Genealogy Tool ‘My Heritage’ Free at County Library

Old family photo
Left to right - Martha Alice Brown, Helen Brown, Herbert Edward Brown, John Cobb, Cobb family photo with Dora Evelyn Cobb in the center

Get free access to the genealogy tool, My Heritage, with a County Library card. The website offers billions of historical documents from nearly 50 countries, old photos and more. You can visit the Library to gain access through its computers or for the first time, you can take advantage of the Library edition of My Heritage from home.

Jennifer Lawson selects materials for the County Library. She decided to try the website herself.

Her home had somehow become the unofficial repository for thousands of old family photos. Her great-great-grandmother, Martha Alice Brown, had sent them to her daughter, Dora, when she and her family moved west during the Great Depression. Descriptions on the backs of the photos and information from My Heritage helped Lawson piece her family group together.

“You can research your genealogy using data from census, birth records, historical newspapers and more,” said Lawson. “If a relative has already made a family tree, you can explore that as well.”

Typically, visitors must pay to use the site. To build a family tree yourself, you must create a personal account and it comes with a fee. But with the Library edition, you can review all the birth records, census data and other records at no charge. If you want to keep a copy of a particular record, you can take a screenshot and save it on your computer or print it.

Lawson comes from a small family, so she was thrilled to find direct descendants of the relatives in her old photos. With the help of My Heritage and Facebook, they swap historic family details and photographs online.

“What’s the use of having all these fabulous photos if there is no one to share them with and get excited about them?” said Lawson.

She’s found a couple thousand people in her tree now. Lawson says it’s surprising what you can find out. She traced her grandmother’s side of the family to a prominent Connecticut family, who had traced the branch back to the early 1500s and Mary Boleyn. Lady Mary was the sister of Queen Anne Boleyn, the second wife of King Henry the VIII.

The County Library obtained the library edition of My Heritage about two years ago. In the first six months, there were 53,000 data searches. Now it averages about 9,000 visits a month.

If you’d like to find out more about your family history, visit the County Library website and scroll down to genealogy. Have your library card number handy, and you can gain access to My Heritage.

Tracy DeFore is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact