How to Search Census Records for Free

by Whitepines

Finding Your Roots Without Breaking the Bank

Track Down Missing Ancestors with a Free Search of Census Records

A lot of my genealogy research was pretty straight forward. I was lucky enough to have a relative on my dad's side who actually went to Italy and had records in the church translated. I was able to get a copy of a letter from my mom's side that literally spelled out where almost everyone traveled after the great Irish potato famine. But there were still a few people I couldn't track down. The way they covered their ancestral tracks, you'd think they were in the witness protection program.

I searched and searched all sorts of records, but it was the census that gave me a direction to start my search with. I was able to find a relative who remarried, a relative who started going by her middle name and a relative who went off to California all with the help of census records and the marvel of a searchable census index.

Now that you know why you want to look at them, let's talk about how to search census records for free.

Why Do You Need to Search Census Records?

Head to Your Library to Check for Free Access to Census Records Through Databases

My library system subscribes to Heritage Quest, a wonderful genealogy database that includes census indexes and records. It is free for anyone who comes into the library to use. If you have a library card, you can even access it from home. I was able to find several relatives through the Heritage Quest database. I didn't necessarily need to find them in the census since I already knew where they were from previous searches, but it was nice.

What was really great was that the 1930 census was included in the database. I got to see both my grandmothers in the census! Fun, fun, fun. (We genealogy fans are an easily amused bunch, I guess. But it feels like you've just scored a goal or something.)

Need to Track Down a Hard to Find Ancestor?

Resources for When You Feel Like You've Run Into a Wall in Your Research
Advanced Genealogy Research Techniques
McGraw Hill
$6.53  $16.25
Solving Genealogy Problems: How to Br...
Constable & Robinson
$20.99  $7.19
Twenty-Eight Tips for Researching Afr...
Independently published
Only $12.99

The LDS Lets You Search Census Records for Free

Back when I first started to research my family's genealogy, we didn't have all the online records that exist today. Instead, we looked up the nearest LDS research facility, went in and asked if we could look at their census indexes. You can still do that today, but you can also do a little of your research online.

LDS has put a search box for the 1880 US Census, the 1881 British census and the 1881 Canadian census online. Just head to Family and you can search it right from your computer, iPhone, or what have you for free.

Updated: 06/02/2011, Whitepines
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Rose on 03/02/2014

I don't know why tracing family roots is so satisfying, but it just is!

Whitepines on 06/02/2011

It can be fun, especially when the stories you were told match up with the puzzle pieces you find.

Kids_Fun on 06/02/2011

My mom tracked down most of her ancestors many years ago, but I really need to track down my dad's side of the family.

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