the My Best Buy Credit Card to earn up to 3 points for every $1 you spend and 5% off on select purchases.
AncestryDNA is Ancestry.com’s DNA kit service which was named the best DNA kit service in 2017 by The Wirecutter. Send in a saliva sample to receive your results online in six to eight weeks.
The basics: They don’t offer any trials or special offers, but you can currently get the kit for $79 through their website, a $20 discount off the standard retail price.
ID.me members get 5% cash back on DNA kits.
LivingDNA is another DNA testing site where you send in your saliva sample and get results in 10 to 12 weeks. Your kit comes with access to your report online and their regularly updated databases that can provide new information. You can also choose optional features including a coffee table book with your results.
Although they don’t offer regular discounts, you can check back with them on their pricing. They’re currently offering their Ancestry kit and delivery at $99.99, which is $60 off the normal retail price. You can also try checking for deals here.
HomeDNA offers a range of easy at-home genetic testing products including kits to find out your general ancestry, maternal and paternal lineage, and even a kit to help you figure out what skin care routine is best for you and what diet and exercise plan can help you maintain, gain, or lose weight.
Results typically arrive in two to three weeks, making it among the fastest options for DNA testing.
Sign up for their email list and get free shipping plus a discount code for 10% off.
Right now, eBates members can get 25% off the GPS Origins test, discounts on both the Skin Care and Healthy Weight tests, and up to $13 cash back on each of these kits. Plus, get an extra $10 credit if you’re a new eBates member and get $25 for each new friend you refer.
Use this 10% off Home DNA promo code.
CRI Genetics. Backed by a team of geneticists, social scientists, and anthropologists, this DNA test kit compares your DNA against 642,824 scientifically-backed genetic markers. Send your sample in and get your results online in eight weeks.
Sign up for their email list and get 10% off your BioGeographical Ancestry report. They guarantee that your report will be available within eight weeks of them receiving your sample or your results are free. If anything is wrong with your sample, they’ll issue you a new kit free of charge.
Family Tree DNA is the official testing partner of National Geographic’s Genographic Project and one of the only companies to test their kits in house as opposed to through a third party testing service.
Family Tree DNA offers the regular ancestral DNA testing, as well as additional tests to look at your paternal and maternal ancestry specifically, and your comprehensive report includes a unique visual mapping tool as well as an interactive feature to trace your ancestors’ migration routes.
People who have used 23andMe, AncestryDNA, and National Geographic’s Genographic Testing can transfer their genetic profile to Family Tree DNA’s database free of charge to find even more connections and information.
These are programs you can find and resources you can use to help you find your ancestors, build your family tree, and connect with distant relatives completely free of charge. Check these out:
GenGophers. A free site that allows you to do a name search in their database of 80,000 digital genealogy books.
WikiTree. A free family tree website that operates with the mission of creating one giant family tree for everyone on Earth. Also offers a useful genealogist-to-genealogist forum for users to ask questions.
FamilySearch. Another free family tree service sponsored by the Church of Latter Day Saints. You can search from billions of records, help index information to make it accessible online, and upload memories to share with your family and future generations.
AccessGenealogy. Directs you towards cemetery records, black genealogy records, census reports, military records, and more listed by state.
BillionGraves. Offers access to cemetery records. Data is crowdsourced and GPS-tagged by smartphone users who can take photographs at cemeteries and add them to the database. You can integrate information from this site to their partner sites, FamilySearch, MyHeritage, and Findmypast.
Tributes. Search their large database of obituaries, find out recent celebrity deaths, and connect information to your Ancestry.com account.
Family Echo. A no-frills, free online family tree builder.
These websites are a great free resources for your genealogy hobby, and many of them also list special limited-time deals, coupons, and savings on genealogy services. Check these out:
Genealogy Bargains. This is a site dedicated to finding you discounts and bargains on genealogy software and memberships. They publish bargains almost daily, offer monthly giveaways, and have a tab devoted exclusively to sharing promos and discount codes for genealogy products.
Family History Daily. A blog site that offers tons of articles with information on genealogy basics. They also have two online courses in genealogy that you can take, and you can save $39 when you purchase both together.
Family Tree Magazine. A comprehensive resource for amateur genealogists that ranks genealogy websites, offers how-to content and e-books, and has an online university for you to expand your knowledge even more. You do have to pay a subscription to access their content after viewing several articles.
AfriGeneas. A site devoted to researching the history and genealogy of African Americans. They offer access to records, resources, and an open forum for genealogists to discuss their methods and findings with one another.
These tips will help you get your family tree started off right, or help you to keep up your genealogical genius without breaking the bank. Is there a celebrity or royal in your ancestry? The time to find out is now!