If you need records, we will gopher you.

Free Access to and

While there are some wonderful free web sites (notably from which you can access many online records, and offer a wide variety of records that are not available anywhere else.  In fact, if you go to the National Archives in Washington D.C. to access the original microfilms for those records, you’ll be directed to and instead. In order to access most of the records at or from your home computer or laptop, however, you’d need to pay a subscription fee.  But there are many ways to access them for FREE.

  • LIBRARIES: Many public libraries and historical societies have subscriptions to these services and you can access them from the computers in their research rooms.  In some cases, if you have a library card, you can even access these services through the library’s web site from home. Contact your local public library, college/university library, or historical society and you might be surprised!
  • NARA BRANCH OFFICES: The National Archives and Records Administration in D.C. and more than a dozen of their branch offices around the country are equipped with research rooms and public-use computers with full access to and  To search for the closest National Archives Branch Office to your area, access this web site and then click on “Research Facilities”.
  • FAMILY HISTORY CENTERS: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (aka the LDS Church) operates hundreds of “Family History Centers” around the U.S. and the world. You do not have to be a member of the church to make use of these excellent facilities.  The church also partners with a variety of “FamilySearch Affiliate Libraries.”  Not only do they have subscriptions to and but they are staffed by very knowledgeable volunteers who can help you with almost any research problem.  Check this web site to find a LDS research facility in your area.
  • FREE WEEKENDS: The web sites in question sometimes offer “Free Access Weekends”, especially around U.S. National holidays (e.g., Memorial Day, Independence Day, Veterans Day).  Keep an eye on a genealogy newsletter or on the Facebook pages of and (or our Facebook page) for announcements.  You may need to register for a free basic membership to take advantage of these special offers.
  • FREE TRIAL SUBSCRIPTIONS: Both web sites periodically offer free trials.  The free trial for is for 14 days while the one for is for 7 days. In each case, you’ll need to create a membership account and provide a credit card which will be charged if you neglect to cancel at least two days before the end of your trial period.
  • FREE DATABASES: rarely mentions it but free access to many of its databases (and to indexes of others) is available every day, i.e., without a subscription.  That includes some U.S. census records, city directories, vital records, and many international databases, among others. You can see a list of the free databases and search them from this link.

Finally, if you do a lot of research, then you may find that a subscription to these web sites is well worth the money.  At this writing (October, 2020):

  • A “U.S. Discovery” Membership costs $19.95/month or $189/year.  Membership includes the option for $30 off an annual Premium Membership to
    • If you want a non-recurring option, get a friend who subscribes to buy you a Gift Subscription.
  • The standard price for a Premium Membership is $7.95/month or $79.95/year.
    • New members can get a 25% discount using this link.
    • Veterans can get a $30 discount off an annual subscription using this link.

The records that are available at and are just too good to miss.

Please post comments or questions about this post below.

Copyright © 2020, Gopher Records, LLC


  1. Reply and occasionally offer free trials for new users. These trials typically provide a limited period of access to their databases and features. Keep an eye out for these trial offers on their websites.

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