How to trace your ancestors

After finding a very old photo album in the attic, you have the desire to retrace the history of your ancestors and discover the names of your ancestors. You are therefore wondering if there is any online tool that can help you in this purpose, possibly free or in any case at low cost. No problem. With a little patience and a little luck, you might actually find the one that’s right for you.

Follow the directions I am about to give you and you will discover how to trace your ancestors by exploiting the power of the Web, or rather, the vast databases of some online services in which users enter the data of their families to create “public family trees” and find avi / relatives from all over the world. In these databases, there are very detailed information, such as date and place of birth of each person, the identity of the parents, place of residence and much more. Furthermore, in many profiles, there are “extra” contents, such as photographs, birth certificates and other documents that can facilitate the identification of a relative (near or far).

The search is not always successful. Indeed, as previously mentioned, it takes a good dose of patience and luck to obtain noteworthy results … but when you do, the satisfaction is truly priceless. Try it now, in most cases it costs nothing. I cross my fingers for you!


  • Preliminary information
  • Ancestors Portal
  • FamilySearch
  • MyHeritage
  • Other useful services to trace your ancestors

Preliminary information

Before delving into the guide and actually seeing how to trace your ancestors, I would like to give you some preliminary information on the subject that you cannot fail to know.

In particular, if you were wondering how to trace your ancestors for free, you must take into account the fact that the services useful for this purpose are not all 100% free, as they may require the subscription of a subscription or a one-time purchase to obtain certain information.

Furthermore, it is not always possible to trace the origins of one’s family due to the lack of documents in the archives of the services in question and/or for other similar problems. Taking these two factors into account, try to see if you succeed in the enterprise through the portals listed below.

Ancestors Portal

The first site I want to report to you is Antenati. It is a portal edited by the General Directorate for Archives and by the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism, thanks to which it is possible to find documents present in the State Archives to conduct personal and genealogical searches. It is completely free and requires no registration.

To search for documents relating to your ancestors on the Ancestors portal, connected to the main page of the latter and click on the item Find the names located at the bottom left. Subsequently, click on the Accept button, fill in the form that is proposed to you indicating as much information as possible (name, surname, type of deed to be found, Municipality/place of origin and year of start and end) and click on the Search button by view the results.

When the search results appear, then click on the Open button located under the name of your interest, to view the documents available on the Ancestors portal. If you want, by clicking on Browse the registers located at the top, you can also view the list of institutes and archives reproduced, sorted by location.


Another site that allows you to trace your ancestors is FamilySearch. Haven’t you ever heard of it? Well then I think you should try it. FamilySearch is a free online service that, based on the archives and contributions of millions of people around the world, allows anyone to discover their ancestors by searching a database full of names, dates of birth/death, places and even documents that they testify to the identities of the selected people. It also includes the documents available on the portal of the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism, so it is really well stocked. The service is also available in the form of an application for Android (also on alternative stores for devices without Google services) and iOS / iPadOS.

To use FamilySearch, simply log into its home page and create a free account. To do this, click on the Create a FREE account button, fill in the form displayed on the screen providing all the required information in the appropriate text fields ( namesurnamedate of birth, etc.) and click on the Continue button.

On the new page that has opened, complete the profile by indicating your usernamepasswordmobile number and location, check the box relating to acceptance of the conditions of use and the privacy policy and click on the Create button an account. Finally, enter the security code that was sent to you via SMS to the number provided previously in the appropriate text field and click on the Continue and Enter now buttons to start. Then log in by providing username and password in the appropriate form and clicking on the Login button.

Now, click on the Search item located at the top and select the Family Tree item in the opened menu. Then fill in the search form by entering all the data you want to enter to find your ancestors ( namesurnamecountry, etc.) and click on the Search button, to view the list of people found in the site’s archives.

To view all the details about a person, including their family relationships (mother, father, etc.) and documents such as birth certificates, simply click on their name. To view the documents from the site of the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities, click on the appropriate item placed.


Another site that allows you to build family trees and trace the origins of your family is MyHeritage, which is paid. Access to the service databases costs 89 euros per year + VAT, however it is possible to activate a free trial that allows you to search among 14 billion historical documents, as well as many family trees, for a period of 14 days.

To use MyHeritage, connected to its home page, fill out the form on the right with your personal data (and the names of your parents) and click on the Start with Facebook or Start with Google button, to register with your Facebook account or with the your Google account (otherwise you can register with your e-mail by filling out the appropriate form and following the instructions on the screen). Then enter your credit card details in the appropriate text fields and click on the Start free trial button. At this point, you will have to enter your phone number and type a security code that will be dictated to you, precisely, by phone.

Once your account has been activated, you will have free access to all historical documents and family trees available on the site. In each profile, as already mentioned above, you will find information such as date and place of birth of the person, possible date of death, parents’ name, etc. You will also be able to view scans of birth certificates and other documents associated with the person.

To access the information in question, connect to the MyHeritage advanced search page and enter the details of an ancestor you want to trace. Of course, the more data you enter, the more precise the search becomes, but often a surname and a city of origin are enough to obtain interesting results. In any case, once you have entered all the information you deem necessary, click on the Search button and you will be shown the names of all the people who match the profile you are looking for.

To view detailed information about a person and access the documentation attached to their profile (e.g. birth certificate), click on their name. If you want to refine your search and make it more precise, use the options available in the left sidebar. From there you can set place of birthyear of birthfather’s namemother’s name and other data that will make the search less dispersed.

MyHeritage is also available as an application for Android (also on alternative stores ) and iOS / iPadOS. This means that you can also access it on the move, from your smartphone or tablet, without any problem.

Note: If you don’t intend to take advantage of the MyHeritage paid plan, remember to turn off the automatic renewal of your subscription before the 14-day free trial expires. To do this, click on your name, at the top right, and select the item My purchases from the menu that appears. On the next page, select the item Data subscriptions from the left sidebar and click on the items See details and Stop the free trial; then indicate your phone number in the appropriate field, press the button Stop the free trial now, enter the password of your account in the relevant text field and click on the Continue and End Free Trial buttons to confirm the cancellation of the MyHeritage trial.

Other useful services to trace your ancestors

There are other useful services to trace your ancestors that may be right for you. I’ll list them below: see if they can help you in your research.

  • Ancestry– is a service very similar to the ones we have already seen in the previous lines. It allows you to create a family tree of your family, to trace your ancestors in a historical archive and to access numerous documents from all over the world. With the exception of the function of building the family tree, which is free, the service is exclusively for a fee: to access the family trees of other users of the site and the Italian historical documents you have to pay 9.95 euros/year, while to activate research in international archives requires a subscription of 21.60 euros/month or 199 euros/year. More info here. It can be used on the move thanks to the official applications of the service available on Android and iOS / iPadOS.
  • Altreitalie– allows you to search for information on Italians who emigrated to the USA between 1880 and 1891, to Argentina between 1882 and 1920 and to Brazil between 1858 and 1899. It is completely free but requires a small registration to be used.
  • Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation– allows you to find information on all the people who arrived in New York, via Ellis Island, between 1892 and 1924 (although in reality the foundation’s archives go back to 1957). The service is free but can only be used upon registration.


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