You can create a free Ancestry guest account that gives you limited access to their features and record collections. This article will run through exactly what you can and can’t do with the free access.
We’ll also give you tips on making the most of the free tier.
Registered Guest Accounts On Ancestry
The company refers to these free accounts as “registered guests”.
Ancestry has a free tier where you can sign up without providing payment details. A registered guest account can create and share family trees but has very limited access to record collections.
There are two differences between the free registered guest account and a free trial account.
The latter gives you all the access that you’d have with a paid subscription. Of course, it’s time limited – usually to two weeks.
The other major difference is that you must provide a credit card when you sign up for a free trial. If you don’t cancel the trial in time, you’ll be charged payment. A lot of people don’t like that with any company.
The advantage of the registered guest account is that you are not asked for any form of payment details. You will only need to provide an email.
How To Create An Ancestry Guest Account
Ancestry don’t make the free access obvious to find. Don’t bother hunting on the Ancestry home page for a direct link!
To get the free account, click on the “Sign In” link at the top right of the home page.
This takes you to their login page. You’ll find the free tier signup below the login input boxes.
The free sign-up page only requires you to provide an email address. The system sends a confirmation link to the email, so it has to be a real account. But unlike the trial signup, you are not asked to provide any payment details.
Viewing Trees With A Free Ancestry Account
Ancestry doesn’t seem to be keen on free accounts, so why do they offer the feature? Well, they need them to allow the sharing of family trees.
When you create a tree on Ancestry, you can invite other people (such as your family members) to view the tree. The access is controlled by email. You send a link to someone’s email via the Ancestry messaging system (you can read our guide to sharing ancestry trees if you need more details).
The invite link takes the lucky person to the free sign-up page for a guest account.
It would be unreasonable to expect people to provide their credit cards when all they want to do is view a cousin’s tree. This is why Ancestry has to support free guest accounts.
Creating Trees With A Registered Guest Account
Are you wondering what is a registered guest account? That’s what Ancestry calls the free guest account.
So, let’s say you don’t want to enter your credit card details for a trial account. Apart from viewing a tree to which you’ve been invited, can you do anything else? Well, yes. You can create a family tree.
The Ancestry user interface is very slick. The website makes it very easy to create a family tree. It’s a point-and-click affair with lots of shortcuts to add parents and siblings to the profile you’re working on.
But you can do the same with free genealogy software on your desktop. RootsMagic Essentials and MyHeritage Family Tree Builder are two options that I like. So, why use Ancestry?
Genealogy websites like Ancestry have one major advantage over simply typing a thousand people into your tree. Both Ancestry and MyHeritage (to name just two) have automated systems that show you records and documents that may relate to people you’ve entered. And they also have ways to populate your tree on your behalf.
I’ll show an example from my subscription account, and then explain what you get with the free account.
Using Ancestry’s Hints Feature With A Free Account
I created a free Ancestry account and started a small tree. The moment I entered my grandparents, Ancestry’s automated systems got to work on my behalf.
Well, it wasn’t instantaneous. It took two to three seconds for the little green leaf to appear at the top right of the tree profiles. The leaf indicates that Ancestry has one or more hints to show me about records in their archives that may pertain to the person.
The hint could a birth or death record, or an entry in a census (to name a few possibilities). They may also show me public family trees that they think contain the same person.
Another type of suggestion is looming large in neon green above each grandparent. The “potential parent” profiles aren’t actually entered in the tree…yet.
If I click on the green profiles using a paid subscription, Ancestry will show me a “virtual” profile that they’ve populated with birth and death details, etc. I have the option of accepting their suggestion and pushing all the details into my tree. You can see how this is a real time-saver – when the details are actually correct.
I’ll mention briefly here that you must review and evaluate everything. Because a lot of the time, the suggestions will be wrong.
I’ve described what you get to see with the paid subscription. But what if you have a free account? I’ll address hints and the suggested parent separately, as they differ in the info that you get.
Record Details Are Partially Hidden To Free Accounts
A hint lets you review the suggested record and compare its details to what you entered in your tree.
This is one example of a death record, viewed with a guest account.
Notice how the birth date, death date, and death “city” is obscured? Well, this is what I see for the same hint, but using my paid subscription account.
The paid subscription also lets me view the original image. I can tell you that the original source doesn’t have “abt 1916” anywhere on it. Irish death records have the age at “time of death” as a round number. Ancestry is doing a simple calculation to show an inferred birth year.
The problem with the free account is that I can’t evaluate whether the record is correct or not. All I know is that the name is a good match, but the dates and locations could be wrong.
And in fact, the birth year is wrong – this is not the correct death record for my grandfather. It was a reasonable guess on Ancestry’s part, but their hints always have to be checked.
The Review Button
What happens when you click the green Review button? With a paid account, I get to examine the original image (if the image is in the Ancestry collection). There may also be other details on the transcript that they don’t show in the summary.
But with a free account, the button takes me to a trial signup page (this is the Canadian site):
Tree Hints With A Guest Account
Ancestry will scour other people’s public family trees for possible matches to people in your own tree. In this example, it’s found three trees that may have my grandfather.
Other people’s trees can be rubbish. Poorly researched or innocently wrong.
But there are professional genealogists and serious hobbyists who spend years researching their family trees with Ancestry. You’ll find trees that are full of records sourced from Ancestry, but also documents that they have tracked down in local courthouses and other archives.
Let’s assume you’ve verified and cross-referenced this new information as being correct. Now, you have a goldmine on your hands. I am grateful to many Ancestry members who have found records that I hadn’t been able to uncover. I send thank you messages every time, and often get more help and collaboration.
The Review Button
A paid or trial subscription lets you view every public tree on Ancestry. In my example, the review button will bring me to the three trees mentioned. But this is what the Review button gives you with a free account (you may have already guessed):
Squeezing The Most Benefits From A Free Account
I don’t want to leave you thinking that a free account is useless when it comes to the hints.
Ancestry hides most of the details on the record, but it shows you the title they give the record collection. In the death record of my example, the title is “Ireland, Civil Records Death Index, 1865-1968”.
Ancestry buys access to many record collections that are available for free elsewhere. There is a lot over overlap with FamilySearch, the free giant archive of records.
And there are many other free online resources. For example, the Irish authorities sponsor a website that provides free access to various records.
I know with my guest account that Ancestry has found an Irish death record with the same name. Unfortunately, the dates could be within a ten-year range of what I entered in my tree. Still, it’s a start. I can go trawling through the free archives that Ancestry is hinting at.
To be honest, I don’t think this is a good use of your time. I have a better suggestion if you aren’t prepared to take a subscription (although it will depend on your location).
Supplement your free account with a “library” account
Ancestry provides special access to many libraries and educational institutions across the world. For example, several libraries in my capital city have terminals that let you search Ancestry collections for free. Ancestry gives the libraries a special account, which is very similar to the paid subscriptions.
The family history centers run by the Church Of Latter Day Saints also have access to the full Ancestry collections. These centers are mostly across the United States, but they can be found in other locations.
So, you can build your tree using your free account. Then, I suggest you download the Ancestry App to let you peruse your tree from your phone. Grab one of these special terminals, and search Ancestry for the partially hidden records in your tree on your phone.
Worried About Being Charged For A Trial Account?
Ancestry’s free trial account requires a credit card. People worry about whether they’ll end up being charged for the membership.
Over the years, I’ve seen complaints online about the charges kicking in. Unfortunately, the default charge is an annual subscription. So, it can be quite a shock to see an unexpected bill.
But you shouldn’t let these worries prevent you from getting the benefits of the trial membership. We have a special article on cancelling your Ancestry trial. It’ll show you how to avoid being charged.
How To Get The Best Value Subscription (And Discounts)
Ancestry has a number of different subscription levels, with the highest being quite pricey.
However, you may be able to do all the research you need with the lowest level. There are also several different ways to get discounts.
Check out our article on how to determine the best value Ancestry subscription for your needs.
How To Delete An Ancestry Guest Account
There’s usually no reason to delete the guest account. If you’re no longer interested, you can leave it sitting there gathering dust.
However, you may have privacy or security concerns. It’s important to know that deletion is permanent. If you change your mind, Ancestry won’t restore your account.
You used to have to contact customer support to delete an account, but that is no longer the case.
Yet, Ancestry still don’t make the process easy. There’s no “delete” link or button in the membership section of your account. At least, I couldn’t find one!
Instead, an Ancestry support page provides this clickable link as part of its step-by-step guide.
A lot of the instructions on that support page are irrelevant to guest accounts. For example, you won’t have subscriptions to remove.
Does this account have a DNA kit?
However, you may have an associated DNA test.
I emphasize again that the deletion of your account is permanent. You won’t be able to get at your DNA results. You would have to purchase another kit if you change your mind.
Even if you’ve downloaded your raw DNA results, you won’t be able to upload the file to a new Ancestry account.
Make sure you can access the associated email
The sequence for deleting the guest account is simpler than regular accounts, but it’s still a two-step process. Ancestry will send a a confirmation link to the email address associated with the account.
So, if you think you’ll have a problem accessing this email address, you should change the email within your Ancestry account first.