Use free online sites:
Use Cyndi's List to find other free sites.
All LDS Family History Centers (FHC) offer amazing opportunities for free searching, and it is open to everyone -- membership not required. Even microfilms can be ordered from Salt Lake City, and when delivered to the FHC you will be allowed about three weeks to come in and view them on the microfilm readers.
Local and State Historical Society libraries offer MANY free websites, including Ancestry.com. Many public libraries offer Heritage Quest Online as well as Ancestry.com, https://www.newsbank.com/ , http://www.historicmapworks.com/ and more by using your library card. Some libraries even allow you to access their databases from your home computer using your library card number. Check the library website or call ahead to the center to see what's available.
Much information is available for free from state and local archives, libraries and unexpected places. You may be surprised at the data that is online by just going to the county and state where your ancestor lived. An early county history that has been digitized may bring up a bio of your ancestor - but remember these were usually paid for by the family and the results may be a little puffed up.
Google names, places, or organizations , you never know what you might find.
FREE sites often have sponsored links which may be ads, even tho that is not obvious. If you click on a database or type your name into a search box, and you end up on a subscription site quite unexpectedly. Don’t panic, just keep hitting the back button until you get back to where you started.