When I first started researching my family history it seemed like ancestry.com was the only place on the internet to find information about my ancestors. It seemed they had something for every person in my family tree. After a year using ancestry.com, and now that I’m without, I’ve discovered a number of other great online genealogy resources.
Local Historical Societies
Google Books scans books and makes them available online, fully searchable. I’ve found reference to my ancestors in histories such as the History of Delaware County and Ohio or publications like Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine (vol. 28, no. 4), and even entire books about a particular family line, such as Thomas Family of Hilltown, Bucks County, Penn’a. Many of these I found just by typing names into the search box. If the full version isn’t available online you can usually request a copy through Interlibrary Loan.
Many old books contain lots of genealogy information, and many of these are available through Interlibrary Loan in the probable event that your local library doesn’t have a copy. You can search multiple libraries across the country simultaneously at WorldCat. I’ve been able to thumb through such rare finds as Knox County, Ohio, will book “D”, 1855-1861 thanks to WorldCat and Interlibrary Loan.
Libraries local to the area you are researching often have special collections relating to those area; the Library of Virginia, for example, has all kinds of good Virginia records, many online.
Many libraries subscribe to paid databases and serves and then give free access to their patrons, often from home. Some useful databases to which libraries near me subscribe include HeritageQuest Online and World Vital Records.
Reciprocal Borrowing Agreements, such as this one at the King County Library System, allow patrons of one library to obtain free library cards from other library systems. You can often apply for your card online and obtain your new library card number electronically or via snail-mail. This gives you full access to all of the online databases that your neighboring library systems subscribe to as well, often without ever needing to visit a branch in person.
If you do need to access ancestry.com, this can usually be done free of charge through most library branch locations.